October 09, 2021
Lockdown and ‘looking after the grandmas’ may have kept the Rage Against the Machine guitarist away from recent protests – but he refuses to be silenced
Tom Morello: ‘We came within a baby’s breath of a fascist coup in the US’
Tom Morello has made more than 20 albums, as a founding member of Rage Against the Machine – the political rap-rock band who have sold 16m records, and whose 1992 track Killing in the Name has become a perennial protest anthem – and of the bands Audioslave and Prophets of Rage. He also plays solo under the name the Nightwatchman, and has toured with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. His unique approach to the guitar, which he has self-deprecatingly described as “making R2-D2 noises”, has led to him regularly being voted as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. His latest album, The Atlas Underground fire (released on 15 October), features a series of collaborations recorded in lockdown – with Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Damian Marley and Bring Me the Horizon, among others. He is a celebrated “nonsectarian socialist” political activist, famed for performing at demonstrations – he played at Occupy events across the US and Europe – and a co-founder of the nonprofit “social justice” organisation Axis of Justice.
You recorded your new album in lockdown. Did the pandemic also mean you missed out on the ongoing protests in the US?Not only was there a global plague to contend with, there was the US political situation and the white supremacy comeuppance, all happening at a time when I was locked down with my 97-year-old mom, my 90-year-old mother-in-law, and two kids going crazy trying to learn remotely. I was unable to be on the literal frontlines for the first time in my adult life, because I’m trying to keep the grandmas alive, you know. So in the middle of the George Floyd protests I recorded a song called Stand Up, with Imagine Dragons, the great trans soul Singer Shea Diamond and Bloody Beetroots as well. I was trying, from the bunker, to contribute in any way I could. But you’re absolutely right: that’s my bread and butter. I’m at the front of that march for 30 years, and now, you know, there’s a plumbing problem, or one of my kids broke a window with a basketball, so that’s my day
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