Thomas Baptist Morello (born May 30, 1964) is the guitarist of the band Audioslave, and formerly of Rage Against The Machine.He was born in Harlem, New York and grew up in Libertyville, Illinois. His mother, Mary Morello, is a founder of Parents For Rock And Rap, an anti-censorship group.
His father was a Mau Mau guerrilla, a Kenyan revolutionary who later was the first Kenyan delegate to the United Nations. Tom Morello's great-uncle, Jomo Kenyatta, was the first elected president in Kenya.
In 1986 Morello graduated with honours from Harvard University with a degree in political science. He moved to L.A., where he briefly worked as an aide to Sen. Alan Cranston as he set about trying to join or start a band.
In high school, Tom Morello had played in a band called the Electric Sheep with Adam Jones, later the guitarist for the progressive metal band Tool. In L.A., Morello introduced Jones to some of his future bandmates and was responsible for the emergence of Tool in its first formation.
In 1988 he joined Lock Up, who released one album through Geffen Records before splitting up. Afterward, Morello approached Brad Wilk, who had auditioned for Lock Up, about forming a band. After meeting with Zack de la Rocha at an LA club where Zack was rapping, Zack introduced him to his friend Tim Commerford and their new band, Rage Against The Machine, was formed.
In 2000, Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine. The remaining three members formed the band Audioslave with former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. Audioslave have since achieved commercial success with their eponymously titled debut album.
Tom Morello is famed for his guitar style, which consists of punk/funk hybrid riffs and hip hop inspired sounds. His guitar playing is also characterized by heavy use of guitar effects, such as delay, modulation, harmonizers, distortion, feedback, and others in unique ways and combinations.
Critically acclaimed, he is said to use the guitar in a unique and imaginative way; rather than just plucking the strings he pulls off maneuvers such as using the toggle switch to create a tremolo style effect (an unofficial trademark of his), using feedback from the amp and the whammy bar to create a solo and taking the jack out of the guitar and tapping it against the strings in conjunction with using the wah pedal.
But Tom Morello is still a very accomplished traditional metal guitarist, as heard on some of his earlier recordings such as "Know Your Enemy" and "Take the Power Back," which both have very fast finger work.
Despite his otherworldly guitar sounds, Morello has a very limited supply of effects to choose from. During his days in Rage, he used a Dunlop Crybaby, a Digitech Whammy, a Boss Digital Delay, a DOD EQ pedal (used to boost the volume during guitar solos), and an Ibanez Flanger.
For his work with Audioslave, Morello added a Boss Tremolo pedal (which can be heard on "Like a Stone") and replaced the flanger with an MXR Phase 90 (heard on "Getaway Car"). His amplifier of choice has always been a 50-watt Marshall JCM800 into a beat-up Peavey 4x12 cabinet.
Tom Morello is also less known for his folk music, where he goes by 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.
One of his folk 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.
During his time with Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, Tom Morello has also become known for his many baseball caps which sport mainly (though not exclusively) political messages. A cap he wore which read "commie" and another reading "UNITE!" (a reference to the textile union) became unofficial trademarks of his stage performance.
Morello and Serj Tankian of System of a Down are the co-founders of Axis of Justice, a political group that helps people, teens especially, find ways to be activists in their communities.Morello is a vegetarian; one of his favorite movies is Babe.
He's also a Star Trek fan, having appeared twice in its various forms. (He played Crewman Mitchell in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and a Son'a warrior in the ninth feature film Star Trek: Insurrection.) He also has a minor role in the film Made.