As part of some of the biggest rock bands of the 90s and a prominent member of the industry to this day, Tom Morello’s sound has become iconic, and was a large part of the success of Rage Against the Machine.
Even though he has amassed quite a few guitars over the years, he isn’t necessarily a gear junkie, and doesn’t have any endorsements, and this makes his gear really interesting to look at. Morello acknowledges that the gear is secondary to the playing in terms of musical output, but he still has some pretty cool custom guitars in his collection. For the purpose of this analysis we’ll try and focus on the Rage Against the Machine years from 1991 to 2000, although his gear has stayed fairly consistent throughout his whole career.
Custom ‘Arm The Homeless’ Electric Guitar
Morello seems to have a sweet spot for misfits and Frankenstein-esqe guitars, and this is probably the most famous of them. The guitar originated in Hollywood in the mid-‘80s in a place that custom built guitars. Choosing the dirt cheap option, Morello wasn’t completely happy with the result, and for years was tinkering with different ideas and combinations. Eventually he settled on the current setup, which includes a graphite neck, EMG pickups and an Ibanez Edge whammy bar.
American Fender Telecaster
This guitar has been Morello’s drop D tuned guitar for his whole career, and was used to play hits like ‘Killing in the Name’ and ‘Testify’. It’s an American made telecaster which he traded his roommate for, a straight swap for a Marshall head that he had less use for, and has stayed with him ever since. “He needed a Marshall head and I needed a guitar that I could tune down and play grunge-worthy, heavy riffs with and so the exchange was made,” Morello says. The guitar is a pretty brazen political statement, with the words ‘Sendero Luminoso’ on the body (after the Peruvian communist party) and a hammer and sickle communist party sticker.
Marshall JCM800 2205 50-Watt Head
What started out as a quick-fix replacement for some stolen gear turned out to be a career long combo for Morello. This Marshall head and the Peavey cabinet (see below) were purchased after his gear was stolen on Valentines Day in 1988. With studio time booked for the next weekend, there wasn’t a whole lot of scope to look around for the best gear, Morello pretty much had to take what was on offer. “[Nadine’s Music] only had one cabinet, the Peavey 4x12, and they had two heads, the Marshall 50-watt head and something else. So I bought the Marshall and the Peavey because that's what they had.”
Peavey 4x12 Cabinet
The second half of the makeshift-turn-essential combination for Morello, the cabinet is a big part of his sound. In true Tom Morello anti-establishment fashion, the grill of the amp was often covered with a Che Guevara picture.
Dunlop GCB95F Cry Baby Classic Wah Wah
At the start of Morello’s fairly simple pedal chain is an “ancient” Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal from the ‘80s. The pedal is a classic, and is seen on the boards of a truckload of great players.
Digitech WH1 Whammy Pedal
An original version of this pedal sits on Morello’s board, and is “indispensible for making pterodactyl noises” according to the man himself.
Boss DD-2 Digital Delay
Alongside the whammy pedal is a relative staple of delay pedals for guitarists, the Boss DD-2 Digital Delay. The pedal is known for being rugged and reliable, and was the first digital stompbox from Boss.
DOD FX40B Equaliser Pedal
This is a pedal that Morello used when he wanted to go to the next level in a solo and to really push it to 11. His guitar tech custom-fitted his with a sweat guard to ensure that they didn’t short out during a sweaty, intense rock show.