May 3, 1996 -- And this is the band that popped up at number one on the "Billboard" chart this week, to the surprise of just about everyone, apparently including the group itself. The album's called "Evil Empire."

Rage Against The Machine stunned everyone, including themselves, this week when their new album "Evil Empire" burst onto the charts at number one. One week before that though, we caught up with them at a free concert outside Los Angeles... and they were raging. Hold on to your hats.

TOM MORELLO (Guitarist, Rage Against the Machine): I'd say that this record, like the last one, is a real testament to the band's chemistry. It's just the way the four of us play together that makes it pretty seamless, and that's where we're lucky.

MTV: Luck and chemistry may have something to do with Rage crashing the top of the charts with it's new album, but the chemistry at least was enhanced when the band decided to record "Evil Empire" in it's own rehearsal space.

MORELLO: Why spend two thousand dollars a day in some fancy recording studio trying to recreate the great vibe that we have right here and... So we literally knocked a hole in the wall, rented the room across the hall and ran the wires over the hallway.

ZACK DE LA ROCHA (Vocalist): We weren't going to go in and play in a studio that just had no environment whatsoever. You get in some of those places and it's like you're walking into a dentist's office. I've had my teeth cleaned, thanks a lot, I don't want to so that.

MTV: One thing that hasn't changed is Rage's intense political sensibility which extends way beyond issue-oriented lyrics. The band has distributed political pamphlets at shows and lists suggested reading in the new album's liner notes.

DE LA ROCHA: I certainly didn't find any of those books at my University High School library. Many of those books may give people new insight into some of the fear and some of the pain they might be experiencing as a result of the some of the very ugly policies that the government is imposing upon us right now. Putting them back in touch with... with realizing that their direct participation in events right now can effect history.

MTV: Make no mistake, with "Bulls On Parade", which takes on the US Military, and songs about right-wing talk shows, and Mexico's Zapatista rebels, Rage Against the Machine means to radicalize it's audience.

MORELLO: I think one of the important things about Rage is that it's... We are able to seduce some people in with the music who are then exposed to a different political message.

DE LA ROCHA: I think that the musical community is a, is a community that I refuse to believe is, like, part of this desperate, Generation X, inactive community. I think that they can become a force. The title "Evil Empire" is taken from what Rage Against The Machine see as Ronald Reagan's slander of the Soviet Union in the eighties, which the band feels could just as easily apply to the United States. Rage is currently finishing up a European tour but they'll be back on our evil U.S. soil for a tour in late July.