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(Credit: Pelle Sten)

Music

The story of how Tool and Rage Against the Machine nearly collaborated

@TylerGolsen

There were no two bigger alternative metal acts in 1993 than Tool and Rage Against the Machine. The latter were psychedelic and brutalist, pairing the extreme impact of detuned guitars with the winding time signatures of progressive rock. The former were the original propagators of progressive and aggressive rap rock, highly political but not so inflammatory that they alienated the common (and usually oblivious) listener.

Even though they generally occupied the same sonic space, you’d never really think that Tool and Rage would ever be in the same room together. They’re just too singular as musical entities, and too peculiar on their own merits, to seem like they would just casually hang out. Maynard James Keenan would be evasive, while Zach de la Rocha would be trying to talk about Mumia Abu-Jamal. It just doesn’t seem like the right kind of energy.

But lo and behold, there actually is a tangible connection between the two acts, thanks to their guitar players. Both Rage’s Tom Morello and Tool’s Adam Jones went to Libertyville High School in the northern suburb of Chicago. The two were friends and would play the guitar together, even forming an early band called Electric Sheep. When Jones decided to move to Los Angeles in the late ’80s, Morello soon joined him.

It was actually through Morello that Jones and Keenan wound up befriending Danny Carey. According to Rage drummer Brad Wilk, there was even a possibility of Keenan being the lead singer for Rage at one point.

“Maynard was already playing with Tool as well,” he explained. “Maynard might have said, ‘I’m going to go do this thing with Tool.’ So cut to Zack bringing Tim in, I got this guy who plays bass. I remember the first time all four of us played out in the valley, Sun Burst Studios. The four of us get together, I remember already feeling the stuff with Zack, and then bringing Timmy in. I remember playing and feeling like holy shit, whatever is happening here is a classic case of we are greater than the sum of our parts. Whatever is happening sonically, musically, everyone was in, like right from the start.”

As both Rage and Tool rose through the underground scene and landed record deals, the members stayed in touch and eventually were approached to take part in the Judgment Night soundtrack, which paired rock and rap acts together like Ice-T and Slayer. Since the band’s already had a history, it seemed like the perfect collaboration.

“Tom was really into it. It was more the Tool side that flaked and never decided [to submit their collaboration ‘Can’t Kill the Revolution’],” soundtrack producer Happy Walters told Rolling Stone in a 2018 oral history on the Judgment Night soundtrack. “I think it was something where they just didn’t get it together. It was politics. They never really turned it in, and then Tool got weird and their label got weird, and we were running out of time. I mean, those two bands at the time, were massive. So that was one of the bummers of not getting that.”

The track, ‘Can’t Kill the Revolution’, never made it onto the soundtrack, and it remains a great “what-if” moment for both bands. Still, if you’re curious, you can find rough demo versions of what might have been parts, or whole recordings, of ‘Can’t Kill the Revolution’ floating around the internet. It’s not the most high fidelity recording, but it’s still a fascinating look into what could have been.