Talented guitar player Tom Morello felt that music gods forced him to stop playing during the first months of the pandemic last year. It was, in his words, such an “inhumane time” when his personal “blow torch of freedom” was “turned off for four months.”
Early this month, while having a quick chat with a quartet of Filipino rock journalists to promote his second collaborative album The Atlas Underground Fire, he recounted his odd experience, restrained from doing his creatively empowering 30-year routine.
“From the time I was 17 years old until March of 2020, I was in non-stop mode playing, writing, recording, and performing. It all came into a dead stop. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s like there’s an endless future of not being able to play.”
Tom playing the guitar is significantly linked to his idea of liberation, may it be political, sexual, or whatever’s on the table with that same suffix.
His phone’s voice memo app came to the rescue.
The moment he recorded three or four riffs on his phone, and a collaborator sent him a Facetime video while working on the song, he felt liberated.
“It sounded huge and fantastic,” he said of what came out attempting to record via his smart phone, “All is not lost. There was going to be a way to hang on to my humanity. The torch was back on at full strength.”
The 12-track album released on Oct.15 features a cast of collaborators including Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Chris Stapleton, Mike Posner, Damian Marley, and more. Best acknowledged by mainstream rock audience for his work with Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, and Prophets of Rage, Tom is credited for “taking the instrument into the future” for his pandemic-era releases. He said that each couldn’t have been made “without the chemistry that I get from working with brilliant artists.”
The Atlas Underground Fire begins with “Harlem Hellfighter,” followed by his dream team collaboration with Bruce and Eddie for “Highway To Hell.” By the time you reach “On The Shore Of Eternity,” you’d feel like the world has gotten back not just to a normal state, but even better.
Asked if he’d still go back to pure traditional recording, he reflected, “The good thing is now I can do it this way. No matter where I am in the world, as long as I have a guitar and my phone, I know I can make a record. If I keep my phone charged, I’m going to be okay.”
He added, “I really sort of enjoy that kind of roulette wheel thrill now that I exactly don’t know what the outcome of my next recording will be. Will I have musicians in my studio improvising riffs or will I use my phone and do stuff remotely?”
Last week, Tom, believing that “artistic intent supersedes genre,” released three tracks off the upcoming sister album The Atlas Underground Flood.