Tom Morello Returns to Occupy L.A.

Rage guitarist says movement has identified 'correct villains'

October 26, 2011 11:55 AM ET
Grammy-award winning rock guitarist Tom Morello speaks to the crowd at the Occupy L.A. encampment
Grammy-award winning rock guitarist Tom Morello speaks to the crowd at the Occupy L.A. encampment
Tom Stone

In the past two weeks, Tom Morello has visited Occupy movements in Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle and on Wall Street. But as he walked down Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles yesterday with his 88-year-old mother, Mary, this visit would be special. This is home to Morello, where he first became involved in the Occupy movement, playing for the makeshift tent city on the steps of L.A.'s City Hall earlier this month.

"This is my sixth visit in the fifth city. The one thing I’ve seen in the two weeks I’ve gone away is the movement has grown exponentially," the guitarist told Rolling Stone. "It was sort of a peripheral thing three weeks ago, and now there are 1300-plus cities around the continent that are occupied and growing every day. The tent camp is certainly bigger than it was when I was here last time."

As Morello walked into the media tent with his mom, they were both greeted as old friends – especially Mary, who was holding a manila envelope that read "Grandmother for Peace." This is a movement made for Morello, whose first solo album as the Nightwatchman was entitled One Man Revolution. He can show up whenever he is available, guitar in hand, and provide a soundtrack for the protesters. As he told us, "Every successful progressive movement has had a great soundtrack. And that's what we hope to see here."

Yet it's not important to him to see other musicians get involved. "I gotta say frankly, the short answer is I don’t particularly care," he said. "People at the Occupies contribute what they’ve got. People who are good at computer skills contribute that, people who are good at organizational skills contribute that. I’m a musician, so I contribute my musical skills. And so if other musicians want to do that, fantastic."

On this overcast day Morello debated again playing on the steps of City Hall. Instead he came up with another idea. Later, he would be playing the famed Troubadour. As he told the crowd, he decided to invite Occupy L.A. to join him at the Troubadour to "rock the fuck out." He and his assistant brought 175 tickets to be distributed to the protesters.

After L.A., Morello goes off to the U.K. for a tour, but he plans on being back at the protest when he returns. A couple of people in the crowd suggested he come spend the night with them at one point, which he said he'd consider. "This movement is unique in recent history in that it’s identified the correct villain," said Morello, who first came to prominence in Rage Against the Machine. "It’s the malfeasance of the bankers and Wall Street super-rich who torpedoed the global economy that’s caused so much human suffering and environmental devastation, and we’re calling them out."

So where does he see the movement going? "I don’t put a ceiling on what this can be. We’ll see," he said. "It is a global social justice movement to invert the pyramid of inequality. It’s already had great successes in that it has politicized a generation. There are so many young people involved, and so many people who’ve never been to a protest or demonstration, so many people who are realizing that they are historical agents, that by simply walking out their front door they can have an effect on their country, on their planet."

Photos: Tom Morello Rallies for Occupy L.A.
Tom Morello: 'The Fabled City' at Occupy Wall Street
Tom Morello: Why He Supports Occupy Wall Street
Tom Morello at Occupy Wall Street: 'Take It Easy, But Take It'

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