Thomas Baptist Morello (born May 30, 1964) is a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist best known for his tenure with the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, and as the acoustic artist The Nightwatchman, He was featured as one of 20 guitarists in Rolling Stone magazine's "The Top 20 New Guitarists" article. An outspoken political activist, he was also ranked #26 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Tom Morello was born in New York, New York. His mother, Mary Morello, who is part Irish and part Italian, is a founder of Parents for Rock and Rap, an anti-censorship group. She was also a teacher at Libertyville High School. His father, Ngethe Njoroge, a Kenyan, was the country's first ambassador to the United Kingdom. Morello's great-uncle, Jomo Kenyatta, was the first president of Kenya.
Morello grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, at the time a virtually all-white suburb of Chicago. There he attended Libertyville High School. He sang in the school chorus and was active in speech and drama club - a prominent role was Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
He showed his political leanings early. Morello has described himself as having been "the only anarchist in a conservative high school", but has since identified as a nonsectarian socialist. In the 1980 mock elections at LHS, he campaigned for a fictitious anarchist "candidate" named Hubie Maxwell, who came in fourth place after Jimmy Carter at the overwhelmingly Republican school. Ronald Reagan won the mock election. He also wrote a piece headlined "South Africa: Racist Fascism That We Support" for the school's alternative paper, The Student Pulse.
At age 13, Morello joined Nebula, a Led Zeppelin cover band as lead singer. At this same age, Morello purchased his first guitar at Rigoni Music in Libertyville. He wanted a solid-body Ovation guitar, but he didn't have the money to buy one. Instead, he purchased a Kay guitar. Wanting to learn how to play "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin, he took two guitar lessons, but instead was taught the C-major scale. He decided that playing the guitar was a waste of his time, so he placed it in his closet for the next three years.Around 1984, Morello first started studying the guitar seriously. He had formed a band in the same year called the Electric Sheep which featured future Tool guitarist Adam Jones on bass. Few if any of the Sheep could really play an instrument at first, but the band was an impetus for Morello to start honing his skills. Instead of performing cover songs, the Sheep wrote original material that included politically charged lyrics. None of the songs composed by the Sheep contained solos; soloing was a skill that Morello began learning in college.
At the time, Morello's musical tastes lay in the direction of heavy metal, particularly Kiss, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Morello developed his own unique sound through the electric guitar. Later, his music—and musical politics—were greatly influenced by punk rock bands like The Clash, the Sex Pistols, and Devo.
Morello graduated in 1982 and began attending Harvard University. There, he made a point of practicing every day for up to eight hours without fail, no matter how much studying he had to do. He graduated in 1986 with an honors degree in political science. He moved to L.A., where he briefly worked as an aide to Senator Alan Cranston as he set about trying to join or start a band. Adam Jones moved to L.A. as well; Morello introduced Jones and Maynard James Keenan to Danny Carey, who would come to form the band Tool.
Lock Up (1988-1990)Edit
In 1988, Morello joined Lock Up, a glam rock band that released one album through Geffen Records before splitting up. This record was called Something Bitchin' This Way Comes, which enjoyed only slight success at the time.
Rage Against the Machine (1991-2000; 2007-present)Edit
After Lock-Up's demise, Morello visited a club in Los Angeles where Zack de la Rocha was rapping. After viewing de la Rocha's lyric books, Tom asked him to front a band. Morello drafted Brad Wilk, a drummer who had unsuccessfully auditioned for Lock Up, and de la Rocha introduced the two to his friend Tim Commerford. The four formed a new band, Rage Against the Machine.
Rage had great success, especially in North America and Europe. A mixture of heavy metal, hard rock, hip hop, and funk, their self-titled first album gained widespread attention for its overtly political themes and Morello's unconventional use of guitar effects to create new sounds and ambience. Morello commented on the success of the album internationally, focusing less on the political elements than the musical ideas behind it:
After four years of silence and rumors of break-ups, the band released its second album, Evil Empire. The album moved away from the traditional metal guitar work of the first album; it was experimental in nature and further demonstrated Morello's ability to use the guitar in new, attention-holding ways.
In 1999, the band released The Battle of Los Angeles, their most commercially successful record. In late 2000, they released an album of cover songs titled Renegades. Shortly before the release, de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, and the band's instrumentalists said they wanted to continue making music together.
On April 29 2007, the band reunited at the Coachella Music Festival. This was originally thought to be a one-time affair, but the band has subsequently performed together at several live events. Also in January 2008 Rage reunited once again to tour on the Big Day Out Music Festival in Australia and New Zealand. They also played 3 shows in Japan in February 2008 and will play 11 shows in Europe from May until August 2008 including the Pinkpop 2008 festival in the Netherlands, and also T in the Park, in Kinross, Scotland, and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. They will also be headlining Lollapalooza 2008 in Grant Park, Chicago along with Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. The festival takes place from August 1st through August 3rd.
After de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, the remaining bandmates started jamming with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell at the suggestion of producer Rick Rubin. The new group was first called The Civilian Project, but changed their name to Audioslave before their first album was released.
The band released their second album, Out of Exile, on May 24, 2005. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts and attained platinum status. In the same year, they released a DVD documenting their trip as the first American rock band to play a free show in Cuba. The band's third album, Revelations, was released in the fall of 2006. As of February 15 2007, Audioslave have broken up as a result of frontman Cornell's departure due to "irresolvable personality conflicts". The band reunited with Zack de la Rocha and resumed their previous band, Rage Against the Machine.
The Nightwatchman (2003-present)Edit
Morello is less known for his folk music, which he plays under the alias The Nightwatchman. He has explained:
In November 2003 The Nightwatchman joined artists Billy Bragg, Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, Steve Earle, Jill Sobule, Boots Riley of The Coup and Mike Mills of R.E.M. on the Tell Us the Truth Tour. The thirteen-city tour was supported by unions, environmental and media reform groups including Common Cause, Free Press and A.F.L.-C.I.O. with the ultimate goal of "informing music fans, and exposing and challenging the failures of the major media outlets in the United States." Tom Morello explained:
"Media consolidation needs smashing and globalization needs unmasking. When presidents and politicians lie, it is the job of the press to expose those lies. When the press fails,the gangstas come out from Hiding. the lie becomes the law. The point of the Tell Us the Truth Tour is to help others make connections, and to show them that activism can change the policies of this country."
The Nightwatchman also appeared on the album/DVD Axis Of Justice: Concert Series Volume 1, contributing the songs "Until the End", "The Road I Must Travel", and "Union Song".
The Nightwatchman joined the Dave Matthews Band for its short European tour in May 2007. As well as opening for the Dave Matthews Band, he was invited to guest on a couple of songs each night. The last night of this Morello/DMB arrangement was May 30 2007 at Wembley Arena in London, on Tom's birthday.
The Nightwatchman is currently supporting Ben Harper on tour. During this tour, Morello has been joining Harper onstage for a cover of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", on which he plays the electric guitar in the style for which he's best known.
Morello has presided over a Hotel Cafe residency in LA since November 2007, which has featured many of his musical cohorts, including Serj Tankian, Perry Farrell, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, Shooter Jennings, Nuno Bettencourt, Queen V, Sen-Dog from Cypress Hill, Jill Sobule, Boots Riley, Alexi Murdoch, Wayne Kramer from MC5, and others.
Other side projects (1994-present)Edit
Morello and Wilk joined with Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Billy Gould of Faith No More to record the song "Calling Dr. Love" for the 1994 Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass. The lineup was billed as Shandi's Addiction.
In August 1995 Morello contacted former Articles of Faith frontman Vic Bondi and asked him if he wanted to work on a Rage side project. Tentatively titled Weatherman, the short-lived group featured Bondi on vocals, Morello on guitar, Matt Johnson on bass, and Abe Van Eyck on drums. They recorded demos in September 1995. Bondi wrote all the lyrics, while Morello wrote all the music. One track, "Enola Gay", was recorded by Brett Eliason in fall 1996. Tom re-used the main riff of the song for the Audioslave single "Cochise."
Morello also played lead guitar and produced on three tracks of Primus' 1999 studio album Antipop.
Morello played the guitar on "The Faculty" soundtrack, featured with Class of '99 for their cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 2)"
Morello played guitar in the score for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006).
Morello played the guitar riff heard in the final battle scene of the film Dodgeball.
Morello played guitar in the single "One Man Army" by The Prodigy.
In July 2006, reported that Morello and Boots Riley, front man of The Coup, would collaborate on a project called Street Sweepers. Riley has often performed alongside Morello's alter ego The Nightwatchman, and Morello produced and performed on a track for The Coup's 2006 release Pick a Bigger Weapon.
Morello sat in with the Dave Matthews Band featuring Butch Taylor and Rashawn Ross for multiple dates on the band's May 2007 stint in Europe. He performed on "#41," "American Baby Intro" and "Satellite" at various dates on the brief tour.
Morello appears in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as a "guitar boss" (the first of 3 in the career mode of the game) in a night club. Beating him in a one-on-one battle (playing an original composition he recorded for the game) will unlock him as a playable character and will result in the player and Tom playing the master track of "Bulls on Parade" as an encore immediately following the battle. Before the song is played, two dancing girls come out from backstage and start dancing to "Bulls on Parade". Morello's original composition features many of his trademark guitar effects like those heard in songs such as Audioslave's "Cochise" and Doesn't Remind Me and Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls on Parade" and "Sleep Now in the Fire".
Morello also worked with Maynard James Keenan and Chris George to write Cuntry Boner, featured on Puscifer's first CD single release.
In April 2008, Morello made two guest appearances with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Anaheim Pond. They performed "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (which had been previously covered by Rage Against The Machine) The new, edgy arrangement featured two extended solos by Morello. The videos posted on Youtube quickly garnered thousands of views and were the buzz of Springsteen fans worldwide.
Guitar and TechniqueEdit
Morello is famed for his guitar style, which consists of heavy metal/punk hybrid riffs and hip hop-inspired sounds. His guitar playing is also characterized by heavy use of guitar effects, such as delay, modulation, wah, harmonizers, distortion, feedback, and others in unique ways and combinations. The most recognizable effect in Morello's arsenal is the Digitech Whammy, which helps him create many of his sounds.
Critically acclaimed, he is said to use the guitar in a unique and imaginative way; rather than just plucking the strings, his maneuvers include toggling between two pickups - one on and one off - while rubbing his hands on the strings over the pickups (his signature vinyl scratch effect used in "Bulls on Parade"). He also uses techniques such as rapidly hitting a pencil on the strings ("Cochise", although he now emulates the sound by "baby-tapping" the strings), scraping an Allen wrench on the strings for a whole song  ("People of the Sun") and even tapping or scratching his pick-ups and strings with his audio jack cable ("Bullet In The Head").
To assist in his alien guitar sounds, Morello chooses various effects pedals. During his tenure in RATM, he used a Dunlop Cry Baby, a Digitech WH-1 Whammy, a Boss DD-2 Digital Delay, a DOD EQ pedal (used to boost the volume during guitar solos), and an Ibanez DFL Flanger. Around the time of The Battle of Los Angeles he added a Boss TR-2 Tremolo pedal (which can be heard on "Guerrilla Radio"). For Audioslave, Morello replaced the Ibanez Flanger with a MXR Phase 90. His amplifier of choice has always been a 50-watt Marshall JCM 800 2205 and a Peavey 4x12 cabinet. Though the Marshall is his amp of choice with Rage Against the Machine, he used a Vox AC30 combo amplifier to record multiple tracks on Audioslave's 'Revelations' album. While the Marshall amplifier has two channels, he only uses the overdrive channel, and simply turns down the volume on his guitar to get cleaner sounds.
In the studio, Tom uses the same setup for the bulk of the guitar tracks. For The Battle of Los Angeles, he also used a few other amps, such as a Line 6 as heard on the clean, spacey intro of "Mic Check," plus a Pignose mini-amp and a MusicMan "Twin" style amp. Morello has used several guitars throughout his career, two of the most well-known being branded "Arm the Homeless" and "Soul Power",with "Arm the Homeless" available to play in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. For Audioslave's Revelations album Tom used a red Gibson Les Paul. He also uses an acoustic guitar called "Whatever It Takes" for his performances under the alias The Nightwatchman.
Axis of JusticeEdit
Morello and Serj Tankian of System of a Down are the co-founders of Axis of Justice, a political group whose declared purpose is "to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice together." They "aim to build a bridge between fans of music around the world and local political organizations to effectively organize around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice." The group has worked for such causes as immigrant rights and death-penalty abolition. Its recommended book list includes such authors as Noam Chomsky, Che Guevara, George Orwell, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Grant Morrison.
Morello and Tankian, together with a handful of other artists, including Maynard James Keenan, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, the hip hop group Jurassic 5, and Michael "Flea" Balzary of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, released a live recording of covers and original songs, titled The Axis of Justice Concert Series Volume 1.
On April 6, 2006, Tom Morello was honoured with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for his support of worker's rights and for his AOJ work. Tom has worked on numerous labor campaigns: the Guess sweatshop boycott, the LA janitors strike, the Taco Bell boycott, the southern California grocery workers strike and lockout, and others.
Morello was a strong supporter of the Immigrants Reform Rally and protest around the US. Morello played as The Nightwatchman at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles and has featured many articles on AOJ. On September 28, 2006, Morello was one of 400 protesters arrested protesting in support of immigrant hotel workers' rights, in what organizers called "the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of the Los Angeles". Morello knew he was going to be arrested; he wore a bright yellow shirt, and gave the LAPD his driver's license number a few days before the march. Morello told MTV:
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- ↑ Young, Charles M. (June 1996). "Rage Against the Machine Plots a Revolution". Underground. Retrieved on November 8, 2007.
- ↑ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", Rolling Stone, 18 September 2003
- ↑ Guitar World article June 1994
- ↑ "Tom Morello & Adam Jones", Guitar World, June 1994
- ↑ DiNovella, Elizabeth Tom Morello Interview. The Progressive.
- ↑ Gulla, Bob "Tom Morello & Rage Against the Machine Want You!". Guitar One, February 2000
- ↑ Portner, Matt and Heller, Sarah. Tell Us the Truth Tour. The Boston Underground http://www.thestudentunderground.org/article.php?id=91&issue=46 retrieved 12/14/2007
- ↑ Nichols, John. Tell Us THe Truth! The Nation. retrieved 12/14/2007 http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?pid=1069
- ↑ TheNewsTribune.com
- ↑ Template:Cite news
- ↑ Tom Morello Thinks Outernational Could Be The Next Rage Against The Machine, Gil Kaufman, MTV News Online, May 26, 2006.
- ↑ Outernational's website
- ↑ Tom Morello Radical Shriek. musicfanclubs.org.
- ↑ Mission. Axis of Justice.
- ↑ Books. Axis of Justice.
- ↑ 2006 Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration. americanrightsatwork.org.
- ↑ Moss, Corey with Chris Harris Tom Morello Arrested At Protest, Spends Night In Lockup. MTV.com, September 2006
- The Nightwatchman
- Axis of Justice
- Video of Tom Morello's network TV debut of "House Gone Up in Flames"
- "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", Rolling Stone, August 27, 2003.
- Listen online: Tom Morello On Corporate Imperialism
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- Performing live at SXSW 2007 on 89.3 The Current
- Tom Morello on The Hour