“I long for the day where I can make my album of love songs, but that’s not the case, is it?” Twenty-six years after Rage Against The Machine first took on the political establishment in a blitz of fiery guitar riffs and furious raps, Tom Morello is back, and he’s still burning with that same cold fury.
His latest, ‘The Atlas Underground’, is a bold attempt at something new for the iconic guitarist. Named after a combination of the character who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders and the clandestine organisation bent on making mischief (“That pretty much sums up what we’re doing here,” Morello laughs), it involves a wide array of guest stars brought together under one guiding ambition.
“I wanted to curate an album that brought together diverse musicians of different genres to create a sonic conspiracy,” is how he describes it in a West London hotel, smiling, knowing fully how portentous that sounds. “I wanted to make a record that is like the Hendrix of now.”
Warming to his themes, he elaborates: “The reason we know him [Hendrix] is, yeah he was a flamboyant dresser and lit shit on fire, but he had hit songs that introduced the world to a different way at looking at music. This album combines my big riffs with crazy guitar sounds and huge EDM drops. It’s the sound of now.”
Running through the record is a thread that will be no surprise to long-term Morello fans.
“They are all social justice ghost stories,” he states. “It’s [for] the heroes, the martyrs, or even the unknowns, who were killed unjustly. They can speak through these songs in a way that can inform the struggles of the present.”
Morello’s ability to straddle multiple genres brings with it a host of friends willing to pitch up and help out. No stranger to hip-hop with both Rage and Prophets Of Rage, it is no surprise to see the likes of Big Boi, Killer Mike, GZA and RZA pop up here. Even Marcus Mumford’s turn is not wholly unexpected when considering Morello’s turn as The Nightwatchman.