DISTORTED AGITATION FROM DE LA ROCHA AND QOTSA DRUMMER
Given that the world has been spiralling to shit, you might have found yourself reaching for angrier music more often. I have. Music that’s got the gravitas, the provocation and the intellect to somehow document and deal with the insane wrong-ness of dumbfuck cops killing black people, and dumber-fuck ‘cenotaph protectors’ destroying Black Lives Matter protests in the false name of monument-al preservation. Dipshits and hackle raisers. No wonder Terrace Martin’s Pig Feet, wrapped and dropped within days of George Floyd’s killing, hits so hard. Pig Feet does not flinch.
Neither does Zack de la Rocha. His full-tilt delivery always captures these moments and even now, aged 50, he’s got the fury – check the explosive verse in Run The Jewels’ JU$T for evidence of that. His voice is the sound of a fight. But with Rage Against the Machine, it battles with another wild voice – Tom Morello’s guitar – and winds up less prominent in the rock orthodoxy of the RATM set up.
Maybe this is why he’s been such a serial collaborator since RATM last put a record out. Those guest slots put his voice up front, give it room, give it oxygen. They make his words flammable.
This is also true of the short-lived 2008 project with Jon Theodore, One Day As A Lion. As a primal drum-bass effort where the voice gets a 5-track vent, it’s way less Rock than Rage – got a raw urgency and a just-produced-enough attitude that’s clammy with rehearsal-room heat. Nothing arena-sized, no anthemic hooks, no guitar, just a very live-sounding gig stripped back to stiff rhythms and hard words. And with Theodore, ex Mars Volta and now Queens of the Stone Age, behind the kit, you know the drums are solid. His beats aren’t minimal, but neither are they fussy. They are, somehow, hip-hop friendly.
Wild International‘s petro-fumed groove is the mid-tempo starter that smoulders rather than explodes, like it’s on cruise control looking for a target. Downtuned bass riffs swell for the chorus, thick and sticky not liquid slick, and this track sets the vibe for the whole EP. The tempo (agitation?) picks up for Ocean View, Last Letter and One Day As A Lion, while If You Fear Dying locks onto the same spacious groove as Wild International. Other than that, you know roughly what you’ll get, track to track – unlike, say, Saul Williams’s self-titled conflict-zone masterpiece of hip hop, poetry, electronic, industrial and spoken word from 2004 (where Zack winds the tension on Act III Scene 2 [Shakespeare]).
One Day As A Lion don’t do genre hops and mood shifts. Their force is rough-edged, avant-ish primal rock with urban backbone and no, it wouldn’t hold your attention musically for a full album. But as an EP, as a righteous blast, it works ‘coz you get 20 uninterrupted minutes of de la Rocha flow, and this is the key point. As we know, he’s got that gift for making you BELIEVE – absolute conviction and persuasion every time, and right now we need that voice even if we didn’t know it. JU$T is the 2020 reminder. One Day As A Lion might be more curio than must-have, but as a non-Rage de la Rocha fix, it’s pure. The message remains the same
but now it’s 2020. FFS.
‘Time is coming
rising like the dawn of a red sun
If you fear dying
then you’re already dead’
(If You Fear Dying)
One Day as a Lion EP (ANTI-RECORDS, 2008)
If You Fear Dying
One Day as a Lion