Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford reveals he has been battling prostate cancer: "I would be on stage looking at my amp in tears"

Tim Commerford
(Image credit: Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images)

Rage Against the Machine bass guitar player Tim Commerford has revealed he has been privately battling prostate cancer amid the band’s reunion this year.

Speaking to Spin (opens in new tab), Commerford also revealed he underwent surgery to remove his prostate just two months before the band embarked on their many-times-postponed Public Service Announcement tour in July this year.

During the conversation, the 54-year-old said only his bandmates and a tight-knit circle of close friends were initially aware of his diagnosis.

“I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious shit,” Commerford said to Spin. “Right before I was about to go on tour with Rage, I had my prostate removed, and I have prostate cancer. 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.”

Elsewhere in the conversation, Commerford said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer after he attempted to get life insurance, but was unable to as his “PSA [Prostate-Specific Antigen] numbers were up”.

“I watched it over the course of a year and a half, and it kept elevating further,” he explained. “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.”

As for Rage’s reunion tour that kicked off earlier this year, Commerford said he had surgery just two months before the first show and that doctors said he “wasn’t going to be ready”.

“That was brutal,” he added. “I would be on stage looking at my amp in tears. Then you just kind of turn around and suck it up. I kept it to myself throughout the touring we did and it was brutal.”

Despite his struggles, Commerford has vowed to become “the fittest motherfucker with cancer that’s 54 that you’ve ever fucking seen in your life”.

“When I got my physical, my doctor said I was in the best shape of any 50-year-old he’d ever seen there,” Commerford 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.

“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.” 

The goals Commerford referred to were related to his new side project, 7D7D. Unveiled last month, the project also involves Wakrat drummer Mathias Wakrat and guitarist Jonny Polonsky.

7D7D released their debut single, Capitalism, on Mad Bunny records, with Commerford telling Spin of his aspirations to play live with the band in the future.

Rage Against the Machine were forced to cancel a string of European dates and their entire batch of North American tour dates for next year after frontman Zack de la Rocha tore his Achilles tendon on stage.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.