Tom Morello and His New Label Are ‘Making Music with a Purpose’
By Brian Ives
By his own admission, Tom Morello has led a charmed life.
Morello is best known as the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine, but he’s also sold millions of albums with Audioslave and, more recently, he’s recorded on his own as the Nightwatchman and with underground rapper Boots Riley in Street Sweeper Social Club. On top of all that, in 2014 Morello spent much of the year as a member of Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band, and later this year he’s playing in Ozzy Osbourne‘s backing band.
All this is by way of saying: there’s a lot to talk to about with Tom Morello.
During his recent Radio.com visit, the main thing on Morello’s mind is his brand-new record label, Firebrand Records. He also talks about his next album, the night he searched for the grave of the late AC/DC singer Bon Scott, his unlikely friendship with Ted Nugent and his relationship with former bandmate Chris Cornell. Oh, and that new video Rush has been using every night on their tour that features Morello, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and Peter Dinklage, among others.
Radio.com: So, I think the big question on everyone’s mind is: how did you get involved in the video that Rush plays during their performance of “Roll The Bones” every night on this tour?
Tom Morello: [Laughs] Oh, it was really one of the most challenging artistic endeavors of my entire career! I actually rapped the lines, I didn’t lip-synch. I saw Rush’s concert in Chicago, I was pleased that I made the final cut.
I was at the New Jersey show and the fans went crazy during the video. Anyway, tell me about why you decided to start a label in 2015.
There has been a void in the music industry for a long time; we are a record label that focuses exclusively on artists with revolutionary lyrical and musical content. The idea was a global label for all your rebel music needs. We have literally scoured the planet from Egypt to Sweden to my hometown of Libertyville, Illinois, for artists that don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk. We’re very proud of this diverse group of artists that have one unifying characteristic: they’re making music with a purpose.
I know you’ve been involved in the Last Internationale‘s career; the story goes that they were having Thanksgiving dinner at your house, and they mentioned that they needed a drummer, and you hooked them up with your former (Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) bandmate, Brad Wilk. But how did you get to know them?
My good friend Boots Riley [his bandmate from Street Sweeper Social Club] sent me a YouTube video of them. Boots Riley sends me a lot of YouTube videos, most of them you don’t want to watch! But this one was interesting: they were a very different kind of band. Shortly thereafter they were playing a show in L.A., I thought they were great, and we started talking afterwards.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I was a “stray,” and I’ve always endeavored to take in strays. They were kind of strays and we took them in! They’re lovely people and a great band. We spent some time around the kitchen counter talking about music and politics and having a lot of laughs. We’ve been friends ever since, and now they’re on my record label.