The Nightwatchman prepares “Worldwide Rebel Songs”
(From Rolling Stone)
Eight years ago, when Tom Morello invented his Nightwatchman alter ego, he wanted “a clear line of demarcation.” He would sing political songs with an acoustic guitar; he would not do Rage Against the Machine-style skronky metal solos. Things change. “This isn’t your grandfather’s Nightwatchman,” he says with a grin, before cranking “It Begins Tonight,” a fist-pumping rocker with an insane solo.
“I figured I can play guitar like that, so I should,” Morello says, wearing a CBGB T-shirt and sipping Johnnie Walker Black in his Hollywood Hills home studio. For his third Nightwatchman album, Worldwide Rebel Songs (out in early 2011), he has recorded 15 tracks, some shredding, some strumming. The title tune was written for striking workers in a Korean guitar factory. Other sources of inspiration: embittered American soldiers in Iraq (“Stray Bullets”), a fantasy of Mexican drug cartels bent on societal overthrow rather than profit (“The Dogs of Tijuana”), the crowd-rallying power of his steel-string acoustic guitar (“Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine”). “Half the record is to be listened to at night, while you’re plotting revenge,” he says, “And the other half is to be played while you’re lighting the Molotov.”
Between touring with Rage Against the Machine and releasing a new Street Sweeper Social Club EP, Morello spent three weeks recording with his live band, the Freedom Fighter Orchestra. Ben Harper sat in for “Save the Hammer for the Man,” a duet about Morello’s favorite subject: “Politics, apocalypse/Start to look the same.” “I don’t have any qualifications as a singer, other than my sincerity,” he says, “But I’m dead serious about every single fucking word.”