Friday, March 2, 2012

The #70 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Tom Morello

The #70 Guitarist* is a great experimenter and has produced new sounds in showing what the guitar can do.  Tom Morello is up next:
#70:  Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave
active guitarist for 34 years
Thomas Baptiste "Tom" Morello was born May 30, 1964 in Harlem, New York.  His guitar work has been featured in the popular groups Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.  He also plays acoustic guitar in solo performances and recently joined the Street Sweeper Social Club.

Tom went to Libertyville High School, where his mother was a United States history teacher (she taught Adam Jones of the band Tool).  Tom sang in the school choir and also was in the speech and drama club.  Morello graduated with honors in 1982 and enrolled at Harvard University in political science.    In 1986, Tom graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies.

At age 13, Morello joined his first band that did Led Zeppelin covers, becoming their lead singer.  He purchased his first guitar and in 1984, formed a band called the Electric Sheep which featured future Tool guitarist Adam Jones.  The band played original material that featured politically charged lyrics. 

Morello preferred hard rock and heavy metal, especially Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Alice Cooper Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.  Later, punk bands such as the Clash, the Sex Pistols and Devo greatly influenced him.

He joined a band called Lock Up but after they broke up in 1991, Tom wanted to start a new group.  He liked Zack de la Rocha's freestyle rapping and recruited drummer Brad Wilk, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for a spot in Lock Up.  Bassist Tim Commerford came aboard and they took the name Rage Against the Machine.  
The group signed with Epic Records in 1992 and released their debut album that met with a good deal of success.  The group released three more studio albums in the 1990's.  On September 13, 2000 Rage Against the Machine performed their last concert at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.    

After disbanding, Morello, Commerford and Wilk formed Audioslave along with Chris Cornell, former singer with Soundgarden.  Audioslave released three albums that were well received on Modern Rock stations.  Their debut was released in 2002 and the album Out of Exile debuted at #1.  But due to conflicts, the group disbanded with Cornell going his own way and the rest of the members eventually resuming with de la Rocha under their previous name.

In 2007, Morello formed a duo called the Street Sweeper Social Club with Boots Riley of the Coup.  They opened for Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction in May of 2009.

In 2007, Rage Against the Machine reunited at the Coachella Music Festival and drew the largest crowds at the festival. The band played seven more concerts that year and also played several shows in 2008, including headlining the Reading and Leeds Festivals in Great Britain. They have continued to tour, headlining large festivals in Europe and the United States including L.A. Rising, a concert they helped organize.
Morello also plays acoustic folk music as a solo performer under the name The Nightwatchman.  He toured under that name supporting several political causes and opened for the Dave Matthews Band for a European tour in 2007.

Since November, 2007, Morello has taken up residency at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles.  

Last year, Morello organized and performed an acoustic concert in support of the protests that rose up after Wisconsin tried to ban collective bargaining rights.  He has played at many Occupy movements, including Occupy Wall Street as well as Occupy Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., and Occupy movements in Nottingham and Newcastle, England.

Morello uses many modified guitars, including the Mongrel Custom "Arm the Homeless", which he has used since 1991. It was custom made by Performance Guitar USA. He also uses a Fender Stratocaster "Soul Power, a black stock Fender Telecaster "Sendero Luminoso" and an Inbanez Artstar Hollowbody which contains several on-board effects.

Morello uses heavy metal/punk guitar riffs and hip hop-inspired sounds.  He features unconventional picking, feedback and prominent use of guitar effects.  To produce his alien guitar sounds, Tom uses various effects pedals, including a Dunlop Cry Baby, a DigiTech WH-1 Whammy, a Boss Dd-2 Digital Delay, a DOD EQ pedal and an Ibanez DFL Flanger.  Later, Morello added an MXR Phase 90 and a Boss Tr-2 Tremolo pedal.  He uses a 50-watt Marshall JCM 800 2205 amplifier in a Peavey 4 x 12 cabinet.
Morello has a great command of the guitar and is an innovator with special effects.  He has good speed and unlike many in his generation, understands the value of melody in his solos.  He ranks at #70 for the Rock Era*.

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