A masked man began appearing in politically charged music videos nearly half-a-year ago. The band he fronted called itself Future User. Its music mixed prog rock sounds with EDM providing a backdrop for visual critiques of police brutality, torture at Guantanamo Bay, NSA spying and GMO foods. But who was this mysterious propagandist? A fourth video, "Mountain Lion" came roaring last month when, suddenly, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford appeared…and lit himself on fire!
The secret is out. (The NSA probably knew already!) Commerford teamed up with producer Jordan Tarlow (keys/programming) for Future User's debut album #SteroidsOrHeroin released this week. "I was lucky enough to be renting a house right next to my musical partner," Commerford tells the Weekly. "He's a scientist. He knows all about recording, sound and how bands got their sound."
The neighbors didn't see eye-to-eye on political issues, but forged common ground musically. Tarlow and Commerford shared a mutual love for prog rock growing up listening to Rush, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Neither had the chance to center their musical lives around the sound so they decided to do it together. "We finally found the time and started crafting what would become Future User about two-and-a-half years ago."
The tandem teamed with drummer John Knox and Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave producer Brendan O'Brien. Commerford stresses that Future User is no side project, but he did take some lessons from his previous work. The bass lines are furious as is to be expected, but this time the musician is behind the mic.
"I've never fronted a band," Commerford says. "I love bass players who sing whether it be Paul McCartney, Sting or Lemmy Kilmister." He took on backing vocals for Rage and Audioslave. Future User fuses the spoken bluntness he employed behind Zack de la Rocha's militant raps and the harmonizing he developed supporting Chris Cornell.
Commerford calls the concoction "progtronic." The album pulsates at a methodical and furious pace on songs like "Mountain Lion" and "Voodoo Juju." A clandestine Commerford invited very famous friends, including Lance Armstrong and John McEnroe, to appear in his string of music videos building up hype for the project. "Both of those guys are definitely rule breakers," Commerford says. "I like that!"
For "Clockwork," McEnroe did what Fox News host Sean Hannity was too chickenshit to do, get waterboarded. It took a little convincing from Commerford, but the tennis legend was game. "He's was really moved by it in an emotional way," Commerford says. "I brought him to tears." McEnroe came out of the scene in the video feeling that no one should ever go through what he experienced.
Commerford, who grew up in Irvine and went to University High School, still visits OC. "It's such a different place from when I was a kid," he says. "Orange County was orange groves and now I go there and it's strip malls as far as the eye can see." That was the past and Future User is now the future.
"If there's an opportunity for me to play a show, that would great," Commerford says."But for right now, I'm focused on making a video for every song on this record tying them all together with the same theme."