When Tom Morello starts a new band, I'm interested. After all the guy has been involved with acts such as Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, started a successful solo career under the moniker The Nightwatchman and has one of the most recognizable guitar sounds in the world. It's through Nightwatchman shows that he met Boots Riley from hiphop outfit The Coup. They got along well and felt like writing some music together. Before you know it, Street Sweeper Social Club was born and there was a self-titled debut full-length. Read on to see what Morello had to say about it. Oh yeah, live long and prosper!
PRT: I read that you and Boots first started playing together on 2003’s Tell Us The Truth tour where you invited him to join you onstage at Nightwatchman shows. So how did you go from performing acoustic songs together to forming a full-fledged rock act like Street Sweeper Social Club?
Tom: Boots and I played many times together at benefit shows and at protests and on tour in an acoustic environment. Through playing those shows with Boots I realized what a great lyricist and charismatic front man he is. When Audioslave broke up I called him up and made him an offer that he could not refuse and Street Sweeper Social Club was born.
PRT: You first called the band Street Sweeper. Why did you change the name to Street Sweeper Social Club?
Tom: For two reasons. One, were more than a band, we’re a social club. And two, to avoid litigation, as someone else owned the name Street Sweeper.
PRT: Did you pick the name to reflect both the aggression in the songs (Street Sweeper) and the call to act together (Social Club) or am I reading too much into it?
Tom: Well some people may not know that a street sweeper is an automatic shotgun. It’s basically a machine gun that fires shot gun sized shells and is the only weapon that the NRA is in favor of banning. Our music is our weapon and we intend to sweep the streets with it. As far as being a social club, that’s pretty self explanatory because our jams are revolutionary but they are also party jams.
PRT: One thing that keeps popping up when it comes SSSC is that the songs are anthems for the revolution. Do you still believe that a song can instigate people to act or are people just too preoccupied and desensitized?
Tom: I believe that any song has the potential to disrupt the social order. The right groove, the right hook, the right attitude can be the seed that flowers into dissent and rebellion. Let’s Rock.
PRT: So you don't agree with Neil Young when he says that ‘singing a song won’t change the world’.
Tom: Neil Young is wise in many matters in this instance he’s totally wrong. There have been quite a few songs that have absolutely changed my world and have helped give me the courage and fortitude to battle injustice on a local and international level. Protest music can steal the backbone of striking workers or rioting anarchists. It is the cultural underpinning of radical change and has been for more than a century.
PRT: It’s obvious to anyone that the songs are incendiary but there’s also a message of hope in them. Was it important to you that both of those things were present or is that just the way that Boots’ lyrics turned out?
Tom: Early in the recording process Boots called me up and asked me “What direction should the lyrics go? How should I approach these songs?” I replied simply, “Just be yourself.” Boots is a brilliant lyricist that turns stories of everyday reality into inspiring tales dripping with satire and venom.
PRT: You had already written all the songs, Boots wrote the lyrics… will it stay that way or do you think you’ll change that up in the future?
Tom: Nope. It will definitely stay that way.
PRT: You’re still doing Nightwatchman and Boots is still busy with The Coup… in what way does that make things difficult in terms of touring?
Tom: It doesn’t really we’re currently focused on Street Sweeper Social Club. Sometimes I will jet off to play a Nightwatchman show or Boots may be involved in a Coop show but Street Sweeper Social Club is definitely our focus.
PRT: Are there any plans to come to Europe?
Tom: We have had many requests from European fans to play there and we will definitely try to figure that out for 2010.
PRT: Little know fact… you did cameos in “Star Trek : Insurrection” and an episode of “Star Trek : Voyager”… are you secretly a Trekkie?
Tom: There’s no secret about the fact that I am a Trekkie. I always have been. I am now and I always will be. I’ve never tried to hide the fact and I’m somewhat insulted by the implication that being a Trekkie is something that one might want to keep secret. I fly my Star Trek banner and I fly it high.