I interviewed Jon in January 2013 as part of a project for my Broadcast Journalism course at the University of Leeds.
Jon Morter is a social media consultant, and the man responsible for making the country Rage again. Jon saw an opportunity to break away from the monotony of a Christmas UK Singles Chart sponsored by ITV talent show The X Factor, and propelled Rage Against The Machine’s 1992 rap-rock anthem ‘Killing In The Name’ to the coveted Number One spot. I caught up with him to find out what it was like to start a music revolution.
Nathan: What spurred you to do the Christmas No. 1 campaign?
Jon Morter: I’m a music fan. I’ve been listening to the music charts since I was a kid, and the Christmas No. 1 was also a bit of fun, it was always a bit of a guess on who it was going to be. You had some good tunes, you had some bad ones, and I just felt that the X Factor had taken a quirky British tradition and had trounced it. And I just thought that was wrong.
After about four years or so, I just thought this is getting boring every single year, and at the same sort of time I’d played around in social media… and through playing around and experimenting I’d built a few communities online. It occurred to me that I could probably tie the two together, and I felt quite passionate about the Christmas No. 1, and I thought does anyone out there agree with me? Using the online tools that are there, I thought I’d have a look, and lo and behold, thousands agreed, and that’s how it kicked off!
“[Killing In The Name] was the kind of angst-ridden one that everyone shouted along to, and I just thought that in its basic form, the “I’m not gonna do what you tell me” thing would catch a lot of people.”
You did something the year before with Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which didn’t really work. Did you have any idea then of the level of success you could achieve?
Jon: The Rick Astley campaign didn’t work, that’s true. With the Rick Astley one that was done off the cuff, that was almost a joke that I just thought, if I put two and two together and we can do this, that’ll be fun. It didn’t work, but I learnt a lot about the chart rules, I learnt a lot about how record companies would react, and even though it was their own song, Sony weren’t particularly keen on it; they didn’t like us doing it at all. They were not interested at all.
I think the previous year we had 68,000 people in a Facebook group, which to me was nosebleed stuff! I didn’t do any homework on how many downloads we’d need to get a number 1 or anything. I’d call that a glorious failure, but it put it in good stead for the year after because I kind of could enhance it. I could see how things might work or might not work; it put it in good stead. I honestly think if the Rick Astley campaign hadn’t occurred, the Rage Against the Machine campaign wouldn’t have succeeded.
Rage Against The Machine played a free show at Finsbury Park in 2010 to celebrate their Christmas charts victory.
Why Rage and why the song ‘Killing in the Name’?
Jon: I’m a big fan of Rage for a start, but the song just worked, I just thought that could be the one. In its basic form, it’s an anti song! I’ve been to a lot of clubs being a rock DJ, and that was the kind of angst-ridden one that everyone shouted along to, and I just thought that in its basic form, the “I’m not gonna do what you tell me” thing would catch a lot of people. And I thought that would pick up a lot of people along the way who also might have been a bit annoyed about the X Factor thing as well as me. Even the band name just worked, so it ticked a lot of boxes for me.
“It took until about a year later for it to sink in, when everyone else was joining in and trying [to start their own campaigns], thinking bloody hell, it was me who started that! And I don’t think it’ll happen again!”
You met Rage at Finsbury Park for the victory show, and all the money was donated to Shelter, so arguably you did more good than the X Factor would have done?
Jon: It was brilliant meeting them; they were so cool to meet up with. We had a curry with them and a beer, and they had a few of their mates sort of turn up. Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin was there, and it made my chin drop a little bit! But it was good as a campaign obviously with the money going to Shelter, and the band giving all their money to Shelter as well, it just capped the whole thing off really nicely, it was incredible really. It took until about a year later for it to sink in, when everyone else was joining in and trying [to start their own campaigns], thinking bloody hell, it was me who started that! And I don’t think it’ll happen again!
What is your best memory of Rage and their music?
Jon: Rage were part of my musical awakening, I’ve been into rock music since I was a kid, and when Rage came along it was very different. In the days when even Nirvana were considered very different to your conventional rock bands, and then Rage were just… you couldn’t describe it, it was like “who are they, where have they come from?” And I got into them very early and thought they were brilliant, but for me they’ve been part of my life, a band I could agree with, and just sort of said things that I went along with. Which is kind of what music is about, isn’t it? So I’ve always had good memories of Rage, and this just kind of cemented that really. But they’ve always been one of my favourite bands, so I don’t really have a bad word to say! It’s opened up a lot of doors for me!