Tom Morello recruited an all-star crew of rappers and EDM producers – including Big Boi, Killer Mike, RZA, Steve Aoki and Bassnectar – for his upcoming solo LP The Atlas Underground, out October 12th via Mom + Pop Music.
The guitarist, a veteran of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Prophets of Rage, also enlisted GZA, Gary Clark Jr., K. Flay, Pretty Lights, Portugal. the Man, Whethan, Marcus Mumford, Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, Carl Restivo, Nico Stadi, Leikeli47 and Herobust to appear on the 12-track album. Morello teased his latest project with two new songs, “We Don’t Need You” (featuring Vic Mensa) and “Battle Sirens” (featuring Knife Party).
Tom Morello – “We Don’t Need You”
Tom Morello – “Battle Sirens”
Morello detailed the album’s evolution in a new interview on Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich‘s Beats 1 radio show, It’s Electric! “I wanted to make a record that was the [Jimi] Hendrix of now,” the guitarist said, noting that he focused on three conceptual components with The Atlas Underground: “guitar playing that is outside of the norm and is extraordinary,” creating “radio songs” that “connected with a mass audience” and fashioning a “new genre of music.” The vibe, he said, combines his distinctive “analog, Marshall stack guitar playing with the sounds of now and some of my favorite singers and rappers.”
The songwriter jokingly described The Atlas Underground as “email rock,” referencing how the collaborators swapped files back and forth online. He also laughed at the irony of writing music with electronic artists, given that he used to hate the genre. “No one was a [greater] enemy of EDM than myself,” he said, noting how listening to Knife Party and Skrillex illuminated the shared DNA between electronica and metal.
Lars Ulrich Interviews Tom Morello on It’s Electric!
Later in the wide-ranging chat, Morello talked about his numerous other musical projects, including Rage Against the Machine. “It was a punk rock ethos more than anything else,” he said of the pioneering rap-metal band. “It was a band that was born out of a pure, authentic love of playing that music. I can’t emphasize [enough] how there was zero commercial ambition.”
He also described how Rage Against the Machine’s band members often disagreed in their personal lives but always united on political activism. But that same intensity, coupled with emotional immaturity, led to the band’s downfall. “Let’s be political Led Zeppelin and overthrow the government,” he said of his past mindset. “In that pursuit, I wasn’t always sensitive to the emotional needs of my band members.”
When Rage Against the Machine united, they thrived because they “took off the table everything that had been controversial before: writing music, doing interviews, having a manager” and instead focused on the immediacy of playing live and enjoying themselves. Reflecting on the quartet’s final show in 2011, he said, “if that’s the last one, it would feel pretty good. We went out on a high note.”
In the newly released episode, which re-airs Sunday, July 29th at 6 p.m. EST, Morello also discussed how he ended up on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee, how he became friends with Bruce Springsteen, coaching little league and how he grew to love Metallica.
Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground Track List
1. “Battle Sirens [ft. Knife Party]
2. “Rabbit’s Revenge” [ft. Bassnectar, Big Boi, and Killer Mike]
3. “Every Step That I Take” [ft. Portugal. The Man and Whethan]
4. “We Don’t Need You” [ft. Vic Mensa]
5. “Find Another Way” [ft. Marcus Mumford]
6. “How Long” [ft. Steve Aoki and Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath]
7. “Lucky One” [ft. K.Flay]
8. “One Nation” [ft. Pretty Lights]
9. “Vigilante Nocturno” [ft. Carl Restivo]
10. “Where It’s At Ain’t What It Is” [ft. Gary Clark Jr. and Nico Stadi]
11. “Roadrunner” [ft. Leikeli47]
12. “Lead Poisoning” [ft. GZA, RZA, and Herobust]