Saturday , February 4 2023

Tom Morello interview: ‘I never struggled with my identity. Other people did


For more than 30 years, Tom Morello has not stopped. Considered one of the world’s greatest guitarists, he was also one of his most prolific. From Rage Against the Machine to his folk alter-ego The Nightwatchman, he writes his own cameoing comic book series. Star Trek u Iron Man, always had something – several things – on the trip. Then the world stopped crashing, and the 57-year-old man from Harlem, New York, found himself, for the first time, with no idea what to do next.

“Making this record was less of a creative endeavor than it was an antidepressant,” he says, speaking on video from his home studio in LA. “How are you doing on Tuesday? Record a song with Bruce Springsteen! “Words emanate from Morello like a submachine gun fire, in fusillades of positive energy, but it was a particularly hard time for him late: anxiety, depression, the responsibility of caring for his family, including his two sons and s His mother-in-law was 98. They were completely shut up, “no one comes in or out.” But he also found himself at a loss when it came to producing his own music: just touching the volume button. ”He then read an interview with Kanye West, where he“ boasted of recording the vocals on his phone. ”Morello picked up his iPhone on a folding chair in front of his amp. and began to play.

The result of this is Atlas Land Fire, containing a true United Nations of musicians who sent pieces of Morello songs from their bases in New Jersey (Springsteen), Nashville (Chris Stapleton), Jamaica (Damian Marley), Palestine (Sama Abdulhadi) and -Sweden (Rejected). Mike Posner actually managed to climb Everest between contributions, recording part of his vocals while in Nepal. “[During lockdown], there was this feeling of absolute loneliness – I was not going anywhere, ”says Morello. “So that community was very supportive. This ended the most prolific recording period of my life. ”

He also introduced his son, Roman (“he is torn”), and his mother (“the most radical member of the Morello family”), to turn the album into real family affairs. She is credited by Mary Morello. A high school teacher who also founded the anti-censorship organization Parents for Rock and Rap, she raised her son alone in Libertyville, Illinois, after the father of Morello’s Kenyan diplomat, Ngethe. Njoroge, returned to Nairobi. “I was the only Black boy in an all-white city,” says Morello. home. “I assumed everyone was like that until I got to high school,” he says, picking up his T-shirt, showing Moomin protesting against fascism. Of course, that turned out to be the case: ” So it was in me that I always defended the underdog, that I always bored the oppressed. ”

Morello continued this through Harvard, where he studied political science and once built a barracks town in the courtyard of his college to protest against apartheid. After graduation, he lived in a squat in Hollywood; his first job was working as a scheduling secretary for Democratic senator Alan Cranston. It was an eye-opening experience: “I got to see the monied aristocracy running the planet in a ditch and by no means hidden from the vast majority of people and what they need in their lives,” he says. Rage Against the Machine was born after Morello’s Lock Up band broke up. In 1992, they lit a fuse with their debut on the self-titled lead label and its lead single, “Killing in the Name,” which is still one of the most incendiary protest songs of all time. Her bare-bones lyrics cut right to the speed of America’s military idealization; Morello’s threatening riff looked like a T-Rex on the rage. With bandmates Brad Wilk, Zach de la Rocha and Tim Commerford, he continued to fight for power on songs such as “Wake Up”, “Township Rebellion” and “Take the Power Back”, which sold 16 million records. and won two Grammys along the way. Now on his 21st album, Morello still has the fierce conviction that “the world will not change itself”.

America avoided a complete narrow disaster when Donald Trump lost in the second term (Morello refers to his supporters as “the white fascist Christian fascist coup”). He felt a little relieved by Joe Biden’s victory in last year’s presidential election, but he is still not convinced that his country is back on track. He says social media has helped widen a growing gap between left and right, comparing it to anger on the road “where you’re isolated in your car and feel with some power to be the worst person your own “. He was recently forced to defend what many fans felt as a strange friendship with controversial musician Ted Nugent, who in the past claimed former president Donald Trump was “sent by God”. It is his choice, says Morello, on how to deal with differences of opinion.

Fighting for power: Morello plays Rage Against the Machine in Occupy Wall Street protest in 2012


He still prefers to let his music do most of the talks. The Fire Under The Atlas is the best evidence in recent years of what Morello’s ambitious virtue is. “[He] he wears his guitar up to make every sound out of it, “he continued in 1993 Melody Maker review. “Falling bombs, police sirens, scratches … he can do them all.” During live performances he is known to perform solos with his teeth (his dentist should be glad). There are riffs, squawks and screeches that look great, industrial crunches, techno pepper bullets, licks that bend around the edge of a melody like tongues of flame on paper … and that’s just the first track. “[This album] affirms that the electric guitar doesn’t just have a past, it has a future, “says Morello. What about bands that don’t use the guitar to its full potential?” That’s their problem not mine, “he shrugs, while which indicates: “When we listen to the guitar now on the radio at least, it’s much more than a background role.” He laughs. “But not on this record.”

As a guitarist playing in a rock band during the 1980s and 1990s, Morello often came across fans who did not realize he was not white. It’s still like that: until a couple of days before this interview, he was blamed by a fan for showing his supposed “privilege of being a white man” for talking to Nugent. “I’m not white,” Morello shot back. Early in his career, he had the opposite problem with racist hecklers who asked him to play Jimi Hendrix songs. Then there was a backstage incident at the “famous metal band” show where their guitarist wanted to meet Morello. He walked right in front of him and introduced himself to “this big white guy with long hair”, thinking he was the famous musician from Rage. Realizing his mistake, he looked at Morello “with total disappointment,” Morello recalls, laughing. “They couldn’t imagine a rock and roll guitar player with brown skin. [Fans who] I assume I’m white and find a different way I can feel uncomfortable. They are afraid: ‘You are not!’ It shakes a lot for them. But he never gave up, after always knowing who he was, and the kind of guitar he wanted to be. “I never struggled with my identity,” he says. “Other people did.”

He has more hope for younger generations, including his nine-year-old son, Roman, who has just released a collaboration with English-Zulu wunderkind drummer Nandi Bushell. Morello, while joking that the world has now discovered that he is “the second best guitarist in his family,” produced the track, and the video shows Jack Black and Greta Thunberg. “It’s a huge model inhabited by the holy spirit of rock and roll,” he says of Bushell. “They really care about saving the planet in a way that they feel there is some hope of doing something.” He thinks young people are much more engaged in issues like the climate crisis and seems to believe they will actually make a difference. “But that’s not an excuse for those under the age of nine not to get off their asses.”

‘The Atlas Underground Fire’ is out now

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