Need in­spo from a true leg­end? TOM MORELLO re­veals his Life Lessons.

Rock’s lead­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary on the death of gui­tar so­los, vi­o­lent pol­i­tics and de­stroy­ing the men­tal health stigma

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DAVE EVERLEY

FOR TOM MORELLO,

the revo­lu­tion never sleeps. The Prophets Of Rage gui­tarist’s new solo al­bum, The At­las

Un­der­ground, fea­tures a genre-bust­ing ar­ray of col­lab­o­ra­tors, from rap­pers (Vic Mensa, Big Boi, the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA) to punk rock­ers (Rise Against’s Tim McGrath) and banjo-both­er­ing indie rock stars (Mum­ford & Sons’

Mar­cus Mum­ford). “This al­bum is a sonic con­spir­acy of di­verse, like­minded artists”, he says. “I wanted to make some­thing that’s un­apolo­get­i­cally a gui­tar record – but a gui­tar record for 2018.” This is what Tom has learnt dur­ing his three-decade jour­ney to get to this point.

NEVER WRITE OFF ROCK’N’ROLL

“It’s true that hip hop, pop and R&B are more pop­u­lar than rock mu­sic th­ese days. There will al­ways be great rock’n’roll, but it’s no longer the dom­i­nant genre. But times change and trends ebb and flow.

The thing is, me­tal will be here long af­ter other gen­res have come and gone. Sure, it’s level of pop­u­lar­ity isn’t at a peak right now, but that’s all the more rea­son for those of us who be­lieve in it to keep mak­ing the mu­sic we love.”

THE GUI­TAR SOLO IS DY­ING

“I’m dis­gusted by the fact that a lot of young peo­ple th­ese days aren’t will­ing to sit down and prac­tise the elec­tric gui­tar for eight hours a day. They are all look­ing for an eas­ier route to be­com­ing fa­mous. Look at the Top 50 songs on the ra­dio in the

US – there are no gui­tar so­los in them. I see The

At­las Un­der­ground as a Tro­jan horse. I want it to turn a new gen­er­a­tion of kids on to crank­ing up the gui­tar.”

AMER­ICA IS BREAK­ING. BUT IT’S NOT BRO­KEN.

“We’re in a very dark time right now.

It’s like we’re in Pom­peii with Ve­su­vius ex­plod­ing and the only ship out of town is the Ti­tanic. But there’s al­ways hope. There are two con­stants that I’ve seen from the time I started mak­ing mu­sic with Rage Against The Ma­chine. One is the ram­pant in­jus­tice around the globe. The other is the re­sis­tance to that in­jus­tice.”

THE REVO­LU­TION NEEDS YOU

“We are at a cross­roads in our planet’s his­tory, with im­pend­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, racism and anti-im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment on the rise, a dan­ger­ous whiff of fas­cism in the air. So now, from the mosh­pit to the dance­floor, it’s time to do some­thing about it.”

DI­RECT AC­TION HAS ITS PLACE

“My per­sonal lean­ings are paci­fist in na­ture and I’m not at all a vi­o­lent per­son. But look at the ANC – they fought a vi­o­lent cam­paign against the racist apartheid sys­tem in South Africa. I’m not go­ing to say that they’re wrong. I would pre­fer a world that’s changed by peace­ful means, but that’s not al­ways how the world is changed. I live in a coun­try that was founded on vi­o­lent revo­lu­tion.”

DON’T OVER­THINK. JUST DO

“Peo­ple should be less con­cerned with the strate­gies of what they need to do and just fo­cus on mak­ing great mu­sic that they be­lieve in. That’s your only re­spon­si­bil­ity as an artist: to make some­thing that you care about, some­thing you think will be great or beau­ti­ful or will kick ass. That’s it. That’s your only job.”

REV­O­LU­TION­AR­IES ARE CRE­ATED, NOT BORN

“I can’t say if I in­her­ited the ac­tivist gene from my dad [Kenyan guer­rilla fight­er­turned-diplo­mat Ngethe Njoroge]. I didn’t meet him un­til I was 30, so he never sat me on his knee and told me sto­ries of what he did, though his ex­am­ple loomed large. I’d say my pol­i­tics were very street ori­en­tated, in that I was the only black kid in an all-white town. Pol­i­tics found me very early in the play­ground.”

DE­PRES­SION ISN’T WEAK­NESS

“I’ve known and worked with peo­ple who have suf­fered from de­pres­sion and men­tal ill­ness, and it feels like we’re at an im­por­tant cross­roads right now where those things are com­ing out of the dark and los­ing the stigma they once had. The most im­por­tant thing is to not suf­fer in si­lence. Seek help from friends, fam­ily, pro­fes­sion­als. That it­self can be a bat­tle, but a lot of time your life may de­pend on it. But al­ways know that you’re not alone, that there is help avail­able and peo­ple who care about you and love you and would like to be part of a so­lu­tion.”

STASH THE CELL PHONE

“Would I ban cell phones from gigs? Well, if things are crazy enough, you would prob­a­bly be a fool to get yours out. My job is to make sure, whether it’s in the mosh­pit or on the dance­floor or wher­ever, that peo­ple are go­ing so apeshit they’ll put their stupid phones away and just live in the mo­ment for a sec­ond.”

THE 1990S CHANGED EV­ERY­THING

“It was a decade where so many un­usual bands got a plat­form, from Rage to Jane’s Ad­dic­tion to Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden… Th­ese were all bands that did not fit any pre­vi­ous mould of what rock stars should look like or sound like or be­have like, yet they found a global au­di­ence. And they were bands with ideas. They had a foot planted in the punk rock ethos. They were dif­fer­ent to the typ­i­cal rock’n’roll clichés.”

DON’T BUILD WALLS. SMASH THEM

“I know there tends to be an in­her­ent crit­i­cism in hard rock about bump­ing up against other gen­res, but there are a lot of rock and me­tal fans that re­jected Rage Against The Ma­chine for that rea­son. That didn’t stop us from mak­ing mu­sic that was true to our hearts. What I wanted to do with this record is com­bine artists of dif­fer­ent ages, dif­fer­ent gen­ders, dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties. That in and of it­self is a pow­er­ful state­ment. Es­pe­cially when you strip away a lot of the syn­the­sis­ers and re­place it with kick-ass rock’n’roll gui­tar.”

RAGE ARE IN­AC­TIVE, BUT THE COMRADESHIP ISN’T

“Am I still in touch with Zack? Oh yeah. I

didn’t ap­proach him for this record, though. I’ve al­ready got a long list of col­lab­o­ra­tors, and Zack’s been work­ing on his solo mu­sic for some time. I’ll be thrilled when that comes out.”

DON’T BE SOME­ONE YOU’RE NOT

“When I moved to Hol­ly­wood, I thought, ‘I can never be in a band here – I’m not any­thing like th­ese guys. I’ve never done drugs, my hair doesn’t look like those guys’.’ But I made the de­ci­sion a long time ago to be the per­son that I am and let the chips fall where they may, and fuck you if you don’t like it.”

EM­BRACE YOUR IN­NER NERD

“I do love Star Trek, I do love Dun­geons & Drag­ons, I do love Lord Of The Rings and R2-D2… But I can write some riffs, too. You can be both. Or ei­ther.”

B-REAL RE­ALLY DOES SMOKE AS MUCH AS YOU THINK

“I’ve known the guys from Cy­press Hill for years, and one of the pleas­ant re­veals of be­ing in Prophets Of Rage with B-Real is his level of po­lit­i­cal aware­ness. He em­braces the cause with the same grip that he holds a joint. He’s a tremen­dous MC and a great friend, but a lot of times I’m so be­wil­dered with sec­ond-hand smoke in­take that it’s hard to be able to tell what’s go­ing on.”

THE BAD NEWS: THE MU­SIC IN­DUS­TRY HAS COM­PLETELY CHANGED

“In this cur­rent cli­mate, there re­ally is no record in­dus­try. If a new Me­tal­lica or a new Rage Against The Ma­chine came along, there’s not the ap­pa­ra­tus to shove it down the world’s throat that there was 20 or 25 years ago.”

THE GOOD NEWS: THE MU­SIC IN­DUS­TRY HAS COM­PLETELY CHANGED

“The dis­tri­bu­tion of mu­sic is much more demo­cratic. You, me and the guy walk­ing down the street out­side can all make an al­bum on our phones, we can all have a Face­book page to put it out there.”

LONGEVITY IS A MYS­TERY

“Don’t ask me why I’ve lasted so long, be­cause it’s hard to say. I guess for me it’s al­ways been about hav­ing my pri­or­i­ties in­tact: chal­leng­ing my­self and be­ing re­ally hon­est about the mu­sic I make.”

“I’M STILL IN TOUCH WITH

ZACK”

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