Tom Morello

Tom Morello
Tom Morello
Background information
Birth name Thomas Baptiste Morello
Also known as The Nightwatchman
Born May 30, 1964 (1964-05-30) (age 47)
Harlem, New York
Origin Libertyville, Illinois
Genres Alternative metal, rap metal, funk metal, alternative rock, folk rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter, activist, actor
Instruments Guitar, vocals, harmonica, mandolin, bass guitar, drums, piano, banjo
Years active 1979–present
Labels SonyBMG, Epic, Interscope
Associated acts Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club, Lock Up, Class of '99, Cypress Hill, Axis of Justice, Electric Sheep, Travis Barker
Notable instruments

"Arm the Homeless" - Custom guitar with a Kramer neck and custom performance body.
"Soul Power"
- Custom Fender Stratocaster
"Sendero Luminoso" - Fender Telecaster
"Burnt Budweiser" - Gibson Les Paul
"Whatever It Takes" - Ibanez classical acoustic
Ibanez Artstar Hollowbody (Custom).

Cuztomized half red half black- gibson ES-335

Thomas Baptiste "Tom" Morello (born May 30, 1964) is a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist best known for his tenure with the bands Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, his acoustic solo act The Nightwatchman, and his newest group, Street Sweeper Social Club. Tom is also the co-founder (along with Serj Tankian) of the non-profit political activist organization, Axis of Justice, which airs monthly on KPFK 90.7FM in Los Angeles. He is best known for his unique and creative guitar playing style, which incorporates feedback noises, unconventional picking and tapping as well as heavy use of guitar effects. He was ranked #26 in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."[1]


Early life

Tom Morello was born on May 30, 1964, in Harlem, New York, to Ngethe Njoroge and Mary Morello. He is of Irish and Italian descent on his maternal side, and Kikuyu Kenyan descent on his paternal side. His mother was a schoolteacher from Marseilles, Illinois, who earned a Master of Arts at Loyola University, Chicago and travelled to Germany, Spain, Japan, and Kenya as an English language teacher between 1977 to 1983.[2] His father was a Kenyan participant in the Mau Mau Uprising, and served as Kenya's first ambassador to the United Nations.[3] Morello's paternal great-uncle, Jomo Kenyatta, was the first elected president in Kenyan history.[3] His parents met in August 1963, while attending a pro-democracy protest in Nairobi, Kenya.[4] After discovering her pregnancy, Mary returned to the United States with Njoroge in November, and married in New York City.

When Morello was 16 months old, Njoroge returned to his native Kenya, and denied his paternity of his son.[4][5] Morello was raised solely by his mother in Libertyville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. There he attended Libertyville High School, where his mother was a U.S. history teacher. She was the homeroom teacher for Tom's classmate and fellow guitarist Adam Jones, of the band Tool, while teaching at Libertyville. Tom sang in the school choir and was active in speech and drama club; a prominent role was Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Morello developed leftist political leanings early, and has described himself as having been "the only anarchist in a conservative high school", and has since identified as a nonsectarian socialist. In the 1980 mock elections at Libertyville, he campaigned for a fictitious anarchist "candidate" named Hubie Maxwell, who came in fourth place in the election. He also wrote a piece headlined "South Africa: Racist Fascism That We Support" for the school alternative newspaper The Student Pulse.

Morello graduated from high school with honors in June 1982, and enrolled at Harvard University as a political science student that autumn. He was the first student at his high school to be accepted at Harvard, and was in fact the first person from Libertyville, Illinois ever to enroll there.[4] Morello graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies.[6] Adam Jones, his high school classmate, moved to Los Angeles as well; Morello introduced Jones and Maynard James Keenan to Danny Carey, who would come to form the band Tool. He moved to Los Angeles, where he supported himself, first by working as an exotic male stripper.[7]

"When I graduated from Harvard and moved to Hollywood, I was unemployable. I was literally starving, so I had to work menial labour and, at one point, I even worked as an exotic dancer. 'Brick House' (by The Commodores) was my jam! I did bachlorette parties and I'd go down to my boxer shorts. Would I go further? All I can say is thank God it was in the time before YouTube! You could make decent money doing that job – people do what they have to do.[7] "

From 1987 to 1988, Morello worked in the office of California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston;[7] however, this proved to be a negative experience for Morello, who decided never to pursue a career in politics.

"I never had any real desire to work in politics but if there was any ember burning in me, it was extinguished working in that job because of two things: one of them was the fact that 80 per cent of the time I spent with the Senator, he was on the phone asking rich people for money. It just made me understand that the whole business was dirty. He had to compromise his entire being every day. The other was the time a woman phoned up to the office and wanted to complain that there were Mexicans moving into her neighborhood. I said to her, 'Ma'am, you're a damn racist,' and she was indignant. I thought I was representing our cause well, but I got yelled at for a week by everyone for saying that! I thought to myself that if I'm in a job where I can't call a damn racist a damn racist, then it's not for me.[7] "

Musical influences

At age 13, Morello joined his first band; a Led Zeppelin cover band as the lead singer. At this same age, Morello purchased his first guitar. 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.[3] The band 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 hard rock and heavy metal, particularly Kiss, Iron Maiden. As he stated in Flight 666 he is a huge fan of Piece of Mind, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Morello developed his own unique sound through the electric guitar. Later, his musical style and politics were greatly influenced by punk rock bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and Devo.

Recording career

Rage Against the Machine (1991–2000; 2007–present)

In 1991 Tom was looking to form an old band after Lock Up disbanded. Tom was impressed by Zack de la Rocha's freestyle rapping and asked him to join his band. He also drafted drummer Brad Wilk, who he knew from his band Lock Up, where Wilk unsuccessfully auditioned for a drumming spot. The band's lineup was completed when Zack convinced his childhood friend Tim Commerford to play bass. After frequenting the L.A. club circuit, Rage Against the Machine signed a record deal with Epic Records in 1992. That same year, the band released their self titled debut. They achieved a considerable amount of mainstream success and released three more studio albums.

In August 2000 in Los Angeles during the Democratic National Convention, Rage Against the Machine performed outside the Staples Center to a large crowd numbering in the thousands while the Convention took place inside.[8] After several audience members began to throw rocks, the Los Angeles Police Department turned off the power and ordered the audience to disperse, firing rubber bullets and pepper spray into the crowd.[9]

Tom Morello performing with Rage Against The Machine at the 2008 Reading Festival

In late 2000, after Commerford's stunt at the VMA's, the disgruntled de la Rocha quit the band. On September 13, 2000, Rage Against the Machine performed their last concert at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. After the band disbanded, their fourth studio album, Renegades, became a collection of cover songs from artists such as Bob Dylan, MC5, Bruce Springsteen and Cypress Hill. 2003 saw the release of their last album, titled Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, an edited recording of the band's final two concerts on September 12 and 13, 2000 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was accompanied by an expanded DVD release of the last show and included a previously unreleased music video for "Bombtrack".

After disbanding, Morello, Wilk and Commerford went on to form Audioslave with former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, and released three albums as well as a DVD from the band's concert in Cuba. De la Rocha started working on a solo album collaboration with DJ Shadow, Company Flow, and The Roots' Questlove, but the project was dropped in favor of working with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. Recording was completed, but the album will probably never be released.[10] So far, only one track has been released: "We Want It All" was featured on "Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11".

On April 29, 2007, Rage Against the Machine reunited at the Coachella Music Festival. The band played in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival. The performance was initially thought to be a one-off, but this turned out not to be the case. The band played 7 more shows in the United States in 2007 (including their first non-festival concert in 7 years at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin), and in January 2008, they played their first shows outside the US since re-forming as part of the Big Day Out Festival in Australia and New Zealand. In August 2008 they headlined nights at the Reading and Leeds festivals.[11][12]

The band has since continued to tour around the world, headlining many large festivals in Europe and the United States, including Lollapalooza in Chicago. In 2008 the band also played shows in Denver, Colorado and Minneapolis, Minnesota to coincide with the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention, respectively. In July, 2011, Rage Against the Machine played at L.A. Rising, a concert formed by the band in Los Angeles, in which they headlined and played with other artists including Muse and Rise Against. Though they played together for these events, they do not play together regularly.

Audioslave (2001–2007)

Morello with Audioslave at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2005.

After de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, the remaining band mates began collaborating with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell at the suggestion of producer Rick Rubin. The new group was first rumored to be called The Civilian Project, but the name Audioslave was confirmed before their first album was released.

The band released their eponymous debut album on November 19, 2002. It was a critical and commercial success, attaining triple-platinum status.

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)

Morello is less known for his folk music, which he plays under the alias The Nightwatchman. He has explained:

"The Nightwatchman is my political folk alter ego. I've been writing these songs and playing them at open mic nights with friends for some time. This is the first time I've toured with it. When I play open mic nights, it's announced as The Nightwatchman. There will be kids there who are fans of my electric guitar playing, and you see them there scratching their heads. But it's something that I enjoy doing. I look at it more as an extension of my politics. Then again, some of the songs are not explicitly political. It really helped me grow as an artist and songwriter. Once you prick the vein you never know what is going to come out. You could aim for all union songs and you find yourself in other territory."

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."[13] 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."[14]

One of his many songs, "No One Left", which compares the aftermath of September 11 to that of a U.S. attack on Iraq, appears on the album Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11.

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".

Morello, as The Nightwatchman, released his debut solo album, One Man Revolution, on April 24, 2007.

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 Café residency in L.A. since November 2007, which has featured many of his musical cohorts, including Serj Tankian, Perry Farrell, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Shooter Jennings, Nuno Bettencourt, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill, Jill Sobule, Boots Riley, Alexi Murdoch, Wayne Kramer of MC5 and others.

On October 10, 2008, The Nightwatchman appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as a musical guest, promoting his new album The Fabled City.

Street Sweeper Social Club (2006–present)

Following Audioslave's breakup in 2007, Morello met up with Boots Riley of The Coup, suggesting that they start a band which Morello had named Street Sweeper. After giving Riley a tape of various songs to write to, the two created the duo Street Sweeper Social Club.

Street Sweeper Social Club opened for Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction in May 2009.

Other side projects (1994–present)

Morello has played with a great number of artists. Some of the more notable contributions are listed below.

Morello and RATM bandmate Brad 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 1995 Morello formed a short-lived project called Weatherman with former Articles of Faith frontman Vic Bondi. 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.

Morello 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 worked with The Crystal Method on their 2001 album Tweekend. He co-produced and played guitars on the smash single "Name of the Game" and "Wild, Sweet and Cool".

Morello recorded guitars along with country legend Johnny Cash during his late career with American Recordings, which was released on the Unearthed.[15]

Morello has worked with the punk band Anti-Flag on numerous occasions: he produced their 2003 album The Terror State, recorded the guitar solo on "Depleted Uranium is a War Crime" on their 2006 album For Blood & Empire, and has played at some of their concerts.

Morello played guitar in the single "One Man Army" by The Prodigy, which appears on the Spawn Soundtrack and on the "Smack My Bitch Up" single as an instrumental version.

Morello played guitar on the Atari Teenage Riot song Rage.

Morello played a short solo on the Benny Mason band song Exodus IV.[16]

As The Nightwatchman, Morello has often performed alongside Boots Riley, frontman of The Coup; also, he produced and performed on a track for The Coup's 2006 release Pick a Bigger Weapon. In July 2006, it was reported that Morello and Riley were to collaborate on a project called Street Sweepers (see section above).[17]

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.[18] 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".

In April 2006, Morello produced two tracks for the group Outernational;[19] on the band's website, it states that Morello will be producing their debut album.[20]

In April 2008, Morello made two guest appearances with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Anaheim Pond. They performed an extended electric version, featuring guitar solos, of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (which had been previously covered by Rage Against the Machine on Renegades). One of these performance was included on Springsteen's Magic Tour Highlights EP as an audio track or video download.

On October 29, 2009 Morello performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden. He performed "The Ghost of Tom Joad", "London Calling", "Badlands" and "Higher and Higher" with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Morello performed on Steve Earle's track, "Lungs," on Earle's Townes Van Zandt tribute album, Townes (album).

On February 23, 2010 Cypress Hill released the second single, "Rise Up", from their album Rise Up featuring Tom Morello on guitar. He is also featured on the track "Shut 'Em Down" from the same album, unlike "Rise Up", which is very similar in style to Tom's rap metal band Rage Against the Machine, it contains strong latin and punk influences .

On November 2, 2010 Travis Barker & Tom Morello released a song alongside RZA & Raekwon called "Carry It". It would later appear on Travis's debut solo album Give the Drummer Some. Like "Rise Up", it is very similar in style to Tom's previous band Rage Against the Machine.

Morello performed with the rock supergroup Fistful of Mercy on the November 10, 2010 edition of Conan.

Morello performed on Serj Tankian's "Goodbye - Gate 21".

Appearances in films

Morello played on a number of soundtracks, including Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Spider-Man, and most recently The A-Team. He was an "Additional Electric Guitar" in the 2008 superhero movie Iron Man and played a terrorist. He also stars in the movie Berkeley (2005) and in Star Trek: Insurrection. He also collaborated with John Debney for the score for Iron Man 2

Additionally, Morello has appeared as himself in an array of documentary films; such as Sounds Like a Revolution, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, about heavy metal band Iron Maiden's Somewhere Back in Time World Tour, and in Chevolution, an exposé about the famous Guerrillero Heroico photo of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.


In 2011 it was announced that Morello would write a new 12-issue comic book series for Dark Horse Comics, entitled Orchid. The series is a post-apocalyptic story in which the title character is "a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her." The first issue was published in October 2011, and Morello is releasing an exclusive new song to accompany each issue. Orchid is illustrated by Canadian artist Scott Hepburn.[21]

The release party sponsored by Dark Horse was held at Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire on October 12, 2011.[22]

Guitar playing technique

"Whatever it takes", a classical acoustic guitar used by Morello in his The Nightwatchman persona.

Morello is famed for his guitar style, which consists of heavy metal/punk hybrid riffs and hip hop-inspired sounds. A 1993 Melody Maker live review of a Rage Against The Machine gig, said Guitarist Tom Morello wears his guitar high up to wring every sound out of it. Falling bombs, police sirens, scratching - he can do them all. [23]

To produce 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 (set flat and just used to boost the volume during guitar solos or particular rocking moments), 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 for multiple overdubs on Audioslave's album Revelations. 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, Morello 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.[24] During the recording of Audioslave's last album, Revelations, Morello experimented with different amplifier setups. For the title track's solo he split his signal to his standard Marshall 2205 head and Peavey cabinet and a 100 watt Fender Bassman head and an Orange cabinet. With delay sent to one while the other is unaffected the sound is being "ping-ponged" between the two amplifiers. He also borrowed a VOX AC30 amplifier from producer Brendan O’Brien for some tracks.[25]

Morello's unique technique and talent led to him being voted the fifth greatest guitarist of the past 30 years in a 2010 BBC poll.[26]



Morello playing Occupy Wall Street in New York, October 2011

On August 27, 2008 Morello performed in Denver, Colorado at the Open The Debates rally in opposition to the Commission on Presidential Debates exclusion of third party candidates from the nationally televised debates. He performed "This Land is Your Land" as The Nightwatchman and endorsed Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader. Sean Penn, Jello Biafra, Brooke Smith and Cindy Sheehan were also part of the rally.[27]

In October 2009, Morello, among a number of musicians, sued the US government for the declassification of all documents relating to the use of music in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. He stated, "Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured -- from waterboarding to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts -- playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums. Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney's idea of America, but it's not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me."[28][29]

On February 21, 2011 Morello organized and performed an acoustic concert in support of the protests over collective bargaining rights in Madison, WI. The concert also featured The MC5's Wayne Kramer and Boston punk band Street Dogs. He wrote an article in Rolling Stone about his experience.[30]

Recently, Morello has played at many Occupy movements, including Occupy Wall Street as well as Occupy Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia, Nottingham and Newcastle, England protests. [4]

Axis of Justice

America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you’ve lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn’t belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don’t care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve.
— Tom Morello[31]

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."[32] The group has worked for such causes as immigrant rights and death-penalty abolition. Its recommended book list includes such authors as Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Che Guevara, George Orwell, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Grant Morrison.[33]

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 honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for his support of worker's rights and for his AOJ work.[34] 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. He feels that there's enough room for everyone in the United States, whether those people want to work or not. 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".[35] Morello knew he was going to be arrested; he wore bright yellow signs, and gave the LAPD his driver's license number a few days before the march. Morello told MTV:

"In these political dark ages, it's important for us to stand up for one another. These hotel workers by the airport make 20% less wages than the hotel workers around the rest of Los Angeles. We are here to express our solidarity with them, to help them unionize and help them close the gap between their sub-poverty wages and the millions and millions of dollars the people who own these hotels make."

Personal life

Tom Morello has a wife with who he has a young son named Rhoads ( 2 ) and a baby boy named Roman ( 7 months ). Morello is a vegan for both health and ethical reasons.[36][37]



Morello uses heavily modified guitars from various manufacturers, but he has never had an official endorsement deal with any company.

  • Mongrel Custom "Arm The Homeless" - Morello's most famous guitar, and his main guitar for standard tuning since 1991. The original guitar was made by Performance Guitar USA for Morello to his exact specifications. It featured a Stratocaster body with a Performance Corsair neck, 2 Seymour Duncan JB pickups and A chrome original Floyd Rose tremolo system. However, when he got the guitar he hated everything about it and completely reassembled it. Since then just about everything has been changed countless times. The only thing that remains from the original guitar is the body. The body is blue with the words "Arm the Homeless" written on it in black and red. It has a 3-way toggle switch (pickup selector) mounted on the lower horn, 2 volume knobs and 1 tone knob, 4 Hippos (painted) on the front, one large hippo (upside down) painted on the back, and a hammer and sickle symbol sticker. The neck is a 22 fret Performance guitar neck with a rosewood board and a "banana" headstock. It also has Gotoh Crownhead tuners. It has an EMG 85/EMG 81 set of pickups and a Ibanez Edge Floyd Rose Tremolo. The guitar is tuned to standard E. This guitar is available in the video game Guitar Hero 3:Legends of Rock.
  • Fender Stratocaster "Soul Power" - Originally made as a Factory Special Run for Guitar Center, Morello found it on the rack and really liked the look of it. It has a black finish with white binding and a color-matched headstock. It also has a mirror pickguard, Ibanez Edge Floyd Rose Tremolo, a 2-way on/off toggle switch wired as a kill switch, a Seymour Duncan Hotrails pickup in the bridge and Fender Noiseless pickups in the middle and neck positions. It has the words "Soul Power" on the top of the body in silver paint and is his main guitar in Audioslave for songs that are in standard E tuning.
  • Fender Telecaster, "Sendero Luminoso" - A black stock 1982 Standard Telecaster, his main guitar for use in drop-D in Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club. He got this guitar in a trade with his roommate. The guitar has various stickers on its body, most notably the words "sendero luminoso" in white and red.
  • Fender telecaster 2. Black with white binding, mirror pickguard and toggle switch on the lower horn. Tom used this guitar when he played with Fistful of mercy on Conan.
  • Ibanez Artstar Hollowbody (Custom) - Made especially for Morello. Based on an old Vox Ultrasonic, it contains several on-board effects (wah, echo, dist, treble/bass boost) and is painted red and black paint. Used live on the song "Guerrilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine but rarely seen anywhere else, until it was used in the video clip for Cypress Hill's "Rise Up".
  • Goya Rangemaster de Greco, "St. George Creamy" - Bought by Morello at a Canadian pawnshop for $60. It was modified with a Seymour Duncan hotrails pickup in the bridge position. A toggle switch was also added that is dead in the middle position, resulting in a "hummingbird chirp" when toggled. Used as a drop D guitar for some songs on the Rage Against The Machine record Evil Empire. Used in Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave.
  • Ibanez Talman (Custom) - Has 3 single coil "lipstick" pickups, an Ibanez Lo-Pro Edge tremolo, and a killswitch. It has a custom Kenyan flag finish and was used on "Revolver", "How I Could Just Kill a Man", and "Pistol Grip Pump" for Rage Against the Machine and "Exploder" for Audioslave. The guitar has a faulty internal pickup which makes odd feedback noises, which Tom adjusts by tweaking the tone knob and using the guitars tremolo. This technique can be heard at the beginning of Rage Against the Machine's "Revolver", Audioslave's "Exploder", and the live version of Street Sweeper Social Club's Promenade. Tom owns a second Talman, in a white finish, with two humbuckers.
  • Gibson EDS-1275 (Double Neck SG) - Tuned to drop-D on the 6-string neck, and only seen used live on "The Ghost of Tom Joad".
  • Ovation Breadwinner - Tuned to standard E, used for "Ashes in the Fall" for Rage Against the Machine. Also used with a MusicMan amp and Tone Bender pedal to capture the Korean radio station audio heard at the end of "Sleep Now in the Fire".He owns 2 others and confines them to the studio because he thinks they look ugly. Morello used one of these guitars in the video for Travis Barker's "Carry It", which he is featured in.
  • Gibson "Budweiser" Les Paul - Used during the recording of Audioslave's third album, Revelations. Originally bearing an orange Budweiser logo that Morello hated and burned off with a lighter. He liked the new appearance and modified the guitar with DiMarzio pickups. Drop-D tuning.
  • Gibson Les Paul Standard, #1 - orange burst finish. Tuned to drop-B for use in Audioslave and Street sweeper social club.
  • James Trussart Steelcaster - A Telecaster style guitar with a body made in steel, finished with a red star graphic over a holey front. Has Seymour Duncan pickups ( Alnico pro II in neck and a Hot rails in bridge). Seen occasionally on the Rage Against the Machine reunion tour, Tom also owns one with polished finish that was used on early tours.
  • Ibanez roadstar- Tom's backup guitar for arm the homeless. It has all the same specs as arm the homeless (light blue finish, edge trem, toggle switch on the bottom horn, emg pickups etc.) but has several small hippo stickers instead of the 4 larger ones seen on the original guitar. This guitar can be seen briefly in the "sleep now in the fire" music video.
  • "Whatever It Takes" guitar - A custom Ibanez Galvador classical acoustic guitar he uses during concerts as The Nightwatchman. Plain body with 'Whatever It Takes ((star))' left of the bridge.
  • "Black Spartacus" guitar- A black Gibson steel string acoustic guitar used as The Nightwatchman, used prominently on the World Wide Rebel Songs album. Has symbol of Kenyan flag left of the bridge and "Black Spartacus" in white on the top of the guitar. Tom Morello says he wrote song "Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine" as a love song for this new guitar, which appears in the music video for this song.
  • Tanglewood Acoustic Guitar.

Effects and amplifiers

Morello's amplifier and effects setup has been practically the same throughout his career in Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club.

A photo of Morello's pedal board; on the far left is a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus
  • Marshall JCM800 2205 50-watt head (with the Marshall logo blocked out to avoid endorsment proposals)
  • Peavey 4x12 Cabinet (with Che Guevara's silhouette on the grill)

Selected discography

The Nightwatchman is the alter ego of Tom Morello, guitarist with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. While Morello is best known for his bracing mix of hard rock fury with hip-hop accents, as the Nightwatchman he performs as a solo acoustic singer and songwriter, playing self-penned songs that reflect his leftist political beliefs. Born in New York City in 1964 and raised in Libertyville, IL, by his mother (a longtime political activist), Morello taught himself to play guitar while he was a student at Harvard University, where he received a degree in political science. After graduating, Morello moved to Los Angeles and joined a hard rock band called Lock Up, which scored a deal with Geffen Records; however, Lock Up's sole album, released in 1989, sank without a trace and they soon broke up.

Morello had much better luck with his next project — Rage Against the Machine, which fused hip-hop rhythms and fractured heavy metal guitar sounds alongside Zack de la Rocha's agitprop lyrics. RATM released their first album in 1992, and became one of the most influential bands of the 1990s, blazing the trail for the rap-metal movement and confirming that there was still room for firebrand politics in mainstream rock & roll. Rage Against the Machine split up suddenly in 2000 following the release of their album Renegades, and Morello and his bandmates Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk soldiered on as Audioslave with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell.

In 2003, inspired by Bob Dylan's early work and Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska and outraged by the administration of George W. Bush, Morello began writing topical songs and singing them at informal shows in California coffeehouses. Calling himself the Nightwatchman, Morello admits to having severe stage fright during his first appearances as a vocalist, but before long he gained confidence and in 2004 the Nightwatchman took part in the Tell Us the Truth tour, a series of concerts (also featuring Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, and Boots Riley of the Coup) staged to raise awareness during the 2004 presidential campaign; an album was released from the tour's recordings, featuring two songs from Morello.

A few months later, the Nightwatchman emerged again on Axis of Justice: Concert Series, Vol. 1, another live album drawn from a series of benefit concerts for Axis of Justice, a political activist group founded by Morello and Serj Tankian of System of a Down. Morello continued performing as the Nightwatchman when not busy with Audioslave, and in 2006 he recorded the Nightwatchman's first album, One Man Revolution, produced by Brendan O'Brien and released in April 2007.

Lock Up

Rage Against the Machine


The Nightwatchman

Street Sweeper Social Club

  • Street Sweeper Social Club (2009)
  • The Ghetto Blaster EP (2010)


  • Saturday Night Live (Episode #21.17, 1996) .... Musical Guest (Rage Against the Machine)
  • Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (uncredited) .... Son'a officer
  • Star Trek: Voyager (Season 6, Episode 20, 2000, "Good Shepherd") .... Crewman Mitchell
  • Made (2001) .... Best Man
  • Berkeley (2005) .... Blue
  • Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005) ... As Himself
  • Iron Man (2008) .... Insurgent #5
  • Chevolution (2008)... As Himself
  • Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (2009) .... As Himself
  • Iron Man 2 (2010) .... Insurgent #5


  1. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. 
  2. ^ "The Mary Morello and Cindy Sheehan Show". Axis of Justice. August 6, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  3. ^ a b c Devenish, Colin (2001). Rage Against the Machine. St. Martin's Press. p. 13. ISBN 0312273266. 
  4. ^ a b c Tom Morello:One Man Revolt by The Huffington Post, July 21, 2009
  5. ^ Holthouse, David (September 26, 1996). "Bottled Anger Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello pours forth the vitriol". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  6. ^ "‪Tom Morello: From Harvard to Hollywood‬‏". YouTube. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  7. ^ a b c d Harper, Kate (2009-11-03). "Tom Morello Used To Be A Stripper". CHARTattack. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  8. ^ Asch, Andrew (2000-08-15). "Rage Wage Battle of Los Angeles at DNC". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 December 2008. 
  9. ^ "Thousands take to the streets outside Democratic convention". CNN. 2000-08-15. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2008. 
  10. ^ "Reznor Says Collabos With De La Rocha, Keenan May Never Surface". MTV News. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  11. ^ Shedden, Iain (2008-01-21). "Silverchair in an even bigger day out". The Australian.,25197,23082231-5006786,00.html. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  12. ^ "BDO revellers get ready for heat". Television New Zealand. 2008-01-18. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  13. ^ Portner, Matt and Heller, Sarah. Tell Us the Truth Tour. The Boston Underground retrieved 12/14/2007
  14. ^ Nichols, John. Tell Us The Truth! The Nation. retrieved 12/14/2007
  15. ^ "Johnny Cash Unearthed CD". 2003-11-25. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  16. ^ "Benny Mason Band op Myspace Music – Gratis gestreamde MP3’s, foto’s en Videoclips". Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  18. ^ "Grammy Award-Winning Guitarist Tom Morello to Appear in Guitar Hero(TM) III: Legends of Rock". Activision. 2007-09-06. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  19. ^ Tom Morello Thinks Outernational Could Be The Next Rage Against The Machine, Gil Kaufman, MTV News Online, May 26, 2006.
  20. ^ Outernational's website[dead link]
  21. ^ Orchid solicitation page at Dark Horse website.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ Melody Maker - 29th May 1993 issue
  24. ^ Tom Morello Radical Shriek.
  25. ^ "Tom Morello: Science Friction". Guitar World. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  26. ^ "Chilis star is modern guitar hero". BBC News. April 9, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  27. ^ Sean Penn, Val Kilmer, Tom Morello and Cindy Sheehan at Nader/Gonzalez Super Rally in Denver,, August 19, 2008 [2]
  28. ^ US bands blast use of music in Guantanamo interrogations, October 22, 2009 [3][dead link]
  29. ^ Alan Connor (2009-12-18). "What is anti-X Factor song Killing In The Name all about?". BBC. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  30. ^ By Tom Morello (2011-02-25). "Frostbite and Freedom: Tom Morello on the Battle of Madison | Rolling Stone Politics". Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  31. ^ Shouting At The Devil: “Fuck You, Capitalism!”, By Jason Miller, November 10, 2007
  32. ^ Mission. Axis of Justice.
  33. ^ Books. Axis of Justice.
  34. ^ 2006 Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration.
  35. ^ Moss, Corey with Chris Harris Tom Morello Arrested At Protest, Spends Night In Lockup., September 2006
  36. ^ "October, 2008 interview with The Nightwatchman". 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  37. ^ "Tom Morello is a vegetarian - Famous Vegetarians - Vegan Celebrities - by HappyCow". Retrieved 2010-11-15. 

External links

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