Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford Reveals Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

"I've been someone that's taken a lot of pride in being in shape and taking care of myself ... But it's something where either you're either lucky or not"

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Dec 12, 2022

Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford has revealed his fight with prostate cancer in a new interview.

Speaking with SPIN, Commerford shared, "I've been dealing with some pretty serious shit. Right before I was about to go on tour with Rage, I had my prostate removed, and I have prostate cancer."

Commerford shared with the site that he had surgery to remove his prostate two months before RATM were due to begin their anticipated reunion tour, which had already been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the only people who knew of Commerford's condition were his family, bandmates and a group of close friends.

"Two months before the tour, I had surgery and my doctors said I wasn't going to be ready. 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," the bassist explained.

Of course, the tour also saw vocalist Zack de la Rocha tear his achilles tendon — an injury that would lead the band to cancel their 2023 tour dates — and guitarist Tom Morello sustain some bumps and bruises after he was accidentally tackled by stage security.

"Because of Zack's injury, we had planned these little video interstitials that came in between blocks of songs. 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," Commerford continued. "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 shared of his diagnosis, "I went to get life insurance but my PSA [prostate-specific antigen] numbers were up. I couldn't get it. They wouldn't insure me. At first, the number was very low — like one-point-something. I watched it over the course of a year and a half, and it kept elevating further. Eventually, they did a biopsy and found out I had cancer, so they took my prostate out.

"I had been thinking, well, because they're watching it and let it get to this point, maybe it's not that big of a deal. I blame myself. I should have said, 'my numbers are elevated and what does that really mean?' I should have taken it more seriously. I should have looked into alternate therapy instead of getting sucked into the most disgusting, capitalistic machine on the face of the planet: the medical establishment.

"Now I'm in the situation that I'm in, which is, hold your breath for six months. It's not a good one and not one that I'm happy about. I'm just trying to grab ahold of the reins. It's gonna be a long journey, I hope. My dad died in his early 70s from cancer and my mom died from cancer in her 40s. Split the difference to 65 and I've got 10 years. I'm trying to get to the 100-song mark — I have some goals now. Songwriting has become a catharsis for me. Back to the original question, how do I find the time? That's all I've got, is time."

You can read Commerford's entire interview with SPIN here.

Outside of Rage, Commerford recently shared new single "Capitalism" with 7D7D, a trio that also features drummer Mathias Wakrat and guitarist Jonny Polonsky. For the artist, music always remains an outlet.

"That's the beauty of songwriting and bass playing. 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 Mathias 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. 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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