In 2020 and then again this year, Tom Morello was supposed to be on tour with his bandmates in Rage Against The Machine for the first time in nine years. But when the pandemic forced the postponement of those endeavors (the tour is, for now, back on for 2022), Morello got busy on his next album, “The Atlas Underground Fire,” which will be released Oct. 15 via Mom + Pop Music.
The project’s first single is a cover of AC/DC’s classic “Highway To Hell,” featuring guest vocals from both Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Inspired by a visit to late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott’s grave, Morello performed the song live on a handful of occasions in 2014 when he was filling in on guitar with Springsteen and the E Street Band; Vedder was on an Australian solo tour at the same time and joined the group to sing the song twice at the urging of Springsteen.
“I began to wonder, what does the most ferocious version of this song sound like in 2021?,” Morello tells Variety exclusively. “I put together a pretty rocking demo with the producer Zakk Cervini and sent it over to Bruce and Eddie with my fingers crossed. This is what we got back: one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll songs of all time, sung by two of the greatest rock ’n’ roll singers of all time, and then I play a shredding guitar solo. Thank you and good night.”
During the pandemic, Morello was forced to make music without the in-person assistance of the engineers and producers who normally work with him in his L.A. home studio, Veritas. As such, he simply recorded his signature guitar riffs into the Voice Memos app on his iPhone and sent them off to collaborators such as country superstar Chris Stapleton, Damian Marley, Bring Me The Horizon, Phantogram, Mike Posner and Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén.
“This seemed like an outrageous idea but it led to a freedom in creativity, in that I could not overthink any of the guitar parts and just had to trust my instincts,” Morello says. “I have such limited technical ability — I can barely change a battery in a wah-wah pedal. Here I am basically having engineered the guitars on this record, just on my phone.”
“The Atlas Underground Fire” is the follow-up to Morello’s self-titled 2018 Atlas Underground debut album, which featured guest appearances by Killer Mike, Big Boi, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA, Marcus Mumford and Gary Clark Jr.
See is the track list for “The Atlas Underground Fire” below:
“Highway To Hell” featuring Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder
“Let’s Get the Party Started” featuring Bring Me The Horizon
“Driving To Texas” featuring Phantogram
“The War Inside” featuring Chris Stapleton
“Hold the Line” featuring grandson
“Naraka” featuring Mike Posner
“The Achilles List” featuring Damian Marley
“Night Witch” featuring phem
“Charmed I’m Sure” featuring Protohype
“Save Our Souls” featuring Dennis Lyxzén of Refused
“On the Shore of Eternity” featuring Sama’ Abdulhadi