Tom Morello reunites with Bruce Springsteen on new album
Guitar god Tom Morello was supposed to go on a world reunion tour with his band Rage Against the Machine in 2020.
But after COVID unplugged that, Morello didn’t touch his incendiary instrument for about four months. “I was struggling with the same kind of fear and depression and anxiety that a lot of us have, and I kind of had to re-find who I was. [because] I’m not a musician anymore, ”Morello, 57, told The Post. “So it led to this kind of existential crisis.”
But working on his new solo album “The Atlas Underground Fire”, released Friday, has helped the axman find his mojo with an array of stars – from Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder to Chris Stapleton and Damian Marley – who have collaborated remotely. .
“This record was as much a liferaft and an antidepressant as it was a creative endeavor. It was a way to stay sane,” said Morello. “During a time of this isolation, I was building these musical friendships through the world. Damian Marley was in Jamaica, Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey, Mike Posner was recording his voice from Nepal – he climbed Mount Everest while recording this record – [electronic artist] Sama ‘Abdulhadi was in Palestine, [British rock band] Bring Me the Horizon was in the UK. So I had this kind of connection that went beyond the four walls of my isolation.
Morello has found a new way to record his guitar parts while on lockdown. “I have a studio in my house, but I don’t know how to use it – there’s always an engineer there,” he said. “But I read a quote from Kanye West where he said he recorded vocals on the voice memo [app] on his phone. So I started recording guitar riffs on my phone and then emailing them to artists, producers and engineers around the world.
Some of the recording sessions turned into therapy sessions, including one with country star Stapleton for “The War Inside”. “We got on a Zoom with guitars in hand to write a song together, and we didn’t play any notes for the first two hours,” Morello said. “We just talked about what it was like to be a musician during a time without music.”
Rocking with Springsteen and Vedder on a cover of “Highway to Hell” captured the live spirit of when Morello was touring Australia with the Boss as part of the E Street Band in 2014 and the frontman. of Pearl Jam sat down with them on the classic AC / DC.
“At a time when no one was playing shows,” he said, “I was like, ‘I want to try and capture some of that amazing lightning felt on that stage,’ so I called Bruce and Eddie. “
It certainly helped that Morello had a history with Springsteen being an “assistant” to the E Street Band on and off for about six years. “It was amazing,” he said. “I am a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen. And so, being able to take the stage with Bruce night after night playing ‘Born to Run’… I never dared dream of that.
“The Atlas Underground Fire” opens with “Harlem Hellfighter,” a nod to Morello’s roots in upper Manhattan. “I was born in West 142nd and Riverside,” he said. “While I grew up in a Chicago suburb, I was born in Harlem and [am] Proud of it. The Harlem Hellfighters were African American soldiers from the Harlem area during World War I and World War II. Starting the record with that was a connection to my past and those heroes. “
Of course, Morello has always been known for his political activism as well as his exploits on the guitar. “I believe that all music, all art is political – every note of it,” he said. “I think it’s important to weave your convictions into your vocation, and that you shouldn’t leave behind who you are and what you believe in for what you do for a living. I am a guitarist. So it was my responsibility to try to use rock and roll as a ram for social justice.