Donald Trump winning the election this week likely means bad things for a lot of people, but if there’s one upside to all of it, it’s that we may end up getting some of the greatest anti-establishment music in recent memory. If history is any indication, some of the best songs of rebellion will likely come from Tim Commerford with one band or another.
After making a name for himself in a band you might’ve heard of called Rage Against the Machine, Commerford joined his Rage brethren in Audioslave before recently becoming the musical half of political protest supergroup Prophets of Rage.
But these days, Commerford is focused on raging with a different group. Along with drummer Mathias Wakrat and guitarist Laurent Grangeon, the acclaimed bassist is fronting a powerful trio that has simply adopted their percussionist’s last name as a moniker.
Sure, Wakrat is a little more punk rock (and definitely more jazz-based) than many of Commerford’s other projects have been, but it’s just as energetic and angry as expected from the self-described “two French nationals and an American anarchist.” On their self-titled debut album – which just released last week – tracks like “Generation Fucked” and “Knucklehead” carry all of the intelligent political anger Commerford’s fans have come to expect from him.
"I’m super excited about [Wakrat's debut album]," Commerford says. "I’ve put a lot of time into it over the last couple of years, and I really love it. It’s fresh, it’s different, and I don’t think there’s anything like it. It’s made me a lot better of a musician for sure."
The end result of those years of work sounds a little more like a modern Fugazi – which is never a bad thing – than it does any of Commerford’s other bands. But in the same manner as the bassist’s other groups, Wakrat is more about getting the right message across while rocking out than anything else. After all, music has never been about having fun and writing happy things for the 48-year-old.
"I've never been a fan of happy songs, and I don't like happy music," Commerford says. "For me, music has always been a vehicle for my unhappiness and anger, so this is more of the same. I’m not trying to be something I’m not. The music I’m playing is real. I didn’t preconceive it or think about it before I did it – I just started to play the music that I play. It’s honest."
With recent major shows across SoCal like opening for Prophets of Rage at the Forum and performing at the Ye Scallywag! music festival in San Diego, Wakrat has certainly seen plenty of big crowds relatively early on in the band’s career. Most of the time, the crowd doesn’t know exactly how to react to their sound, but Commerford is perfectly cool with that.
"Right away, I realized that Wakrat wasn't going to appeal to all of the people in the audience [at the Prophets of Rage shows]," Commerford says. "The music we play is something that you're either going to love or you're going to hate. That's what I got to see. I got to see people who were clearly enthusiastic about it and people who were hating on it. I had to overcome that, and I did. It was empowering."
For the Rage veteran, the big difference in Wakrat is that it’s finally his voice being heard, literally. After soaking up everything he could learn from frontmen like Zack de la Rocha, Chris Cornell, Chuck D, and B-Real, Commerford has certainly kept the best mentors anyone could ask for before making his singing debut. Tomorrow night at the Troubadour, Wakrat fans from all over LA will get to see what Commerford’s been working on in a full headlining set for their official album launch party.
"I have to figure out how I can play the bass line with as much conviction as I possibly can and sing the vocals with that same conviction," Commerford says. "It's a lot like playing the drums I guess where you have to split yourself. I have to split my mouth and my hands up, so it's a lot more cerebral for me. Just playing bass is more of a physical thing, but singing and playing bass is more mental."
Wakrat is performing at the Troubadour on November 16. Tickets cost $10 and are available online. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.