Tom Morello on collaborating with his son on his first solo rock album

Tom Morello on collaborating with his son on his first solo rock album

Tom Morello has caught up with NME at Download 2024, and opened up about his forthcoming single ‘Soldier In The Army Of Love’.

The guitarist – who has also been a part of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Prophets of Rage and more – caught up with us backstage at this year’s edition of the Donington festival to discuss his latest ventures.

It comes just days after he announced ‘Soldier In The Army Of Love’, the forthcoming first single from his first-ever solo rock album. Set for release on June 28, the track sees the metal icon join forces with his 13-year-old son Roman, and channel the rock in its purest form.

Shortly before taking to the Opus Stage on Saturday (June 15), Morello also performed an intimate last-minute gig at the historic Electric Ballroom venue in Camden, where he celebrated the news of new material with a career-spanning set including hits from across his discography.

“It was an electric affair. It’s such a historic ballroom and I think we put one on the books there,” he told us. “It was really awesome, playing songs from across a 22-album career. We had tracks from Rage [Against the Machine], Audioslave, Prophets of Rage, The Nightwatchman, ‘Atlas Underground’, Bruce Springsteen… The roof came off the place. It was a pretty special night.”

In the interview below, he opens up to us about what it was like to collaborate with his son on the new track, the difference between being a solo artist and working in a band, and what he thinks makes a protest song great.

 Tom Morello performs on stage
Tom Morello performs on stage. CREDIT: Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images

NME: Hi Tom, what’s it like to be here today?

Tom Morello: “Here at Download today it is metal, it is muddy and it is magnificent.”

Tell us about your upcoming song, ‘Soldier In The Army Of Love’.

“So my new single, ‘Soldier In The Army Of Love’ is the first song from what will be my first ever solo rock album. It’s a collaboration with my 13-year-old son, Roman. During the pandemic, while the rest of us were baking bread and trying to learn a language, he was practising guitar for eight hours a day. I’ve been relegated to being the rhythm guitar player in my family as I have a shredding prodigy now who’s really giving me a run for my money. One day I was walking by his room and these huge drop-D riffs were coming out of there and I said ‘What’s that’ and he said ‘Oh, I’ve just been working on some riffs, do you think these go well together?’. I was like ‘Son. Those go very well together and we’re about to write our first song together.’

“So ‘Soldier In The Army Of Love’ is about the redemptive power of rock and roll. It’s got huge Morello riffs from multi-generations and a shredding guitar solo where you have to guess which one of us played.”

It must be great to see him putting so much time into it. 

“Yeah, he’s been putting in those hours! I didn’t start playing until I was 17 so it’s weird to see a little kid with that sort of facility on the instrument. I think a lot of kids are out there being DJs or influencers or whatnot, but he’s doing it the old-school way, practising for hours and hours a day to become a really great guitar player and he’s already there.

“When I was learning there wasn’t anything like access to YouTube, which really shortens the time. I’ll come home and he’ll be learning these complicated Al Di Meola flamenco solos in an afternoon, which would have taken me a year by taking the needle and putting it back on the record again and again. Above all else, it’s just inspiring. I’m so proud to have a guitar player there who may be giving me a run for my money.”

Why was now the right time for your first solo rock album?

“Often in the past I’ve had a real preconceived notion of the album that I wanted to make, whether it was a group album with Rage, Audioslave or Prophets of Rage, a folk album with The Night Watchmen or a collaborative record with Atlas Underworld. With this, I didn’t have a preconceived notion, I was just letting the music lead the way and the songs that I was writing with Roman were like heavy rock songs.

“It felt like it was time for me to make this album. I’ve made rock records that were hip-hop, rock records that were alternative, rock records that had an EDM influence, but this is the first straight-up rock and roll record with my name on it.”

 Tom Morello performs onstage in 2024
Tom Morello performs onstage in 2024. CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

What are your favourite protest songs of all time?

“Off the top of my head, some of my favourites would be ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon — I stopped by Abbey Road yesterday so that’s on my mind — ‘Biko’ by Peter Gabriel, ‘Fight The Power’ by Public Enemy. There are also probably a few Rage Against The Machine Songs that make the list too…

“The first thing that makes a great protest song is that it’s a great song. Nobody wants to hear a college lecture with a beat to it, there has to be an artistry there and an authenticity and a power and a chemistry behind it. All of those songs have that.”

What’s the biggest difference between working as a solo artist compared to being in a band?

“I’ve done a number of solo records before, but I love the idea of being in a band because what you get out of being in a band is chemistry. Together you create something that none of you could create alone. What you get out of being a solo artist is purity and being able to create something that no one else would be able to create. With making this record, I love the idea of steering it where I want it to go. It’s the same with the shows too… we want to curate an experience — not just riffs and guitar solos, but something that is a holistic presentation of rock and roll in its highest and bloodiest level.”

What does the future look like for you?

“The immediate future is rocking the shit out of Download. I’m an overthinker when it comes to setlist and stuff and with Rage and Audioslave we never got to play as much as I wanted to in the UK, so the audiences here are going to be well-serviced.

“I got another month-and-a-half on the road across Europe and I’m looking forward to rocking for people all over. Then after that, I’m going home to finish this record.”

Pre-save ‘Solider In The Army Of Love’ here.

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