Rage Against the Machine Bassist Reveals Cancer Battle

Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford is battling prostate cancer.

“I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious shit,” the 54-year-old musician told Spin. “Right before I was about to go on tour with Rage, I had my prostate removed, and I have prostate cancer.”

The sculpted, high-octane Commerford said he’s always been “someone that’s taken a lot of pride in being in shape and taking care of myself but it’s something where … you’re either lucky or not.”

Rage Against the Machine launched the previously delayed Public Service Announcement tour in July, marking their first outing in more than a decade. Commerford participated in the trek despite his doctors’ predictions that he wouldn’t be fit for the road. “Two months before the tour, I had surgery and my doctors said I wasn’t going to be ready,” he reflected. “That was brutal. I would be on stage looking at my amp in tears. Then you just kind of turn around and suck it up.”

They ended up cutting the tour short after 19 shows when Zack de la Rocha struggled to overcome a torn Achilles tendon he suffered during the second show of the tour. Rage had tried adapting their stage show, which also impacted Commerford.

“Because of Zack’s injury, we had planned these little video interstitials that came in between blocks of songs,” he explained. “We were meant to go on stage, play some songs, go off stage, and on to the interstitials for a few minutes. It was seamless. Then he got hurt and we couldn’t leave the stage. So during the interstitials, we’re just sitting there. That was surreal. I would sometimes sit down and try to not think about certain things. It was weird. I kept it to myself throughout the touring we did and it was brutal.”

Commerford said his cancer diagnosis has taken him on a “brutal psychological journey” that’s also involved some of the worst physical pain he’s ever experienced. For now, however, he’s feeling healthy and optimistic. “I just got my six-month test, and it came back at zero,” he said. “I was like, ‘Fuck yeah!’ That’s the best I can feel for the rest of my life. Every day I get closer to that test is like, ‘Fuck man, is this going to be the time when the number is going to go up and I’m going to the next thing – whatever that is?’ I already went through some pain and shit, and I’m continuing to go through, like, some crazy shit.”

He’s also taken solace in music, including his new side project 7D7D. The power trio released their first single, “Capitalism,” last month. “The glass is half-full. That’s the beauty of songwriting and bass playing,” Commerford said. “When my mom was sick, that’s when I learned how to play bass. When I was on stage with Rage, there were times that I wasn’t thinking about cancer for moments. When I play in 7D7D with [drummer] Mathias [Wakrat] in the studio, I don’t care what we’re doing. I go into a trance, and I just completely forget about it. And it’s so beautiful.

“When I wake up in the morning, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s a new day. Dope!’ Then it’s like, ‘Oh fuck, I have cancer’ – and you can’t stop it,” Commerford continued. “It puts a dark cloud on the day. When I go jam with Mathias, I just tune out and it feels so good. Music has always been there in the toughest of times.”

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