Tom Morello is one of the most regarded greatest guitarists in the history of music today, but like the vast majority of his colleagues, he was made from below.
That reality was more than reflected in an interview with Q on CBC in which the guitarist told how the purchase of his first guitar came about, which, according to him, was not very satisfactory, and learn guitar late in his life, when he was 18-years old.
“I’ve done a lot of self-analysis about my obsessive-compulsive guitar playing… I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 17 years old; I’d only heard of one guitarist ever who had made albums who began playing that late, and that was Robert Johnson. He had to sell his soul to the devil to get good…”
“Given my catholic upbringing, that was not an option on the menu. So I had to sort of really devote myself to the instrument and while pursuing an Honors major at an Ivy League University, I was practicing six-eight hours every single day.”
“Reflecting on that, I realized that there are a lot of things in the world that you don’t have control over. But I had control over that. It was just the matter of nothing but my will that would be the determining factor if I got better on the guitar or not. I had a considerable amount of will. So I really dove all the way in and found this relationship and this kind of security almost in that relationship.”
“It’s just me and the guitar, and I’m the determiner of how that relationship goes. And by applying myself wholly to that process I saw this kind of rising tide of technique and ability. I just wanted to see how high that tide could rise.”
When asked what he was practicing, Morello answered: “At the time it was, you know, all guitarists, when you first pick up guitars because you admire other guitar players and you want to emulate them. I was very much on board with that. So it was two hours a day of just nothing but technique. Then it was two hours a day of music theory because of course. I was behind, and I stumbled upon a lot of music theory.”
“My playing was two hours a day of writing songs, coming up with unique sounds, and then my favorite two hours every day was just improvisational jamming. I would basically take the radio dial and go to a random station – classical, jazz, new age, metal, whatever, pop – and just try to fit in whatever music was coming out of the speakers, just keep flipping the dial and try to be in these different bands, and that really helped my growth.”
Full interview below: