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Tom Morello Guitar Lesson: How to Make Your Axe Sound Like a Turntable

If there’s one thing rock and metal fans can say about Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave / Street Sweeper Social Club guitarist Tom Morello, it’s that he has a signature, iconic style that’s headed for music’s history books. Few shredders can make a guitar mimic a turntable, but Morello does it with poise, confidence and ease. He’s back with a new band, Street Sweeper Social Club, which features The Coup vocalist Boots Riley throwing deft, thought-provoking rhymes over Morello’s hallmark riffage.

“When I first started playing guitar, all the other cool guitarists on the block had the Eddie Van Halen-style guitar,” Morello, dressed in jeans and a Clash t-shirt, told Noisecreep about his tried ‘n true style. “It had one knob, which was for the volume. I didn’t have that guitar. I had a guitar with a lot of knobs and switches. I had the ‘least cool’ guitar, so I had to find some application for this ‘not cool’ guitar.” Morello was incredibly modest about his DNA-distinct style, saying, “It’s not a particularly difficult application.”

But for all the aspiring guitarists reading at home, Morello offered a quick breakdown of his sound, so consider this like your personal lesson from a master. He said, “To make the ‘screechy scratch’ sound, turn the volume of one pick up to 10 and of the other pick up to 0. When you switch between pick ups, it acts as a killswitch, since one is off and one is on. Once you get that far, rub the palm of your hand along the strings, which is abrasive and makes a ‘white noise’ wash. Then use the toggle switch, which turns the white noise wash on and off… which sounds very much like a turntable scratch.” There’s plenty of that turntable-esque style on SSSC’s self-titled debut, which meshes riffs and rhymes in a fresh way that reminds listeners of the earliest days of Rage Against the Machine. Catch the band opening for Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction through June 12.

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