Tom Morello is pleased about one aspect of life in 2020, at least: More people than ever in the United States are raging against the machine. “There’s a lot of non-Black people fighting back, too,” he says, in the latest edition of our Rolling Stone Interview: Special Edition video series. “And you see that in the streets. And the music they’re pumping is Rage Against the Machine and some of my own music. I’m very proud of that.”
Morello has dual retrospectives on the way in the form of a photo book, Whatever It Takes, and an Audible release, Tom Morello at Minetta Lane Theatre, so the interview also finds him looking back in depth at his entire life and career, from his childhood in Illinois to his time with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and the E Street Band, among other highlights. “I always imagined myself a monogamous musician,” Morello says. “And then, it took Rage a long time between records, and I just had too much music in me. Wherever there was a studio door open, I walked through it. And it’s led to this really incredibly rich mosaic of musical experiences.”
Morello says very little about the current moment surprises him. “This stuff is coming to a head,” he argues. “But there’s nothing new about racism. There’s nothing new about imperialism. I mean, Zack [de la Rocha’s] brilliant lyrics in those Rage songs were written during the Clinton administration. Racism and imperialism are two of the fundamental building blocks of the United States of America. And there’s a cognitive dissonance that we have to live in every single day. The phrase Black Lives Matter — people get so wound up and they’re like, “No, all lives matter.” Well, the people who wrote “liberty and justice for all” didn’t mean us! That’s not Black people in the documents that founded the country… And Trump is a symptom. Trump is personally horrible in a lot of ways. But he’s a symptom of 30 or 40 years of neo-liberal economic policies that have robbed the middle class — under Obama and Clinton and the Bushes — that have robbed the middle class, that have robbed the working class outrageously.”
This is the latest installment of Rolling Stone’s latest new video series, RS Interview: Special Edition, featuring in-depth conversations with notable figures in music, entertainment, and politics. Episodes premiere every Thursday afternoon on Rolling Stone’s YouTube channel.