Tom Morello hits back at accusations of effects overuse, says he’s “used the same four pedals for the last 30 years”

“It’s just about finding different applications for the same old shit.”

Tom Morello 1993

Tom Morello performing in 1993. Image: Gie Knaeps / Getty

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello has hit back at detractors who accuse him of soaking his playing in effects, saying that he has stuck to a relatively straightforward approach across his career.

Speaking to Guitar World, Morello asserted that his pedalboard isn’t as gargantuan as some might think: “I’ve been accused countless times of using a ton of effects – but I’ve used the same four pedals for the last 30 years,” he said. He explained that those four are “a wah, a [Digitech] Whammy, a delay, and a phaser. It’s just about finding different applications for the same old shit. The electric guitar is a relatively new instrument on the planet. It’s just a piece of wood, with six strings, a few electronics. But you can manipulate it.”

He continued, explaining his unique approach to his place in the band: “As soon as I had that revelation in Rage, it was like, ‘I’m the DJ in the band but rather than sampling I’m gonna use my bare hands to create this new vocabulary for the electric guitar.’”

While Morello’s approach doesn’t involve a huge ‘board, it does involve an amount of transformative manipulation. Use of the Digitech Whammy, a signature part of his sound, is undeniably part of this “new vocabulary,” such as the octave-jumps of the Killing In The Name solo or the siren impression on Fistful of Steel.

The out-there sounds Morello created on the band’s debut album compelled the quote “no samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this record” to appear at the end of its liner notes, reasserting that all of the stuttering, glitched-out noises were the result of “just a piece of wood, with six strings [and] a few electronics.”

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