TOM MORELLO Says “Gear Doesn’t Matter” – It’s True For Everyone BUT Him


Tom Morello is an extremely creative guitarist. He’s not the most technically proficient in the game by any means – you might call him technologically proficient. He does what he does through the manipulation of his gear. He can play what he can play, but what he does is mostly about doing fun and interesting things like setting his Whammy pedal a certain way, using an Allen wrench to fret notes, using a three-quarters dead battery in a certain pedal.

So why is he telling guitarists that “gear doesn’t matter” in this interview? I mean, I’ve written about this extensively in the past – in a sense, I agree with him. You can work with what you’ve got – that’s how it works. If you are good, and are thinking musically, you can play just about anything and make it sing.

But, you can’t play the Killing in the Name solo on a nylon string acoustic guitar. You can’t make it go up +2 octaves at certain spots, you can’t make it sustain and scream – and it’s not gonna sound heavy on it’s own no matter how you play it.

There are plenty of people for whom gear doesn’t matter – but the only person for whom it matters more is U2’s The Edge. That guy would be FUCKED without his gear (see It Might Get Loud to see what I mean). Not to say that Tom can’t play – just that his whole legacy is built on Digitech and a Les Paul pickup selector set as a killswitch. Gear doesn’t matter if your whole act isn’t dependent on very specific gear needs – as he says in this interview, Rage had to rehearse with rented gear once and they sounded terrible. He pretty much contradicts himself over and over in this interview, and I’m not really sure what his intention was, but he doesn’t hit it.

He talks about how he spent literally years dialing in his gear, and then has just kept everything the same for a long time – that’s not the same as it not mattering. It clearly matters a great deal to him – I think what he means is that it only matters up to a point. It can’t do the work of creativity for you, that’s the job of the player.

Unrelated note – dude sounds almost exactly like Obama when he talks. I’d love to see him on SNL playing the president.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.

Latest comments
  • U2 technical failure:

  • I hate tom with every fiber in my being if it wasnt for him and rapping vocal style i would get down hard on some rage

  • You know what, though? He’s right.

    Pursuing whatever effect/amp/brand name guitar is a fun hobby but at the end of the day, the time spent in pursuit + time taken to amass the funds to purchase the “dream gear” could have been time spent practicing, learning, rehearsing and networking…

    but over-entitled, smartphone touting, navel gazing youth could care less since… who cares, this will all blow over with the next kanye/swift tweet etc

  • I despise his bands but even if you took away all his tricks and gimmicks he still would have the talent to be at least somewhat successful. People with far worse chops have been a lot moreso.

  • Personally, i am the type of guy, like a lot of other guys on here, that is interested in almost any guitar not matter how junky it is. Part of it is, you may find something about it that is really great. Plus, like a lot of other guys, i love guitars. Remember when Rage came out? They sounded great to me because there wasn’t much else like it and they were pretty quality. However, around that same time, it became “cool” for people to diss actually knowing how to play guitar. Shredders were cancer and a whole host of dips**ts never even bothered to listen to Nuno Bettencourt. For Shame. Anyways, Tom came from that same pool of guys who acted elitist when it came to technically proficient guitarists. Personally, The technically knowledgeable guys made me a better player, just hearing them. Mr. Morrello never did that for me. That being said, anyone else remember the band “Lock Up”? Tom’s band before Rage? He played some pretty bad-ass stuff on that cd.

  • He’s not contradicting himself, though. He say they made their songs the way they are because of the gear they have. With different gear they would make different songs. They got by with thr gear they had. Also, i think he’s also capable of thinking outside of himself and speak in general terms.

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