Tom Morello Recalls The Time He Started His Career By Emulating Eddie Van Halen

In an interview with Total Guitar, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello talked about the early days of his career and revealed how he was trying to imitate the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen and his guitar playing.

Tom Morello has been known for his successful career with the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello joined Rage Against the Machine back in 1991 and with them, he achieved a considerable amount of mainstream success. Later in 2001, Tom formed Audioslave along with the late icon Chris Cornell, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk. Morello has been conducting a solo career under the name of The Nightwatchman. In 2007, Tom released his debut solo album titled ‘One Man Revolution’ as the Nightwatchman.

During a recent conversation with Total Guitar, Tom Morello opened up about the musicians who influenced his music since the beginning of his career. Morello mentioned that he was actually emulating his heroes like the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen. Apparently, while he was only 17 years old, Tom was imitating the way Eddie played his guitar.

Additionally, Morello mentioned how he started manipulating the instrument to ‘create his own alternate universe of noise.’ Seemingly, along with emulating Eddie, Tom also tried to mimic non-guitar noises which eventually led his guitar playing in an entirely different direction.

Here is what Tom Morello stated about Eddie Van Halen’s impact on his music career:

“I began playing late, around 17 years old, and I’d never heard of another guitarist who made albums using noises in that way. Except for Robert Johnson, who had to sell his soul to the devil to get good! Given my Catholic upbringing, that wasn’t really an option, so I had to put in my 10,000 hours.

Most of that time was spent emulating my heroes like Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, then later on Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. I realized that if you put in the hours, you can actually get into the same ballpark as those players. But what I didn’t have was my own voice on the instrument. It was really in the beginnings of Rage Against the Machine where I self-identified as the DJ in the band and stopped looking at the guitar as this hallowed instrument on which there was only one way to get good.

Instead, it became a piece of wood, with six wires, a few electronics, a couple of knobs, and a toggle switch that could be deconstructed. Anything on that guitar was fair game, from the Allen wrench used to change strings to the guitar jack to even the pickups themselves.”

Morello continued:

“I started manipulating the instrument to create my own alternate universe of noise. You might not even need the guitar, like when I hit the cable against my hand going through a wah. Why not circumvent the whole thing!

Once I had the blinders off and realized the parameters of rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing was not just Chuck Berry to Eddie Van Halen, I started practicing sounds – whether that was DJ scratching or wild boars rutting at the zoo or the helicopters overhead.

Even if I couldn’t exactly mimic those sounds, practicing non-guitar noises led my playing in an entirely different direction. It felt like that lane was open.There was no one else in it. I started constructing a whole sonic world out of these barnyard animal noises, old war films, and Public Enemy records.”

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