TOM MORELLO Calls On Metalheads To ‘Get Their S*** Together’ And Act To Change The World

Tom Morello Hellfest 2024

At a press conference during this past weekend’s Hellfest in Clisson, France, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE guitarist Tom Morello discussed why he has dedicated his career to both creating music and making a positive impact on the lives of others.

 “Across 21 records, there’s really one message that is a thread through all of my music, and that is that the world is not going to change itself,” he said. “That is up to you. And by you, I literally mean you — the people watching on your thing and your thing; that’s how the world changes. And sometimes it seems like this sort of monolithic problem that we’ll never be able to get past and the world cannot be changed or the worst people are the ones in charge, and they often are. But you are not witnesses to history; you are agents of history. History is not something that happened; it’s something you make. Whenever there has been a progressive radical, even revolutionary positive change for the better, it’s come from people who are no different than anyone in this room or any of the audiences that you’re writing for or that your videos are for. Once you have that realization that you do have your hands on the wheel of history and of this planet, and if you wanna make it a more peaceful, a more just, a more equitable, a more anti-racist, a more environmentally sound place, there’s no one to blame if it doesn’t happen but you for not standing up.”

Morello, who has consistently stated that social change is his primary motivation for making music, also shared where he finds inspiration for his songwriting in an increasingly divided world.

He said: “At any given historical moment, you stand in the place where you live and you stand in the place where you were. That’s it. So some people are, like, ‘You guys made RAGE records 30 years ago, and now look at the horrible state of the world.’ Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t make RAGE records 30 years ago. At every moment, you do what you can, when you can, where you can. That’s the way that I look at it. And the arc of history is a long one, and there are very, very challenging times now certainly in my country, and I know here as well. And in part, literally the fate of the planet is at stake over the course of the next few decades. So it’s time for metalheads to get their s**t together.”

When asked if he ever feels overwhelmed by the state of the world, Tom replied: “It is overwhelming. And from the climate stuff to Gaza, there’s a lot. But what I look at is, like, today I’m gonna do everything I can to do several things. One is to be to play the best guitar I can, to sing the best I can, to have my band, the FREEDOM FIGHTER ORCHESTRA, deliver the goods in a way that is gonna be a compelling and artistically meaningful moment. And if I do that right, the message that rides on that is gonna touch somebody. Now there’s 70,000 people out there [at this year’s Hellfest]. I don’t know if it touches seven of them, or 7,000 of them, or whatever, but I know that over the course of 30 years, doing that, the thing I just described to you, has had repercussions far beyond what I ever imagined it could.”

When a reporter suggested that there is no hope for humanity amidst the numerous global crises, including war, famine, and disease threatening global peace, Tom responded: “Well, first of all, I disagree with you there’s no hope. I would say, though, to not be so… the one option that I might suggest is to not be so wrapped up in being pure that it stops you from acting. If you drink a Pepsi, you’re not going to hell because you’ve supported some corporation. What is important to do, change comes from below — real meaningful change comes from below. It always has. People organize, and the world changes. These are really difficult times that we’re in.

“The planet has been in difficult times before — sometimes as dire as, or more dire than this,” he continued. “And when it has come out on the right side of history, it’s because people just like you, even in times when they could despair, didn’t despair. That’s how the world changes. This is a dire historical moment, but it is not a unique historical moment. And the way I look at it, I’m stuck being a guitar player. I’m cursed. It’s my calling. I didn’t choose it; it chose me. So now I’ve gotta find some way to win to bend this weird hobby that I picked up as a teenager and try to change the f**king world with it. And it’s not easy, but wherever you are and whatever your job is, whatever your life is, whether it’s standing up to illegitimate authority in your home, your place of work, your school, your country, or whatever, like I said before, history is not something that happens. It’s something that we make. So I would encourage you and your listeners, or whatever, to not despair — to act.”