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Tom Morello Breaks Silence on Rage Against the Machine’s Halted Tour

“Rage Against the Machine is like the ring in Lord of the Rings,” the guitarist says. “It drives men mad. It drives journalists mad. It drives record-industry people mad.”

Tom Morello Breaks Silence on Rage Against the Machine's Halted Tour

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Rage Against the Machine were just two shows into their 2022 Public Service Announcement Tour reunion tour when frontman Zack de la Rocha tore his Achilles tendon during a frenetic rendition of “Bullet in the Head.” He managed to soldier through the rest of the North American leg by sitting on a road case in the center of the stage, but they wound up canceling the remainder of the tour so he could properly heal.

“I hate cancelling shows,” de la Rocha wrote in an October 2022 letter to fans. “I hate disappointing our fans. You have all waited so patiently to see us and that is never lost on me…I hope to see you very soon.”

Fans have heard virtually nothing more from the band in the five months since de la Rocha posted that letter, even when the group was nominated once again for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in February. But guitarist Tom Morello phoned up Rolling Stone to talk about the aborted tour, the Hall of Fame, his future solo plans, and the murky future of Rage Against the Machine. If you’re looking for a definitive statement about that, you’re not going to get it. But we did everything possible to pin him down.

Where are you calling from?
I’m at home in my studio. I’m working on new, exciting music of my own. It’s been a very fruitful period. I’ve been very inspired by my 11-year-old son. I’ve been relegated to being the rhythm guitar player in my family now because my 11-year-old can shred circles around me. I’ve been inspired by him. He’s been writing some riffs, and I’ve been writing some riffs. It’s been fun.

Let’s start with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Voting ends next month. How do you feel about where things stand?
Well, I’m a big proponent of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I like the idea there’s somewhere on the planet that celebrates music. This is Rage Against the Machine’s fifth nomination for the Hall of Fame. The thing I share, with many fans of many bands, is that if the rock hall is going to be inducting artists of so many diverse genres, there are a lot of artists from multiple genres that deserve to get in.

It would be a great place to be. I certainly think Rage Against the Machine, among a lot of other bands, deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I imagine it’s taken so many ballots since there’s a fair amount of older voters. Some of them probably aren’t used to elements of hip-hop in rock, and many of them probably simply don’t know your music since Rage didn’t have actual Top 40 singles they would have heard on mainstream radio.
I won’t speculate. I do know there’s a funny mix of people that do the voting. It’s people that are already in. There’s an age component. There’s a leaning mainstream component as well. I think that Willie Nelson deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and artists from various genres do as well. If you saw any of the Rage Against the Machine shows last summer, you’d be hard-pressed to make an argument against us.

How was that tour from your perspective?
It was great. Having not played shows with the band in 11 years, you just don’t know what it’s going to be. I knew pretty early on in rehearsal that we were going to sound fuckin’ great. But what is the audience going to be? Will it be dads in Dockers with cellphones out? [Laughs] There’s no knowing. The crowds were feral. The band had never played better. We’d never sounded better. It was a reaffirmation of the power of Rage Against the Machine, and the transcendence of Rage Against the Machine as a live act.