Rage Against The Machine bassist Tim Commerford reveals he had surgery for prostate cancer just two months before reunion tour

Tim Commerford
(Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine has revealed he is fighting prostate cancer, and had surgery to remove his prostate just two months prior to joining the band on their reunion tour in the summer.

The 54-year-old bassist had informed only family and close friends, but in an interview with Spin (opens in new tab), he admitted that the surgery left him in agony, and that onstage he was in tears between songs.

“Two months before the tour, I had surgery and my doctors said I wasn’t going to be ready,” he said. “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 Rage Against The Machine tour made headlines when frontman Zack de la Rocha ruptured his achilles in Chicago, and had to perform the remaining shows on their first tour in over a decade seated. But no one outside of the band and their inner circle knew of Commerford’s condition. The diagnosis was picked up after he got an exam for life assurance, which flagged something was wrong. He is otherwise in excellent shape, and says coming to terms with the diagnosis is “a brutal psychological journey.”

“When I got my physical, my doctor said I was in the best shape of any 50-year-old he’d ever seen there,” he said. “There’s plenty of people that are in great shape that have cancer. And I’m hoping to continue as long as I can be that. I work out religiously, and I try my hardest to stay in shape. I’m still very proud of who I am.”

Commerford was speaking after the recent announcement of his side-project 7D7D, who launched their debut single, Capitalism, via Mad Bunny, on Black Friday. 

Commerford is joined on the project by drummer Mathias Wakrat (Wakrat) and the guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jonny Polonsky, who was briefly in a band called Big Nose with Commerford and RATM drummer Brad Wilk. 7D7D shared their second single, Misinformed, yesterday.

Commerford said his six month test had came back “at zero”, and while waiting for the next one he is going to throw himself headlong into music, and to write as much as possible.

“Now I’m in the situation that I’m in, which is, hold your breath for six months, he said. “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.”

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.