Rage Against The Machine Member Calls Out ‘Huge Ripoff’

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Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello discussed his Arm The Homeless guitar in a new Rig Rundown video. Ultimate-Guitar transcribed his comments.

“This one has been with me for 30 years now, and the history of this guitar is spotty.

“When I first moved to Hollywood, I wanted to have a custom-made guitar because Steve Vai and some of my favorites had ones. So I went to a guitar shop with my first check that I got from my first real job and they skinned me.

“It was a huge ripoff. It was probably the worst guitar that I’d ever play – and it was my own fault, I chose the fretboard, and I chose this that and the other – I’m not a luthier, I have no idea whether it should be ash or – I have no idea.

“So I got this stinky guitar, and of course the next couple of years I tore it apart entirely, the only thing remaining from that guitar is this piece of wood.

“It had a million different necks – this neck I found in a bin, like, a throw-away bin on Santa Monica Boulevard. It has different pickups, the electronics are completely different; I put like this Fathead thing on the back, though it would give it more sustain. It didn’t work, but I left it on.

“And then finally, I honestly gave up. I was trying to get a guitar that would be my perfect sound, and I was banging my head against the wall and just said, ‘I’m going to stop right now, this is going to be my guitar, and I’m just going to create with what I’ve got.’

“That was very liberating because I was no longer chasing sounds; instead I embraced the sound I had and used it to make music.”

Let’s briefly hit this Marshall that I know you’ve had for years.

“It was around the same time when I finally gave up on my guitar trying to make it the one I wanted and decided it’s going to be the one that I have.

“All my gear was stolen on a fateful Valentine’s Day many years ago, over 30 years ago, and I had a session the next weekend, so I had to go to this shop and just get what they had, and what they had was a 50-watt Marshall head, and a 4×12 Peavey cabinet.

“At the time, the Peavey cabinet – I mean, no offense to Peavey – like, the first thing I had to do was, like, unscrew the Peavey thing on the front. That I think contributed to the sort of unique sound.

“I would spend hours trying to create the tone I wanted and failed miserably, until one day in 1998 I spent two or three hours with that guitar and this amp head and said, ‘This is good. I’m going to stop banging my head against the wall, this is going to be my tone.’ I marked the amp and I never changed them since.”

Let’s dive into your pedalboard.

“So, this is it, basically, these are all the pedals – the pedals I’ve used for, the best part of three decades. It’s an MXR Phase 90, which I only use for the beginning of ‘Killing in the Name.’

“Other than that, it’s, like, a pinch-hitter, the EQ pedal I use exclusively for boost on songs… So back in the days of playing clubs when you couldn’t trust the sound man to know when the guitar solo is going to come, like, I’m going to take that out of your hands. I’m going to be loud when the solo comes, so it’s set straight flat.

“Then I got two identical delay pedals, just so I don’t have to change the settings, one is just sort of a long delay which accompanies for your astral pleasure right there, and then the other, there are only a total of three settings between these two, and this one goes back and forth between this ping-pong delay.”