Rage Against The Machine bassist Tim Commerford’s on-stage stunt at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, while well-documented and often appreciated by rock and metal fans, is only considered #10 on Rolling Stone’s list of 31 Most Outrageous MTV VMA Moments of All Time (just behind Miley Cyrus’ “twerking incident”). For years, many have thought that this was simply prompted by the fact that the video to RATM’s song “Sleep Now In The Fire” lost to Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” for the best rock video. They would be right, but Commerford explained how and why.
Commerford revealed more about the story on the radio show The Dan LeBatard Show on the sports talk station 104.3 FM on February 9. While he was on the show to promote his new project, Future User, he ended up going into extreme detail of what led up to the incident. Commerford explained that the video for “Sleep Now In The Fire,” as well as the video for “Testify” (both off of RATM’s 1999 album The Battle Of Los Angeles), were directed by then new and little-known filmmaker, Michael Moore. The story behind the production of the video included their playback recording on the steps in front of the New York Stock Exchange, tension with police, and the band and Moore’s conspiring to successfully troll “the machine,” as it were, all being caught on video and making it to final cut.
As with most of the social commentary attached to RATM, Commerford explained that this was very close to him. By the time that the MTV Video Music Awards rolled around that year, Commerford was sure that he and his band mates would win, as they viewed their work on the video as the strongest, most important in the category. When his recollection gets to his upset over losing to the video for Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” – which, unlike the Michael Moore-directed RATM videos, was directed by none other than Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst – Commerford describes the band as “One of the dumbest bands in the history of music that nobody gives a shit about anymore.”
While RATM predated the nu-metal boom of the middle to late 1990s, due to their rapped vocals, the band is often grouped into that subgenre along with bands like Limp Bizkit, KoRn, and P.O.D., among many others. But judging by Commerford’s commentary, that categorization is inaccurate, not to mention unwelcomed. His entire story, all stemming from the topic of his stunt at the VMAs, is worth listening to. You can skip to the 13:25 of the recorded show below to hear it for yourself.