Tom Morello says a Kanye West brag inspired him to record guitars on his phone

Tom Morello
(Image credit: Joby Sessions/Future)

Tom Morello has revealed the unlikely story of how Kanye West inspired the creation of his new album, The Atlas Underground Fire.

Speaking to Loudwire (opens in new tab) host Toni Gonzalez in a video interview (see below), Morello explained the origins of the new record, which saw him collaborate with artists from across the rock spectrum and beyond, with rapid-fire phone demos. 

“The world shut down and it was really depressing,” says Morello. “I’d been ceaselessly, at a manic pace, playing shows, writing songs, recording songs since I was 17 years old and that ground to a halt in March of 2020. 

“Inspiration came from a very unusual place. I read an interview with Kanye West, who was bragging about the fact that he had recorded vocals for two of his albums on the voice memo on his phone. And I said, ‘Well if it’s good enough for vocals on a Kanye West record, maybe I can record guitar riffs into my phone.’

“So I just bypassed all the microphones and set my phone on a chair, hit the red dot, and all of a sudden was sending these riffs to engineers and producers around the world – to [Bruce] Springsteen and Eddie Vedder and the Bring Me the Horizon guys and Damian Marley – and created this like, global community of collaborators that, in the midst of a very, very stressful time, was a tremendous lifeline and a way to create and that was the genesis of The Atlas Underground Fire album.”

Chris Stapleton, Phem and Mike Posner are also set to appear on …Fire, while Morello recently debuted the first taste of the new record, a hefty cover of AC/DC classic Highway To Hell, featuring Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.