Rig Rundown: Tom Morello
Rock’s biggest “DJ” proves that, though his gear hasn't changed since the early ’90s, he still can rip out fresh ideas with ease and flair.
During the unrivaled axeman’s solo tour supporting his 2018 album The Atlas Underground, PG’s Chris Kies stood amazed as Tom Morello revealed the tricks that fortified a legacy of riffs in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Plus, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee member (yes, he knows that Iron Maiden needs to be inducted) breaks down how he’s still aiming to shoot the instrument into the future.
The guitar that’s probably most associated with Tom Morello has to be his Frankensteined “Arm the Homeless” “super strat” that he’s had since 1986. Morello admits the story on the guitar’s evolution is murky, but the only thing from the original custom-order instrument is its body. He apparently spent upwards of two years trying every combination of pickups, necks, electronics, and trems to appease his tonal aspirations, but finally settled on honing his craft through practice rather than gear lust. The final conglomeration of parts have been in place for 30 years and includes a set of EMG pickups, a knock-off graphite Kramer neck scooped up from the bargain bin at Nadine’s, and an Ibanez Edge trem/bridge. And as they say, the rest is history. For this one, he uses Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinkys (.009–.046, for all vibrato-equipped guitars) and always grabs Dunlop Tortex Jazz III picks.
In a 2018 interview with PG, Tom Morello asserted that the single-coil was a big part of his heavy sound: “One of the things that I find, that’s attributed to the ‘heaviness’ of my riffs, is a lot of them are played on a single-coil pickup.” Enter another longtime mainstay of Tom Morello’s—a run-of-the-mill 1982 Fender Telecaster coined “Sendero Luminoso.” He wanted to start writing/performing songs in drop-D tuning, but all of his other guitars at the time had a locking nut, so he traded his roommate for the Tele and Morello had to part ways with a 50-watt Marshall. The Tele is completely stock (aside from the stickers) and to maintain similar string tension to the “Arm the Homeless” he goes with Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys (.010–.046).
When it’s time for Tom Morello to cover Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” or digging back into the Nightwatchman (his acoustic troubadour alter ego) catalog for “The Garden of Gethsemane,” he grabs this Ibanez GA60SCE-14-01.
All of Tom Morello’s gear was stolen in after a Valentine’s Day gig back in the ’80s and he had to scramble to replace everything before an upcoming session. He went to his neighborhood shop to buy anything they had, and what they did have was this Marshall JCM800 2205 50-watt head and a 1987 Peavey 4x12 cabinet with Celestion G12K-85 speakers. (On this short winter run, he opted to leave the Peavey at home in California and used a Marshall 1960B 4x12.)
Tom Morello quickly bonded with the 50-watt Marshall and once he found a sound he could work with, he etched in the settings and has left them the same ever since.
When PG asked Tom Morello if he ever tries to find inspiration in new effects, he mentioned trying to take back his sound: “In the mid ’90s, DigiTech basically tried to steal all of my sounds and put them in a pedal and called it the Space Station [laughs]. I got one of those and I started stealing some of their sounds back.” If you’re catching a theme here, Morello doesn’t change his gear much and his pedalboard is no exception (aside from the aforementioned plagiarizing Space Station)—it includes a MXR Phase 90, two Boss DD-3 Digital Delays (one longer for solos and one tighter for rhythms), original DigiTech WH-1 Whammy, Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby wah, and the DigiTech Space Station XP300. Everything runs off the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus and relies on two Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuners (acoustic/electric).
Holiday Gear Finds 2022
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s Faded
SE Standard 24-08
MONO FlyBy Ultra Backpack
JBL 3 Series Studio Monitors
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Xvive U2, U3 and U4 Wireless Systems
Elixir® Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze with NANOWEB® Coating
Elephant Foot Risers and Frames
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
Caparison Horus-WB-FX MF
The Woman Tone
Templo Devices Holiday Specials
Taylors Guitars GS Mini
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Sennheiser MD 421
Orangewood Guitars Oliver Jr.
Marshall CODE 50 Digital Combo Amp
Line 6 Catalyst 100
LR Baggs Venue DI
Kali Audio LP-6 V2
Eventide H90 Harmonizer®
Wilkinson R Series Trev Wilkinson Signature Pickups
Hercules Stands Five-Piece Guitar Rack with Two Free Expansion Packs
ISP Hum Extractor Pedal
LAVA ME 3
Gator Cases Transit Guitar Gig Bags
DeLoach Guitars DL-225
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects Launches NOMAD Pedal Boards
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more!
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
Dunable Reveal the Minotaur
Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led them to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
Missing Link Audio Unveils AC/OD Pedal
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Missing Link Audio AC/OD Pedal