Tom Morello: Science Friction
GW Back to the new record. How did you record the riff to “Somedays”? Was that double- or triple-tracked?
MORELLO That’s doubled. Also, on the third chorus, I beefed up the wall of sound with the Les Paul.
GW What were your main electric guitars for this album?
MORELLO I always use my Arm the Homeless and Soul Power Strat-style guitars for songs that are in A440. If we’re doing a song in drop-D, I go for my Eighties Telecaster. There were a plethora of guitars that Brendan brought to the studio; I was particularly taken with this Gibson [ES-]335, a guitar I had never played before. That hard-rocking sound on the song “Revelations” is the 335.
Oftentimes, I try to look for orphan guitars to use. It’s funny—the 35th guitar in the studio and hands-down the worst thing I’d ever seen was this beer company promotional guitar that showed up on the tour bus one day. It was a Les Paul—and I love Les Pauls, of course—but it had this absolutely hideous, screaming orange Budweiser logo on it. [laughs] But one night in the studio, it was late, and Brendan and everybody were sitting around playing that shooting game… I forget what it’s called.
MORELLO Halo! Thank you. Anyway, I was trying to amuse myself, so I went into the parking lot with the beer guitar and a lighter, and I set the enamel of the guitar on fire. I was surprised that it burnt very slowly. So there I am, having a fine time, watching this Budweiser logo burn, and after a while it didn’t look so bad anymore. Then I took some steel wool to it, sanded it down, and it looked beautiful. The next day I had another idea: DiMarzio. So I called up my guitar tech and asked him to get me the Ace Frehley DiMarzio pickups—you know, those blackand- white humbuckers? We slapped those in, and all of a sudden the guitar was awesome! It looked great, sounded great. I used it all over the album.
GW Is that the guitar I’m hearing on “Shape of Things to Come”? There’s a really cool Black Sabbath vibe on that song.
MORELLO That’s the burnt Les Paul all right.
GW The solo is pretty metaled-out.
MORELLO That was one of those solos where it was late in the day and I thought, Let me just play a rock and roll solo. It was the mood I was in at the time, but it fit the song.
GW The solo in “Jewel of the Summertime”—what’s going on there?
MORELLO That was another fight with Brendan. [laughs] I remember him rolling his eyes on that one. He kind of smeared some sound on it in an attempt to dampen the shine. It’s two guitars, double-tracked, but I didn’t match them perfectly; it was more about the rhythm than the actual notes. I did this fast, hummingbird-like picking with my right hand. I think one guitar track is unaffected, but the other one is raised a fifth. I love that solo.
GW Has there ever been a solo you couldn’t recreate live?
MORELLO There was one that gave me trouble: “Voice of the Voiceless.” It’s on the Battle of Los Angeles album. The solo kind of sounds like bagpipes. I had an Ibanez guitar specifically made for live shows to recreate that sound. I had them put the technology of the Whammy Pedal into the guitar so that I could get the feedback out of the amplifier and then manipulate the Whammy. It was just some nutty thing I came up with.
GW Ordinarily, though, you try to come up with solos you’ll be able to play live?
MORELLO Yeah. But even with solos that are maybe better left as studio creations, I can usually figure out ways to play them live. “Guerilla Radio” was a challenge, because the way I did it in the studio and the way I play it live are completely different. On the record, it’s double tracked: there’s a talk box on one track, and on the other track I’m playing different notes through a wah. I thought it would be impossible to play live, but I figured out a way by setting the wah and the Whammy Pedal to different intervals, and then I play with the toggle switch.
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