The new sound of rock guitars

By Sergio Ariza

In 1992, when the debut album of Rage Against The Machine appeared, the world saw that rap and metal mixed perfectly, as they had seen a couple of years earlier with Public Enemy and Anthrax. Furthermore, throw in the fact that Tom Morello took the electric guitar sound a step further, just as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen had done before, producing a unique sound that would be a big influence, mixing powerful riffs, reminiscent of Black Sabbath, with feedback more in line with alternative music, a funky style and the characteristic ‘scratching’ with which he made his guitar sound like a bomb, a police siren or whatever else he had in mind. 

Rock got a fresh start with a totally original sound and a big part of this was due to Morello, one of the last  original 6-string guitarists. To get this particular sound, the man who would eventually found Audioslave with Chris Cornell, used all kinds of effect pedals such as A Dunlop Cry Baby, a DigiTech WH-1 Whammy, a Boss DD-2 Digital Delay and a DOD EQ pedal, all run through 2 of his favourites guitars at the time, the famous Arm the Homeless, a Mongrel made to measure by Performance Guitar USA that he bought in 1986 and ended up changing it almost all around; leaving the main body of a Stratocaster, with the line Arm the Homeless painted on it, and adding dozens of other pieces from other guitars.  His other favourite guitar on the record was a Telecaster from ‘82 with the name of the Peruvian terrorist group Sendero Luminoso painted on the body, which he played on songs with Drop-D tuning like Wake Up.  

Musically speaking, Rage Against The Machine sounded as if the lovers of classic rock, like Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page, had been raised on ‘It takes a nation of millions to hold us back’ by Public Enemy as their first influence, combining heavy and funk and turning out a completely new sound. It was incendiary music that fit perfectly with the iconic album cover showing a Tibetan monk immolating himself. 

To round off a winning formula they had to add the unstoppable rhythm section made up of bassman Timmy C. and drummer Brad Wilk , one Zach de le Rocha (a singer halfway between Chuck D and Peter Tosh) who would spit his libertarian anti-capitalist slogans that, as good agitprop slogans go, stuck in the listeners’ minds, and there was  nothing else for them to do but fall in worship before Killing in the Name, Bullet in the Head, Bombtrack, Wake Up and Know Your Enemy

(Images: ©CordonPress)