Bulls On Parade

Bulls on Parade

Released in 1996, Rage Against the Machine’s hit song Bulls on Parade represents a cornerstone in the soundscape of the nineties. Being a central track of the deeply influential and groundbreaking 1996 album, Evil Empire, Bulls on Parade is undoubtedly amongst the band’s most commercially successful cuts. Regardless of its economic and critical success, the song’s true essence lies not on its production value or musical virtuosity, but on its profoundly critical literary tone dealing with complex topics such as the U.S military, the never-ending armed conflicts and the economic interests which motivate most wars, topics which are as current now as they were at the time of the track’s release over twenty years ago.

Production and composition

The song’s lyrics were composed by the band’s singer and main songwriter, Zack de la Rocha. On the other hand, the musical composition and production credits were distributed equally amongst the entire band and their producer at the time, Brendan O’Brien.

The production stages of the song took place in several locations with the general instrumental and vocal recordings being done in Cole Rehearsal Studios in Los Angeles, CA. Mixing and mastering were done in The Enterprise and Gateway Mastering Studios respectively.

The album

The album out of which the track came out of, Evil Empire, released through Epic Records, was universally acclaimed by both critics and fans, receiving several nominations for Grammy awards, and even winning one for the song Tire Me. Furthermore, the album represented a massive commercial success for the group which further contributed to their establishment as one of the central acts in the metal/alternative scene of the late nineties.

Being amongst the defining qualities of Rage Against the Machine, it is necessary to mention two key characteristics that deeply defined the band’s sound and cultural impact. First, a profound compromise and concern for socio-political causes and events, especially in the social activism conducted by singer Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello. Secondly, the powerful amalgam of singer Zack de la Rocha’s hip-hop and rap roots with a metal sound bound together by a clean and potent technical approach.

The drummer

Drummer Brad Wilk was undoubtedly a powerful component in the band’s development of their characteristically loud and hard-driven sound. Presenting a style influenced by giants of the instrument such as Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, The Who’s Keith Moon, and even jazz drummer Elvin Jones, Wilk is a versatile musician with a strong and precise technique usually focusing more on clarity and accuracy rather than sheer virtuosity or speed. Nevertheless, his high versatility and adaptive nature have led him to become a highly demanded session musician for some of the biggest acts on the planet, including the high honor of being the drummer who performed on legendary metal band Black Sabbath’s final studio album 13.

Regarding Wilk’s setup, in an interview with Don Zulaica for drummagazine.com, he has openly declared not being a big drum endorser. In terms of recording technique, he also emphasized the sheer simplicity of the approach by employing the industry-standard Shure SM-57 dynamic microphones. Nevertheless, his unique style and sound can be attributed to a deep-running concern with the tone quality of his drum set going as far as tunning his snare for long periods of time to get the correct sound. In the same interview, the following list with Wilk’s full setup is provided.

Drums: Gretsch and Tama

1. 22″ x 18″ Bass Drum

2. 14″ x 6.5″ Tama Bell Brass Snare

3. 12″ x 9″ Tom

4. 16″ x 16″ Floor Tom

5. 18″ x 16″ Floor Tom

Cymbals: Paiste

A. 14″ Signature Sound Edge Hi-hats

B. 18″ Signature Full Crash

C. 19″ Signature Power Crash

D. 22″ 2002 Ride

E. 19″ Dimensions Power Crash


F. LP Cowbell

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