Former Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello discussed his love of EDM music and incorporating the genre into his new solo album The Atlas Underground, telling Lars Ulrich during a recent It’s Electric on Apple Music interview (transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar):
“I wanted to make a record that was the Hendrix of now. It has three components to it, in my mind.
“One: it has to have guitar playing that is outside of the norm and is extraordinary.
“Two: one of the defining things of Hendrix was hit radio songs. He didn’t just look cool and played some exotic guitar. The reason why we know his name is because he had blasted jams that connected with a mass audience.
“And then three is the ‘of now’ part. Hendrix was blues rock and now it is a world of hip-hop and EDM. So what I wanted to do was to create a new genre of music that combines my analog Marshall stack guitar playing with the sounds of now, and with some of my favorite singers and rappers.”
How long have you been working on this?
“It’s come together in the last six to eight months or so. But over the course of the last three years… every once in a while, I would take 18 months off to go tour with Bruce Springsteen, or put a band together like Prophets of Rage and tour the world with that. So it’s been a labor of love and I’m glad it’s finally to fruition.
“I have a studio in my house and a lot of it has been e-mail rock in a way. You know, somebody is sitting on tour in Siberia and you’re sending tracks to Pussy Riot who’s in Gulag.”
Are you producing it yourself?
“It has a number of different producers. On the EDM side, it’s Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Knife Party, Baauer. I produce some songs myself.
“In my day jobs, I tend to be a very Type A and controlling person. This has allowed me to kind of let go a little bit. And while I’m a songwriter and a producer and a guitar player, I’m a curator more than anything else.
“And it’s kind of creating a new sound with a new vibe that’s very guitar-oriented but that challenges myself artistically. That’s why I’m in it for.”
We know you always liked rap, but how come you like EDM now?
“I can tell you that no one was a greater enemy of EDM than myself. [Laughs] I referred to it as ‘Italian taxi cab music.’ No matter where you were in Europe – on your way to the gig… ‘Oh, turn that awful thing down.’
“But it was a few years ago where a friend of mine who has one foot in the rock and one foot in electronica… I said, ‘Play me something I might enjoy. And he played me Knife Party and Skrillex.
“I was like ‘This is heavy metal!’ It had a same tension and release and the same aggression and the same audacity. And it wasn’t Ibiza dance jams, the drops felt like Rage [Against the Machine] drops to me.
“I said ‘What if we took music that’s cut together like this but we replace their synthesizers with my electric guitars?’ So I’ve always liked the idea of sort of challenging myself and incorporating other genres while keeping the integrity and authenticity of who I am.”