Tom Morello reveals why he never cuts the ends of his guitar strings

Tom Morello
(Image credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Audible)

Life is full of mysteries that run the risk of never being answered: What is the meaning of life? Is there an afterlife? Why does Tom Morello never cut his electric guitar strings

Lucky for us, that last age-old question has been well and truly answered after Morello made an appearance on the Stern Show, during which he revealed the tale behind why he opts to leave the loose ends of his guitar strings on.

After talking to Morello about his 1980s garage band Electric Sheep – and before quizzing about his early Rage Against the Machine years – Howard Stern decides to shoehorn in a more pressing question. 

“By the way,” he asks, “why do you not cut your strings? Why do you always have your strings sticking out? I feel like it’s an accident.” 

In response, the Rage guitarist reveals that it is “no accident”, and goes on to say that he initially “didn’t cut the strings because I thought it looked cool.” 

However, the aesthetic addition was met with fierce opposition from his musical peers, who told the budding youngster to “cut your damn strings!”, informing him he had to be in the “baddest band in town” if he wanted to get away with it.

“I was shamed by a musician friend,” recalls Morello. “He said, ‘Who do you think you are? Do you think you’re in the baddest band in town?’ I thought, ‘I’m definitely not,’ so I cut my strings.” 

Such ridicule would be enough to deter anyone from leaving on their guitar strings, and would encourage most to ditch the idea of having them as a spiky statement piece.

So, what did Morello do? Well, he formed the baddest band in town, of course.

“Years later, when I was in Rage Against the Machine, I was in the baddest band in town," explains a vindicated Morello. "And so I let my strings go.”

At long last, the mystery has been solved, and if anyone calls you out for not cutting your strings, just prove them wrong by forming a band, touring the world and becoming one of the fiercest groups around.

Admittedly, it sounds a little harder than Morello made it out to be. Perhaps just cut your strings instead.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.