Guerilla Journalism with Tom Morello: Part Two

So, the interview was to begin. I was a rube that evening, unprepared and starting to feel a bought of nerves take hold. Morello sat comfortably down on the sofa beside me. Here he was…Harvard graduate, rock and roll activist. He possessed all things that are expected to culminate in such success and for someone as profound as his reputation upheld he was humble and quick to set me at ease. He obliged me as I rambled on about the concept of our publication and laughed as I told him my dream of buying a beat-up van to drive cross country. It was a guttural laugh, sincere as were all of his gestures, grins and chuckles that evening.

“Ha-ha! Fantastic, I like it. Very grass roots, the more grass roots the better.”

That basically summed up the interview, stealth maneuvering aside; I was grass roots, daydreaming about becoming a writer of all things music and all the while chatting it up with a rock star. The night would unfold smoothly from here and below you can find our conversation (I’ve saved you from my line of questioning as, again, I rambled and I’d like to cut right to the core of this chat…it’s far more interesting).

On touring for his new project:

I’ve been “touring” since 1988 or so. Uh, you know each touring experience is very different depending on the band, the time and the sort of level you’re touring at. This has been great. The Nightwatchman One Man Revolution Tour started in Europe. I spent about three weeks there and now I’ve been in the United States with Ben Harper. To me this feels more like a mission than a commercial endeavor. It’s something I do and I feel like it’s playing music for the right reasons. It’s frankly been very easy for me, whether I was with Rage or Audioslave, to play arena shows any time I want to. And, so… rather than that I endure days like today, for instance. Where we missed flights, two flights, and come in and hobble up steps(I hurt my back the other day) because this music’s important to me and I like the independence of it. So, you know, I’ve been touring for almost 20 years now and this is probably my favorite tour.

On the hassle of touring:

Problems? Yeah, yeah, it’s an adventure… there’s no doubt about that. Even on this tour now. It might
have been two and a half weeks ago. We were in Rostock, Germany at the G-8 protest escaping on a little motorboat through a police flotilla on the Baltic Sea and, then, we’re in the South Carolina House of Blues two weeks later and I’m just hoping that my harmonica shows up. You have to live, like, six hours at a time; if you live beyond that it’s going to drive you absolutely nuts.

On his first touring experiences and “making it”:

When I first toured it was not, “making it,” at all. It was four or five guys in a van paying dues. Staying in places like the Kings Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I think it was $25 a night for the room. That meant that you had to clean up the blood and condoms from the room when you checked in, too (laughs). I can’t remember the place in Richmond, it was a little place. Richmond is a southern city and yet… it’s about 100 degrees below zero in the wintertime. The neighborhood was so dangerous we had to bring all the gear into the hotel room. So, it was four guys and two beds. I’ll tour, but I’m not gonna sleep in any bed with another dude. So, I’m sleeping on the floor with the cockroach powder, freezing cold. The gear is packed up against the door but the wind was still blowing so loud it sounded like a moose was in the room (makes a loud moose noise and laughs) expanding and contracting with the wind. So that was dues paying…so, anyway, it’s an adventure.

On the sweeter life of super-stardom:

The Nightwatchman stuff ain’t the sweet life. It’s the conscious decision to play music I really
wanna play. When we play Rage Against the Machine shows we make nearly a million dollars a night. And I like that, there’s nothing wrong with playing huge shows. But this is something, to me, that feels very important. I mean, there’s not exactly a moose howling in the room and hopefully there will be neither blood nor condoms left by the previous tenant but ah…it’s a nice life.

And this was where we got to laughing about his shenanigans on the road. To follow is conversation on
commercialism, the decline of the record industry, the beloved iPod and music journalism. Please check back later for the third and fnal installment of this at-length interview.