Tom Morello's latest solo effort inspired by Kanye West, pandemic

Published November 10, 2021, 11:50 AM

by Punch Liwanag

Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, formerly Audioslave, sideman to Bruce Springsteen and solo artist among other things, was recently interviewed by Manila Bulletin regarding his latest solo album “The Atlas Underground Fire.”

During the short exchange, we found out how he managed his latest creative output “at the height of the plague,” how he maintains a “consistent voice of authenticity” as he works with different A-list rockers, and yes, that bit with a certain rapper.

“This was a record made at the height of the plague and lockdown where I was completely alone in my studio,” said the deep-voiced Morello. “I have a studio in my home but I don’t know how to use it. Normally there’s an engineer that sits here (looking around the room during the Zoom interview), so I was really looking at a stretch of time without being able to be creative. And I found inspiration from a very unlikely place. I read an interview where Kanye West said he recorded the vocals for several of his albums into the voice memo of his phone.”

“So I started recording guitar into my phone and it sounded fantastic! And sent them to producers and engineers around the world creating tracks and almost as a matter of just trying to maintain my sanity, I would be on a Tuesday, be like, who might I wanna make a song with? And I would ask friends for recommendations. I reached out to old friends. The “Atlas Undergroud…” did not begin as a project to make an album, it was a project to stay sane! And to continue to be a musician at a time where it felt it was impossible to do so.”

“Some of the artists on the record I’m long-time friends with like Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder. Others I either played shows with and worked with before like Phantogram or Damian Marley. But other artists are artists I’ve discovered during the pandemic.“

We then asked Morello, who’s worked with a load of diverse music artists professionally and even on this new record, how he turns on and off, the different musical personalities he finds himself in without getting whiplash. With a laugh he answered, “Well, I just try to maintain a consistent voice of authenticity through all of it,” adding “my guitar playing when I approach (cites an example) a song with Chris Stapleton to (a tune) with Bring Me The Horizon (who are both on the new record), I’m gonna sound like me on either one of those songs. I think as a musician this is my 21st studio album, and I’ve made music that’s ranged from acoustic Americana to the heaviest Heavy Metal. So I feel very comfortable in different genres.”

“With ‘The Atlas Underground Fire’ it really is a solo record in that I curated the whole thing. Where my guitar is the voice that connects the songs. But it’s also very much a collaborative record where each of those songs I couldn’t have made it by myself. And I take who I am and bring it to the table and allow a chemistry with whoever I’m working with until we create a particular song.”

Tom Morello’s “The Atlas Underground” includes a dozen new tracks featuring original collaborations with Chris Stapleton (“The War Inside”), Damian Marley (“The Achilles List”), Bring Me The Horizon (“Let’s Get The Party Started”), Phantogram (“Driving To Texas”), Grandson (“Hold The Line”), Phem (“Night Witch”), Sama Abdulhadi (“On The Shore Of Eternity”) Mike Posner (“Naraka”), Protohype (“Charmed I’m Sure”) and Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder on an imaginative cover of AC-DC’s “Highway To Hell.”

 
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