Friday, 13 April 2012

Tom Morello on Limiting Yourself

In Blessed Are the Limited I wrote about the power of deliberately reducing your number of creative options, a point I revisited in Blessed Are The Mundane when I noted just how little gear (and coworkers) the Beatles had.

I've found supporting testimony from an unusual source on Graham Cochrane's excellent blog The Recording Revolution - Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello. 'Unusual' because Tom has a reputation for pushing new boundaries and creating new sounds on the electric guitar. And yet he's been using exactly the same guitar rig for over 20 years! He says

I’ve had the same rig since prior to Rage Against The Machine. It’s the same [amp] head. It’s the same cabinet. The newest piece of gear that I have on my board is a pedal that I got in 1991. There’s a sense of comfort in not worrying about gear anymore, I’m [now] going to worry about trying to get sounds and music out of the gear that I have.

In a Feb 2000 interview with Guitar One Magazine Tom said

In order for me to be able to let my musical imagination run to extremes, I like to have a lot of the variables, like gear, locked down. I like to know it's always going to be that amp [and] those effects pedals. It's always going to be these guitars as the cornerstones of the physical end of the music-making. Because that stuff is locked down in place, it allows me the freedom to explore ... just the thought of all that chaos caused by constantly bringing in new gear makes me nervous. 

Graham comments

We might find that it’s actually the gear... that we truly love. Writing and having songs to play and record simply are the fuel for our gear lust.

Whether 'gear lust' is our real motivation, or simply a giant distraction, it's good to take stock of what we actually need, reduce 'equipment drag' to the bare minimum and get back to writing songs!

Read Graham's full article here

Read more on limiting yourself creatively from Nicholas Tozier, Hugh MacLeod and Paul McGuinness
Check out more 'Be-atletudes'


  1. Brian Eno on the tyranny of too many options;

    As well;

    In modern recording one of the biggest problems is that you’re in a world of endless possibilities. So I try to close down possibilities early on. I limit choices. I confine people to a small area of manoeuvre. There’s a reason that guitar players invariably produce more interesting music than synthesizer players: you can go through the options on a guitar in about a minute, after that you have to start making aesthetic and stylistic decisions. This computer can contain a thousand synths, each with a thousand sounds. I try to provide constraints for people.

    —Brian Eno

  2. That's a really interesting article and a great quote Geordie - thank you so much - you might even see it on this blog at some point in the future!

  3. Yeah, Brian Eno always has something interesting to say.

  4. Jack White is also very much into limiting yourself (The White Stripes is a prime example). He's got a bunch of quotes on the matter, here's one that's related:

  5. Thanks for the link Phil - will check it out