Tom Morello is something of a sonic architect. Millions will have heard his otherworldly guitar parts in Rage Against the Machine and wondered just what was going on. Some of the most iconic RATM riffs don’t even sound like a guitar.
Morello always said he felt his place in the band was similar to that of a DJ. He was creating textures with the electric guitar, rather than sticking to the conventional guitar hero style of playing. Morello could shred with the best of them, but he preferred a more textured approach to playing.
He was able to create sounds with a guitar that you would not even recognise as a guitar, but what is most surprising is how simple his rig was. He created some unique sounds and textures with a fairly simple guitar rig made up of very affordable gear. A rig that, despite a few minor tweaks, he still uses to this day when touring the world.
It is easy to assume that Tom Morello would have been using a ton of pedals to create some of the sounds he utilised but the actual setup he used was fairly basic. His pedalboard was not as complex as you might have previously though. It proves that you don’t need lots of gear to be creative.
- Dunlop GCB95F Crybaby Wah
- Digitech Whammy WH-1
- Boss DD-2 Delay
- DOD FX408 EQ
- Ibanez DFL Flanger
Dunlop GCB95F Crybaby Wah
Tom Morellos wah pedal of choice is the Dunlop Crybaby. He uses the GCB95F model, not to be confused with super affordable GCB95 model. The GCB95F is still a very affordable wah, but it has an upgraded Fasel inductor for a slightly different wah sweep which makes it sound more like a vintage wah. These days the same model is known as the Crybaby Classic.
Morello used the wah on tracks like Bulls on Parade and Guerilla Radio.
Digitech Whammy WH-1
The Whammy is the essential Morello pedal. If you want to attempt any of his tones, this is the one essential thing you need. Morello favours the WH-1 version which are harder to find these days. The current one on the market is the v5 Whammy. v1 models occasional crop up on re-sale sites for inflated prices.
Morello used this pedal on songs like Killing in the Name (Check out the guitar solo), Know Your Enemy, Bullet In The Head and more. He changed between the octave up and down settings and various harmony settings depending on the song.
Boss DD-2 Delay
Tom Morello was using the Boss DD-2 for delay sounds on the first RATM album, later on he swapped for a DD-3 and these days he runs a pair of Boss Delay pedals both set to different lengths. Tom would alternate between a short and long delay setting depending on what song he was playing.
DOD FX408 EQ
The DOD FX408 EQ pedal was used as a lead boost. Tom kept the EQ faders all flat but with a slight dip on the 800Hz slider. He also used the level slider to boost the volume when the pedal is engaged.
Ibanez DFL Flanger
In the very early stages of the bands career, Tom used the Ibanez DFL Flanger for tracks such as Killing in the Name and Wake Up. The flanger was set to a slow sweep. The DFL Flanger is now discontinued and pretty hard to get hold of. In recent years, Tom has actually replaced this pedal with an MXR Phase 90 set to a slow sweep. While the Phase 90 does not give exactly the same effect, you can get pretty close.
There were two main guitars in Tom’s arsenal in 1992 as RATM burst onto the scene. Both guitars, much like the rest of his rig, are pretty standard and pretty affordable instruments.
Custom “Arm the Homeless” Guitar
This guitar was custom built for Tom in the 1980s from a guitar shop in Hollywood, but Tom was not happy with the original guitar that was presented to him. This was partly down to him choosing the cheapest build option the store offered. He took it upon himself to customise this guitar further and fitted a graphite neck, EMG pickups, a killswitch and an Ibanez Edge tremolo. This was Tom’s main standard tuned guitar for RATM.
Fender American Telecaster
For all the Drop D moments in the bands career, and everything Tom has subsequently worked on, he used an American Standard Telecaster. This was used for Killing in the Name Of. The guitar is a stock US Telecaster that he got from a room mate in exchange for an old Marshall head that he did not use.
Amplifiers and Cabinets
Marshall JCM800 2250
The main amp head for Morello’s tone, and the source of all his distortion, is the JCM800. Morello purchased the JCM800 cheaply to urgently replace some stolen equipment in 1988 and it has been his main amp for recording and touring ever since. The JCM800 is a two channel amp, but Morello only uses the overdrive channel. He gets all his cleaner tones by rolling back the guitar volume.
Peavey 4×12 Cabinet
The speaker cabinet that has been alongside Morello on stage since 1988 is a Peavey 4×12. This was purchased at the same time as his JCM800 from Nadines Music because it was the only 4×12 cabinet they had in store. The speaker cabinet is quite recognisable with a large picture of Che Guevara adorning the front.