During the unrivaled axeman’s solo tour supporting his 2018 album The Atlas Underground, PG’s Chris Kies stood amazed as Tom Morello revealed the tricks that fortified a legacy of riffs in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Plus, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee member (yes, he knows that Iron Maiden needs to be inducted) breaks down how he’s still aiming to shoot the instrument into the future.
The guitar that’s probably most associated with Tom Morello has to be his Frankensteined “Arm the Homeless” “super strat” that he’s had since 1986. Morello admits the story on the guitar’s evolution is murky, but the only thing from the original custom-order instrument is its body. He apparently spent upwards of two years trying every combination of pickups, necks, electronics, and trems to appease his tonal aspirations, but finally settled on honing his craft through practice rather than gear lust. The final conglomeration of parts have been in place for 30 years and includes a set of EMG pickups, a knock-off graphite Kramer neck scooped up from the bargain bin at Nadine’s, and an Ibanez Edge trem/bridge. And as they say, the rest is history. For this one, he uses Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinkys (.009–.046, for all vibrato-equipped guitars) and always grabs Dunlop Tortex Jazz III picks.