One of the greatest things about living in LA is the live music scene. When I was growing up in Australia, there were a million bands I loved that never toured. The All Time Top 5 Bands I Never Saw:
1. Talking Heads (please reform, I know you all hate each other, but do it for me)
2. Nirvana (The next band on Rockstar? Hmmm, probably not…)
3. Joy Division (mind you the lead singer topped himself when I was 12)
4. The Police (you want how much for that ticket on Craigslist?)
5. Radiohead (I know they toured, but I was away and they didn’t call my people to reschedule)
So I’ve been making up for lost time and seeing every band that I think I might even vaguely like. Been great; Kaiser Chiefs, Corrine Bailey Rae, Ben Harper, White Stripes, The Roots. Everyone plays LA.
But there is one band above all that I would give up my lucky undies to see. Rage Against the Machine.
The soundtrack of my angry uni days, the guys who said things that no one else was saying, the white boys that every black Hip Hop guy listened to.
They did a video clip for a track called “Sleep now in the Fire”, where they set up outside the New York Stock Exchange with a wall of Marshall amps. They played until the police came to drag them away, but not before their impromptu concert shut the stock exchange down for the day. That is quite simply Music as a form of Protest. I admire it with every fiber of my being.
They were loud, political, angry, unrelenting. And of course, broke up before I ever saw them play.
So I’m sitting one day at a café with Lee, here in Venice and we’re having just a nice casual lunch…ahem, I mean I was taking a meeting with my story editor.
I look over and there’s this guy sitting there with a lady and he looks really familiar. I can’t help looking the whole of the time. To the point where Lee starts asking me what the fuck am I looking at.
This is really irritating me now, I know I know this guy. Then he gets up to leave with his friend and walks past our table.
Then it hits me, is he the rapper from Rage?
“Excuse me,” I say as he looks over, “aren’t you Zach de la Rocca?”. I’m expecting him to say, no but I get that a lot or something like that.
The guy looks around, then at the ground and then, completely on the humble, says, “Oh, uh, yeah.”
My memory of the next ten seconds is something of a blur. If someone had told me that I stepped over my chair and pushed the table out of the way, food and coffee flying, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
But the next thing I remember is shaking his hand and saying, “Thanks for all the music.” I think that’s a reasonably good save considering that my internal monologue ran something like this…
“OH MY GOD YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING AND I HAVE ALL YOUR ALBUMS AND I WAS IN A BAND ONCE AND I WANTED US TO SOUND LIKE YOU BUT NO ONE ELSE THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA AND I USED TO PLAY YOUR RECORDS IN HIP HOP CLUBS BUT NO ONE LIKED THEM BECAUSE IT WAS AN R&B NIGHT, BUT FUCK THEM, BECAUSE THEY DON’T GET IT BUT I DO AND I HAVE ALL YOUR ALBUMS AND YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING AND….”
Turns out he is cooler than I ever thought. He stayed and talked with me and Lee for a while, introduced us to his girlfriend, who I felt for, she must have seen this scene so many times before.
But we talked about music, the band, that they were reforming and he even gave me an inside tip to buy Rock The Bells tickets (the Hip Hop Coachella/Lollapalooza) because they’d be headlining there.
I was super conscious to not mention that I worked for 12 years in advertising, in case he looked at me like I was Satan’s fluffer.
For me this was like meeting my musical Jesus, and for days after I just had to think of it and I would glow.
I will be at Rock the Bells, up the front with the sign that says “Zach, have my Babies!”
As I watched him climb into his car and drive off, Lee turned to me and said, “So, who was that guy? And why did you turn into a 14 year old schoolgirl in front of him?”