online chats with Tom Morello

Mon. Dec. 4, 2000

MTV_Tom_Morello:Hey everybody! Tom Morello here..thanks for stopping in for this chat. Let's dispense with the preliminaries and get on to your questions.

Joe_HP:Are you going to replace Zack?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Timmy and Brad and I are currently concentrating on the release of "Renegades" Rage Against the Machine has not broken up. Zack left the group on good terms.. and we all wish him well. We want to give "Renegades" --an album we are very proud of--all the attention it deserves, and then figure out the future of Rage Against the Machine. I can guarantee you that we will continue to push the envelope musically and continue the fight for social justice, hopefully on an even greater level than in the past.

brettlg:In the previous albums, the band said that no electronic devices in the making of the album; is that true of "Renegades"?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Yeah, on "Renegades" as well as our previous 3 releases, all of the strange little sounds you hear are produced by guitar, bass, drums and vocals. We did a song "Renegades of Funk" which used a vocal sample from the original Afrika Bambaataa version--the part that goes "Groove, Sucker...etc." but this still falls under the RATM guidelines of "no outside turntables or samples used to make the sounds, to craft the music"--that is all done by Tim, Brad and myself.

Salival:What made you choose Renegades of Funk for the first single?

MTV_Tom_Morello:"Renegades of Funk" is in a way the centerpiece of the album. It shows the connections between historical, political renegades like Thomas Paine and Malcolm X, to musical renegades like the early hip-hop artists, each of whom in their own place and time, stood up against the conventions of their day.. with radically different ideas that changed their society. "Renegades of Funk" is a fitting first single for that reason alone, but it's also a jam!

Uprisingvii:Whats your favorite song off of Renegades?

MTV_Tom_Morello:It's tough to choose a favorite song, as it keeps changing. I really love "Maggie's Farm" which has such a great lyric and is really a heavy-ass jam! the way we recorded the record it's not really a cover record, as 95% of the music is brand-new RATM music, and despite the fact that we've used the lyrics from artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Afrika Bambaataa, Bruce Springsteen, and Devo, it's still very much a RATM record.

bombtrck:who are your musical influences and activist heros?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Well, there's quite a long list of people who have been important musical influences to me as well as activist heroes, and often the two blend..I was very influenced to pick up the guitar by people llike Jimmy Page, and Ace Frehley of KISS... They were the posters I had on my bedroom wall that made me dream of one day being in a rock and roll band. but it was really the punk rock revolution that made me pick up the instrument. I was in a band the same week that I purchased the Sex Pistols' album, "Never Mind the Bollocks," and was very inspired by the fact that it was tremendously powerful music but it was made by people with limited technical abilities... This made great music seem to be within my grasp and I immediately formed a band before I even knew how to play any chords on the guitar. Some of my political heroes have ranged from The Black Panthers to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X...from Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker, to Emma Goldman and Rosa Parks... and countless others less prominent figures who nonetheless have helped shape the course of radical politics.

AndrFuller:do you ever write any lyrics?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Zack has written probably 95% of the lyrics for RATM songs, and occasionally myself or the other guys will chip in with our ideas...

phattsdogg:Why does beautiful day sound different from anything else you ever done?

MTV_Tom_Morello:"Beautiful Day" is actually a U2 song.."Beautiful World" is the song on "Renegade".. originally recorded by Devo in the 1980s. It's a bold departure from what is traditionally considered RATM music but I believe that it is those times when a band steps out of what is expected of it that some of its best work occurs... I believe that the stripped-down minor key song that "Beautiful World" has become only enhances the irony of the lyrics, and it's one of my favorite songs on the record. We played the song at the Democratic National Convention which I think was an appropriate place to debut a song with those lyrics.

Boscodaman:Tom, given the state of the presidential election today, what do you think it says about politics here in america, should we adobt a more liberal voting system like they have in Australia, where you rate all candidates, or can vote for none of the above?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I think the problem with American democracy has nothing to do with disagreements over hanging Chads in the Florida legislature... the problem is that both of the major parties are owned and controlled by corporate money... It is no suprise that 50% of all eligible votes don't even bother to vote on election day because they believe that no matter who wins they will not be represented. There's a saying that goes "If voting made any difference, they'd make it illegal," and I fear that might be true. No matter who wins this current election, be it Bush or Gore, they will win with only 25% of the popular vote.. that's half of the people who don't vote..and the other half have settled for the other candidate. That means the next President of the US, like Clinton and Bush and Reagan before him, will be in office despite the fact that 75% of Americans don't want him there.

9aragorn9:What is the status of the Mexico City DVD and the live album?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Good question.. The "Battle of Mexico City" the DVD and VHS video, do***enting the incredible week we spent in Mexico City... which culminated in one of the most inspired performances in our careers, will be released Dec. 12th. It was an amazing few days in Mexico City where we were threatened by the Mexican government, there were riots at the show, we vistited the pyramids of the sun, we visited Frida Kahlo's home and the grave of Leon Trotsky.. and then played one of the most amazing shows I've ever had the privilege to be involved in. They showed snippets of "The Battle of Mexico City" about a year ago, but this is the full unedited uncensored concert with additional video journal footage from the band. The live album we recorded at The Olympic Auditorium earlier this fall will be released at an unspecified date in the future. We have to figure that one out. I'll try to be more brief in my answers so we can get to more of your questions.

GotRage:Who chose the album's new Cd sleeve , why make 4 different ?

MTV_Tom_Morello:The front cover is based on the artwork of Robert Indiana, who in the late 60's made a popular poster which instead of the letters "R-A-G-E" he wrote the letters "L-O-V-E"... Our cover is an ironic take-off of Robert Indiana's work. The four different covers were actually the idea of Rick Rubin.. when we were looking at the artwork samples we thought so many of them looked cool, and didn't want to have to we decided to put them all out and you can choose for yourself. The internal artwork by Josh Koppel, I think is an amazing and is a brilliant suggestions for how to send subversive messages via money.

luminoso08:did you consider any nirvana covers

MTV_Tom_Morello:No, we didn't consider any Nirvana covers..we chose the songs very spontaneously and each band member picked songs that were important to them. When we were making our selections we had no idea this would be an album, so we did not overthink the process, and therefore "Renegades" is much more a product of intuition and instinct than of intellect... and I think the record benefits from that.

agunzagun92:How was working with Rick Rubin?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Working with Rick Rubin was phenomenal. He is not only a great producer but a great collaborator as well. He has a great appreciation for many styles of music..He was at the early D.C. hardcore shows, as well as being the guy who made some of the first hip-hop records.. He has a knowledgeable appreciation of heavy metal and folk music, and funk..that I've never seen in a producer before. He's also a very clever and funny guy... with an unruly beard!

Rynolda:I have 2 questions, what is your favorite type of guitar, and what type of guitar did you use at the MTV Music Awards?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I don't have a favorite type of guitar..frankly I think that the type of guitar you use doesn't matter at all. It has to do with the player finding a way to channel their own creativity through whatever instrument they use, expensive or cheap, name brand or knock-off, I really don't think it matters. The guitar I used at the VMA's was my old trusty Fender Telecaster.

Elise12:How doe you balance your time between music,politics,acting and interviews, plus read all those books?!

MTV_Tom_Morello:Sometimes I feel that too much of the time is doing interviews, quite frankly.. but it is a good way to share your thoughts and ideas with fans. I've always had a pretty high metabolism and figure I should make the most of my time. So like everyone else I have my lazy lapses as well, when the Sony Playstation beckons. I think it's important though to maximize one's creative abilities and to follow through on the personal and political convictions one has. And whether that means learning more about things that are important to you or demonstrating and organizing for causes you believe in..or expressing yourself artistically through music or film, none of your interests should be neglected.

musicfan0003:what playstation games are you into?

MTV_Tom_Morello:The only ones that I have any sort of skill at are the ones that have to do with Pro sports.. some friends and I have constructed a team on the Madden 2001, called the Orlando Sharks.. we are currently driving toward the playoffs!

Fan_of_Rage:Whose idea was it to work with Michael Moore?

MTV_Tom_Morello:That was my idea..I've been a huge fan of Michael Moore who I believe as a political satirist is a genius.. anyone who has not seen his movies "Roger and Me" and "The Big One" should rush out and rent them.. and they are brilliant. He also has a weekly show "The Awful Truth" on Bravo, which is a kind of funny left-wing "60 Minutes.." He's never directed videos for any other band, and it's an honor to have worked with him in the past. And I look forward to working with him in different capacities in the future.

Renegade510:Hello Mr. Morello the greatest "Turtablist Guitar Player".Do you think now that Leonard Peltier's case will be reviewed,Will he be granted his freedom?

MTV_Tom_Morello:There have been some encouraging signs in the Leonard Peltier case.. I think it is more important than ever for young people to bring pressure on Clinton to grant Peltier executive clemency. It is widely thought at the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee that if he is not given executive clemency prior to Clinton leaving office, he will never be released from jail. Public pressure has always played a role in this case... If you are interested in helping to free this great fighter for Native American rights, go to to find out how you can be involved in the struggle to free Leonard Peltier.

zacarius1:Tom, do you read the bulletin board on the RATM site?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I will occasionally take a peek at the boards on the RATM site.. and one of the things that is important to me is to maintain closer contact with our fans who have been so tremendously supportive through the years... I believe that too often, both due to our busy rock and roll schedules as well as our constant psycho-dramas, we have not given our fans the attention and respect that they deserve... I'm taking it upon myself to try to change that now and in the future.

czarmaxxx:What is your view on Napster?

MTV_Tom_Morello:While I am very computer-illiterate and couldn't find Napster if you held a gun to my head, I am in favor of people being able to hear and to have access to music they would like to hear.. I say let the children enjoy their music!

MCA34:What do you think about people who say that RATM has sold out?

MTV_Tom_Morello:You'd have to be more specific.. If you're talking about our affiliation with Sony Music I'd say that you don't know what you're talking about.. that sort of criticism never comes from political activists..more often it comes from well-heeled suburbanites typing on the computer Mommy and Daddy bought them. Leonard Peltier for example could care less what label we are on..we are interested in freeing him from prison, in getting a new trial for Mumia Abul-Jamal, in combating sweatshops, in stopping the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe... We are interested in donating as much food as possible to our nation's food banks and providing as much assistance as possible to our nation's homeless... These are all endeavors which we are able to undertake because part because of our affiliation with Epic Records. The response from grass-roots activist organizations, people who really work for social justice and don't just sit smugly with self-righteous indignation, have been supportive of our efforts. I believe that we can do much more in this area than we've already done..I believe it is our responsibility to continue to amplify the band's message by any means necessary.

GuerrillaRadio55:My parents dont like how your music influences me so what do you have to say to them?

MTV_Tom_Morello:The mark of any great band is that it makes parents angry... so thank you, and thank them! It's disturbing that some people are frightened by young people thinking for themselves and being exposed to progressive issues and causes. That is what we've tried to do, and if it makes parents or anyone angry, that's just too damn bad!

halborg33:Tom, i have not seen an ibanez custom tom morello like your black and red can i get one?????

MTV_Tom_Morello:I'm afriad that's a one of a kind, that the folks at ibanez whacked together for me, and since I'm opposed to doing endorsement deals, I'm not sure that you'll see one of those appearing on the market any time soon. I would encourage you to make your own music, come up with your own guitar design, and be your own guitar player,that would be the best way to emulate the spirit of what we try to do in RATM.

ratmdistortion: Are you married?

MTV_Tom_Morello:No, I'm not married, but I do have a lovely girlfriend by the name of "Sweet D"


MTV_Tom_Morello:That's hard to say. my favorite bands change from time to time. currently it's probably At the Drive-In. but in the past my favorites have been U2, Tool, Public Enemy, Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Run DMC, and the Clash.

boxer1_1:Do you feel that the album's change in style is what rage fans can expect to see with future albums.

MTV_Tom_Morello:That's hard to say..I mean the thing I can guarantee you though is we will continue to push the boundaries of our own creativity to make music that is challenging, provocative, and exciting for us. that's what we've always done in the past, and will continue to do in the future... I think the best way to move forward is for each band member to embrace the other's ideas and make the best of them with their own talents. I know that my playing has improved exponentially because I've had to adapt it to the stylistic suggestions of the other band members and vice versa.. I never would have discovered some of the DJ-sounding things I play if Timmy had not discovered hip-hop basslines..and at every turn i try to look for new sounds and textures to complement the others' ideas, while at the same time expanding my own creativity.

MaskedScream:What is your standpoing on the America education system? Do you believe dropping out and turning to self education is a good idea?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Our time is about up, but I'm going to stick around for a while longer, because I'm enjoying answering your very insightful questions. The educational system in America is basically a system of control where a child's spirit has to be broken to make them fit like a more obedient cog into society... as a result all too rarely are we encouraged to think independently, encouraged to challenge authority, or to act in accordance with our own ideas and beliefs, if they run contrary to a "superior." the blueprint for our educational system actually stems from Prussia, from pre-WW1 Prussia... where much of the economy was based on sending mercenary soldiers to fight in other people's wars. For a young teenager this is clearly a ridiculous idea, so they had to be stripped of their will and their independent thought in order to make them good and obedient hireling soldiers... Things have not changed too much today; there is however a great opportunity within the educational system to form a different kind of education for yourself and that is by using the proximity of friends and like-minded people to learn to organize against injustices, large and small. To take the silly things you're forced to memorize in physics, chemistry class, and find a way to adapt them to improving the environment in your community... or one of the things I did as a high school student was to write an underground school newspaper with some friends, which criticized foreign, domestic, and local policies.. in a way that provided us within the school system a better education than we were receiving in class.

SimmeringT:Tom, what songs did you guys come up with but were not chosen for the covers album?

MTV_Tom_Morello:There were a couple songs bandied about at rehearsal that did not make the final cut.. the included an amazing juxtaposition of Rush's "Working Man" with Eazy-E's "Ruthless Gangsta" as well as going around with Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes..." We also tried and abandoned Gang of Four's "What we All Want" and The Gap Band's "He Dropped a Bomb on Me."

Riffs1:Would U ever do work with Maynard James Keenan gain?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Maynard has been a friend for a long time, before he was in Tool, and before I was in RATM, we were actually roommates for a while when he first moved to Hollywood. Maynard is one of my favorite vocalists, and I would certainly not rule out that we would work again in the future.

mills99:Some friends of mine like rage's message, but not it's sound--do you think changing ratm's sound to reach more people would be a viable idea?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Quite frankly, I don't think there is another band in the history of rock music with a message as radical as RATM, that has reached as many people as we have... I don't know what your friends might be suggesting, if they are fans of 'NSync or Creed, or what... but as an artist you have to be true to yourself both musically and politically.. and not sell yourself short on either account.

Bry7997:Tom...What do you think about about the current state of the music industry, with the rise of the boy-band, teenage crap pushing the rock music into the background?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I think rock music is alive and well..every few years there are new trends which come and go whether it be squeaky clean mega-pop bands or ska or techno... there's always something that is supposed to do away with rock music. Clearly that's not the case, and frankly I could care less at any given time what musical trends are in fashion. When we formed RATM in 1991 there was nothing remotely like it on the radio, on MTV, or even in the clubs, and so I think sticking to what you believe in is more important, regardless of outside trends.

shx13:Tom, what did the band as a whole think of Timmy's incident at the Mtv Music Awards?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I don't think the band as a whole had a unified opinion about Timmy's scaffold climbing and subsequent fall at the VMA's. Frankly all four of us have never sat down together and talked about it, as it is unlikely with Zack's departure that that will happen any time soon. I've known Timmy for a long time, so when he lept onto the stage, climbed on the scaffold, and then beat the crap out of a couple of 300 pound cops, it didn't really suprise me.. because I'm familiar with his work. But I think the rest of America got to meet him through this world-wide broadcast!

thewhotownshend:Tom, what can I do as a politicaly charged youth? I'm only in 7th grade and I cna't go to, or speak at protest, what can i do to better speak my opinions?

MTV_Tom_Morello:First of all, congratulations on taking that important first step, which is the desire to act.. you should be commended for your passion for righting wrongs and your willingness to fight against injustice at such an early age. People of your age and even younger have been an important part of struggles for freedom and justice throughout the century so I would never underestimate what it is that you can do. Really the most important thing is to stand up for what you believe in, no matter the cir***stance, in your home, your school, your community... or to express your opinion about national and world affairs, the first step for achieving your goals is to organize.. all progressive change in the history of our country has not come from Presidents, and the Supreme comes from people like yourself, banding together and pressuring for change. If you want specific direction in regards to national organizations, you can visit where we have some suggestions for you.. but I believe it's important for you to decide for yourself what issues you think are important, and to act to change them, on whatever level, personal or global.

overthrown:What made you choose to have a connection with radical activist Noam Chomsky?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Chomsky is one of the greatest thinkers of our time. Anyone not familiar with his writings should rush out to the library or bookstore and get familiar. He has been described as the greatest intellectual dissident of the 20th Century, and that is not an overstatement. A good starting point for Chomsky's ideas would be "The Chomsky Reader" or several books of interviews he has given to David Barsamian. as well as a couple of short, easy-to-read, $5 dollars books I don't have the names of... but he is someone definitely worth checking out.

Rebel_Dread:When do we get to hear you sing?

MTV_Tom_Morello:at one of the very first RATM rehearsals in 1991, Timmy and Zack removed the microphone from in front of me, thus denying the world of the opportunity to hear my rich baritone. just a couple more questions, as I have a radio interview with Rockline later tonight, and have to get going...

ledhead6:Did you agree with the bands placement on Vh1's top 100 hard rock bands?

MTV_Tom_Morello:I did see that show, and I think that we were somewhere in the 30's.. frankly I would have put us a little higher!

horns4life:Tom, what are Rage's plans after releasing Renegades?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Our plans after releasing "Renegades" are to give the appropriate attention to the matter of how we are going to proceed as a band... musically and otherwise. We have some very interesting ideas about how to move forward, and we will begin to flesh those ideas out. In the meanwhile we will continue to promote the political causes we have been involved in, and to continue our activist work. but the next chapter of the band is waiting to be written, and we are committed to doing the right thing.

ddesola34:what is your favorite memory or moment from Rage's 9 year history?

MTV_Tom_Morello:Our history is one that is still unfolding... the most recent highlight was the first time I received the mixes Rick Rubin put together for "Renegades" and was shocked and pleasantly surprised that out of nowhere we had this powerful new album for a band that has not been particularly prolific in the studio.. on the heels of "Battle of Los Angeles," to have another great record was something I was really proud of. We played many shows that have been great peaks, from European festival shows to surprise club shows to playing outside the DNC ,to rocking the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago where I went to see many shows as a kid and every time we stepped on a stage the interaction between fans and the audience is just something that can't even be described. but beyond that, the fact that we've been able to weave our deep political convictions into our music and into our actions as a band..we've found that those convictions have resonated with an audience on a world wide scale, and that's really a tremendous highlight. I'm certain that if another ten years come, there will be additional highlights I look forward to reporting to you. Thank you all very much for the great questions! And I look forward to doing this again sometime soon. Stay strong and Have a good holiday!

MODERATOR: That was Tom's final question. Thanks for joining us tonight. Remember to go to ****:// to check out the album.

MTV_Tom_Morello:In solidarity, Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine.

MODERATOR: The Renegades CD is in stores tomorrow - go out and buy it!! Check out the home video and DVD release on January 19.

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