ratm bassist

Tim Commerford RATM bassist

My bass is my weapon with which I want to smash the listener. In a good way, of course.

Tim Commerford

About 20 years ago, I was a teenager, and one day a classmate came up to me and said:

-Look, you should probably listen to this.

-What’s that like? – I asked.

-“It’s like peppers, but it’s metal,” – he told me.

I came home after school, put the tape in, and I heard these:


I hope everyone has had that, when you realize you’ve found the last piece of the puzzle. That it all came together now. It was incredible, it was forever. That was Rage Against The Machine and their incredible bassist Tim Commerford!

tim commerford

And there’s no excuse for me, the site exists for a while and I’m only writing an article about the legendary Timmy C now. But better late than never.

Tim Commerford’s Early Years Before RATM

The future musician’s childhood was not a cloudless one. Tim Commerford was the youngest, already the sixth child in the family. His mother worked as a math teacher and his father was an aerospace engineer. Tim mentions Gene Simmons, Sid Vicious, and Steve Harris among his favorite childhood musicians. A little later he becomes a big fan of Geddy Lee.

In high school, I was very much influenced by the band Rush. I literally became a Geddy Lee fan, was obsessed with him.

In fifth grade, he meets Zach de la Rocha, the future lead singer of RATM. It was he who first introduced him to the basics of music and bass guitar. Tim played his first parts on the acoustic guitar. Zach literally showed him where to put his fingers, how it all connected. They had been friends and trying to make music together since high school.

Around this time, when Tim Commerford was in fifth grade in high school his mom got cancer and on top of that his parents soon divorced. Tim went to live with his father, who remarried. And his mother went to live with her sister in Sacramento, where she lived and was treated under her sister’s care.

It was a very dark period in the life of a teenager, his mother’s illness and a difficult relationship with his father. All this against the backdrop of adolescence. Tim finds refuge in music. 

My mom was seriously ill when I was a teenager, she had cancer…I was learning to play bass guitar to escape the thoughts of her illness. It was my way of hiding from what was going on in reality. Because when you think about music you can’t think about anything else anymore.

The musician’s mother passed away from brain cancer in 1988, when Tim was 20 years old.

Tim Commerford and Rage Against The Machine

In 1991, the band Lock Up, in which Tom Morello, the future guitarist of RATM, was playing at the time, broke up. Producer and drummer John Knox suggests that Zack and Tim try to play and jam with Morello. Morello, in turn, recalls drummer Brad Wilk, who once tried out for Lock Up. A fateful meeting takes place. 

All guys in one way or another have faced injustice, racism, social inequality in their lives. It was the protest against everyday evils that cemented Rage Against The Machine’s work in the hearts of millions of ordinary listeners. 

Music has always been my vehicle for protest and expression. My bass is definitely my weapon. I take it in my hands and look at the people in the audience. I can see their eyes light up when I hit the distortion…

tim commerford being arrested

The band played a lot of clubs in L.A. throughout ’91, and in 1992 they signed a studio deal and released the incredible Rage Against The Machine. I won’t even try to evaluate the success of the album, its impact on the whole subsequent culture and the music industry. It’s an incredible record and everyone should hear it!

RATM have recorded four albums and have been in a state of anabiosis since about 2000. They have been getting together periodically for super successful tours, but have not released any new full length albums.

Other Commerford projects

In a way, I play bass and my bass plays me. We have a great relationship… I mean, there’s an inexplicable feedback.


After RATM broke up, Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk, along with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, formed the incredibly successful Audioslave project. It was a super band in the truest sense of the word. Already the first album was three times platinum. The band successfully existed till 2007 and broke up after vocalist Chris Cornell left. Unfortunately, Cornell took his own life in 2017, leaving us forever with only his creativity.

Audioslave is a very cool band that needs a full article about. I unequivocally recommend it to everyone who is unfamiliar.

Tim Commerford and his hardcore band Wakrat

Tim Commerford once met drummer Matthias Wakrat. Initially they bonded over their love of mountain biking. Both could talk about it for hours on end, and then it turned out that one was the bass player and the other the drummer. Soon after finding a guitarist, they put together a pretty edgy punk hardcore band called Wakrat. Their first gig was at The Viper Room in 2015. One of the owners of the club, by the way, is actor Johnny Depp.

I had a very dark and deep family experience after which I was literally in tears… I spent the last year feeling cornered, sobbing. That’s what Knucklehead is about. I went through some incredibly deep shit, I hope it never happens again, but look what was born of it: it’s exactly why I love music, the ability to speak out. The scream at the end of the song makes me feel like I’m screaming my face into a pillow until my guts come out…

Wakrat video

Prophets of Rage, the rap we deserve

Morello, Comerford and RATM drummer Brad Wilk teamed up with iconic rappers from the early nineties in 2016 to form Prophets of Rage. The angry, protesting, leftist voice of the streets. That’s how I imagined rap as a teenager, when I had no idea what they were reading about. The guys were joined by Chuck D from Public Enemy and B-Real from the cult band Cypress Hill.

If anyone says that they don’t do that these days, just send them a couple of Prophets of Rage tracks in return.

What’s besides rage?

One gets the impression that apart from being in various rebel bands Tim isn’t into anything else, but that’s not true. For almost thirty years he has been fanatically involved in cycling and has even been on the cover of a theme magazine for cyclists.

Back in 1993, his future father-in-law got him hooked on it. And he’s been sucked into the cycling swamp ever since, mostly mountain biking.

He was married from 2001 to 2018, with two sons, Xavier and Quentin, born to the marriage.

Tim Commerford, in addition to his rather left-wing political views, is also a proponent of a number of conspiracy theories. In particular, he denies that Americans landed on the moon, and believes that there is a secret world government, which simply appoints these or those presidents. He has also repeatedly argued that Islamic extremism is deliberately hyperbolized by the West to justify military operations.

Tim Commerford’s Bass Guitars, Equipment and Pedals

Despite a rather long association with Fender and then Lakland, for me Tim Commerford’s bass guitar is still the Music Man StingRay. It is the bass guitar on the first cult album, and it is the bass guitar that Tim returned to now playing in Wakrat and Prophets.

tim commerford shows his music man

Around 1995, Tim started working with Fender, quite often playing jazz basses with a Presige fingerboard and badass II bridge. Even smashed one at an MTV Awards concert. 

Also played Lakland instruments for quite a long time, mostly 44-60 Vintage J series. It must be a good bass guitar, but costs from 3500$.

In terms of amplification, Tim has been a big fan of Ampeg gear throughout his career. There are some pretty good videos on youtube where it’s obvious that he’s a big connoisseur of everything about that brand, and hasn’t changed his preferences in over thirty years.

timmy c shows his pedals
Tim’s pedalboard

It’s funny how Tim is very secretive about everything about his rather distinctive sound. When talking about his pedals, he’s constantly understating, guffawing, or dodging the question.

In preparation for this article, I was watching a video, and I noticed that his pedalboard contains a number of unmarked pedals in faceless tin boxes, as well as a number of pedals that are obviously not used and are added as if to create confusion. Apparently this is a consequence of a fascination with conspiracy theories. I recommend watching this video.

pedalboard of ratm bassist tim commerford

One last small but interesting detail. Tim plays only with his fingers and mostly between the pickups. That’s why almost all of his instruments have a thumb rest. It’s an extra support for the right thumb.

tim using thumb rest
Tim Commerford plays with thumb rest


How I love writing about living and active musicians! When there is no need to end an article with the words “been, burned out, gone”… One can just be happy that Tim Commerford is still alive, as angry and active as ever.

I don’t know where I’m going, where I’m going, or what music I’m going to play. I guess I’m just happy doing what I’m good at and doing it day in and day out. I have no idea how music affects this world, but I know it will be playing long after I’m gone. And all I want is for it to sound cool!

Also read: Marcus Miller short bio of incredible bassist.

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