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“There’s an assumption that guitar playing has to be what it’s always been”: Tom Morello calls out “conservatism” in guitar circles

“It’s just a piece of wood with six wires and a few electronics that can be manipulated in a lot of ways.”

Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine

Image: Ollie Millington / Getty Images

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Tom Morello has spoken about “conservatism” in the guitar world and the importance of finding and embracing your own “voice” as an artist.

The Rage Against the Machine guitarist says in a new interview with Rolling Stone Deutschland [via Ultimate Guitar]: “There’s often a conservatism in [the] guitar [world], where there’s an assumption that guitar playing has to be what it’s always been.”

“I looked at it like, ‘It’s just a piece of wood with six wires and a few electronics that can be manipulated in a lot of ways.’ One of those ways is to play a G chord. One of those ways is to do two-hand tapping. One of those ways is to unplug the guitar entirely, and touch the jack to a piece of metal at the bridge while working the Whammy pedal. I began [by] just sort of looking at the guitar, turning it inside out.”

Offering his advice to aspiring musicians, Morello says: “People pick up guitars for different reasons. Normally, the reason is that you want to sound like the guitar players you admire. That’s natural. That’s what everybody does. And then, at a certain point, you have to decide whether it’s enough for you to just be a musician, or if you want to take your chances at becoming an artist.”

“Becoming a musician requires technique, becoming an artist requires ideas. And that means really looking into yourself. Now, you may find that the true voice that is within you sounds exactly like Jeff Beck. And if that’s the case, then you should follow it.”

The guitarist adds that he only began to accept his inner voice after “losing everything” after being dropped by a label before RATM: “I had a miracle of a chance, and I blew it,” Morello says. “So, I might as well play what I want, since, I thought, no one’s ever going to hear it anyway. That freed me from the constraints of [thinking about] what I should or shouldn’t do.”

Morello’s comments arrive in the wake of Melvins mastermind Buzz Osborne’s recent complaint about how guitar players “seem like the most conservative people on the face of the planet”. “I wish guitar players were more adventurous. But they’re just not,” he told Total Guitar.

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