Live from SXSW! Feat. Tom Morello (ep. 37)

March 14, 2019
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This week, At Liberty comes to you from Austin, TX, where we recorded in front of a live audience with Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, and The Nightwatchman. We sat down to discuss “Atlas Underground,” Morello’s new album of “social justice ghost stories,” as well as his decades of activism on issues like criminal justice reform, income inequality, unions, free speech, and mental health. Morello also announced his new role as an ambassador for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, a nationwide effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racism in the criminal system. Learn more about the Campaign for Smart Justice at www.aclu.org/smartjustice

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EMERSON SYKES
[0:04] Welcome to the ACLU 100 at South by Southwest. It's a great pleasure to be here with you for a live taping of At Liberty, the ACLU’s weekly podcast on the latest civil rights and civil liberties issues of the day.

Today, we couldn't be happier to have with us the one and only Tom Morello.

Thank you very much.

TOM MORELLO
Thank you very much. Happy to be here.

EMERSON
You know him from Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman, and from playing with Bruce Springsteen, Ben Harper, Boots Riley, and many many many more. You might also know him as your adversary in an epic guitar battle in Guitar Hero.

He dropped a new album last year called Atlas Underground with collaborations ranging from Big Boi to Marcus Mumford. Morello has been a lifelong activist addressing criminal justice reform, income inequality, unions, free speech, and mental health.

We'll talk today about his life, music, and activism over the last twenty-five-plus years and share some exciting news about his newest role in the movement. Tom Morello, welcome to the podcast.

TOM
Thank you very much. Hello everybody. What's up?

EMERSON
From this very stage last night you played an amazing concert. Thank you very much. And one moment was particularly striking. At one point you had projected on a screen behind you the phrase, “Every government is run by liars.” This phrase seem to capture something essential about your worldview. We've seen a new wave of activism as people respond to the current government and their policies. But I'm interested in your perspective as a veteran activist. Why did you feel it is important to share that message that every government is run by liars at this time and in this place?

TOM
[1:58] I worked as the scheduling secretary for United States Senator Alan Cranston for two years, so I got to see how the sausage was made from the inside. And despite the fact that Senator Cranston was a good dude and progressive on, on many issues, the fact that the office was entirely beholden to money and rich donors. My job on a daily basis was, we would run calls at a hotel or I’d get 10 rich dudes on the line and he'd work them all for as much as he could. Then I'd get 10 more on the line. And none of that money came for free.

One of things I've always admired about the ACLU is its nonpartisan pursuit of truth and justice. And you know I think there are many new supporters and in the course, over the course last two years, perhaps millions of new ACLU supporters and detractors that see it as a liberal anti-Trump organization without recognizing its history during the Obama administration of suing to curtail executive power, extrajudicial assassinations, and collecting information on civilians and things like that.

So anyway that's one the reasons why the ACLU I think is so fantastic and thank you for having me here today. But all governments -- that's an I.F. Stone quote by the way -- all governments are run by liars. I think it's absolutely true. Like, I have a tremendous amount of experience travelling the world and meeting with activist organizations on six continents, and their stories are very much the same -- that fighting the power means, at its core, a rejection of illegitimate authority.

EMERSON
Well it's really powerful and I guess it brings up the question of where the sort of seeds of your activism came from.

I know you've talked about growing up in Libertyville, Illinois as the only black kid in town. I had a similar experience, and my grandmother used to always describe me as the only raisin in the pound cake. So as a fellow only-raisin-in-the-pound-cake --

TOM
That’s a more poetic description than I was sometimes given in Libertyville.

EMERSON
What do you think the impact of being in that situation was? Did that affect or inform your activism?

TOM
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. People often ask like, how did I become politicized? It was not reading Noam Chomsky as, you know, as a freshman in the Ivy League. It was when I first, when my curly hair and brown skin first appeared at daycare and was met with some resistance.

[4:03] There literally was a daycare moment where, where there was this older kid who would beat me up regularly and use all the words that you might use on the only black kid in an all white town. And I came home one day and my mom was like, “Well what happened?” I finally sort of sobbingly told her my story. And I'm four and a half years old and my mom -- who’s white Irish Italian lady and the most radical member of the Morello family to this day.

She told me about a guy named Malcolm X. And she said that you have to stand up against bad things like that, injustice like that, whenever it rears its head. I was hoping that she would just call over to the daycare and sort it out, but instead she sent me back there. She like balled my little brown fist up and said tomorrow, if the person does the same, you're, you're gonna stand up to him. And I was like, that sounds horrible, did I tell you how big this kid is?

And she gave me some sort of pejorative term to say back, I had to memorize some sort of counter phrase -- cracker ass cracker, something. I'm not sure what it was. But anyway, so I go back there the next day, and the kid’s on me and I do exactly (to the best of my knowledge) what she said. This time, the difference was that day a scrum broke out in day care and it got the attention of the daycare provider and a few minutes later I got to stand smugly at the side of the sink while the young racist’s mouth was washed out with soap. And I thought, there's something to this Malcolm X stuff, and there's something to this Mary Morello stuff as well. So...

EMERSON
That’s fantastic.

TOM
That was my introduction to racial politics.

EMERSON
Well it seems in, throughout your career, that music and activism have been sort of so tightly intertwined it's hard to separate the two. And so what I'm hearing from you is that activism actually came first.

TOM
Yeah, it did.

EMERSON
And the music came a bit later.

TOM
Yeah. I mean, in high school I had a group of friends, around 16 we formed an underground paper at high school. We wanted to, we were all on the school paper, but we wanted to write articles about U.S. funded death squads in Central America, the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the fact that the dean of students was a dick. And they wanted us to just report on the prom and things like that.

[5:57] Now we were unable to have our full expression. And so en masse, we quit the paper and formed an underground paper. We got, you know -- as 16 and 17 year olds -- we got advertisements from the local Baskin Robbins and whatnot, and put out a newspaper that talked about the things in the world and in the school that we wanted to.

This was also my introduction to the ACLU because the administration said we couldn't pass it out on school property. So we called the Chicago ACLU and we said, and we said, “Can they do that?” And they're like, “No, and we’re gonna make a trip to Libertyville.” So we got to sit in the office with these school administrators and the ACLU representative. And the couple of 16 and 17 year old kids taught a civics lesson to Libertyville public high school. And our paper ran for three years, all of our time there. And it had seven times the circulation of the ridiculous official one. And it was all thanks to the ACLU. So...

EMERSON
That's fantastic. Thanks.

So when did music come into the picture? When did you fall in love with the guitar?

TOM
I was, I was a huge fan of music growing up. I had no older brothers or sisters, so I found music on my own. And it was suburban heavy metal music was what I was drawn to, it was bands like KISS and Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and Black Sabbath. And I got a guitar when I was 13. But those songs were, they felt that they were made by these kind of magical beings that had castles on Scottish lochs and and ten thousand dollar guitars. And I just had my mom's damp basement was really all I had, and a 50 dollar guitar.

Then I discovered punk rock music, and the idea that you could simply declare that you were a musician and you were. And within twenty four hours of listening to the Sex Pistols cassette, Never Mind The Bollocks, I marched into the Libertyville Drama Club and said, “A band is forming. A punk rock band is forming. I'm the guitar player. If you'd like to be in the band, raise your hand. No experience required.” And some of my friends raised their hands, and we were a band, and started writing songs that weekend. And that was when I started playing guitar.

EMERSON
And you've described Rage Against The Machine as a neo-Marxist multi-ethnic punk rap metal hybrid band.

TOM
[8:02] That's what it says on the business cards.

EMERSON
What it sounds like is that there was a very self-conscious decision. This didn't just happen to be the kind of band that you formed.

TOM
Yeah. Yeah. Well prior to Rage Against The Machine, I was in a band called Lock Up on Geffen Records. And when I moved to California, I had strong political ideas and sort of strong punk rock ideas, but I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be in magazines, heavy metal magazines I had read as a kid. So when I -- through a number of circumstances, I found myself in a signed band and I thought, Well, I've made it. So we did everything the record company asked us to do and we did everything the producer asked us to do, even it was counterintuitive to our artistic instincts and my political instincts sometimes. But I thought, well, I guess they're the experts and we need to sort of go along so that I can be on the cover of the magazines.

The band was not successful. We were summarily dropped. And at twenty-seven years old I had had my grab at the brass ring, and I had missed it. And so I made a solemn vow to myself. I said well, if I'm not going to be able to be a rock star, I'm going to just play music that I love and I believe in.

And it was that day that I started writing the riffs that became a part of the first Rage Against The Machine record.

EMERSON
Well this brings up another quote from a song that I think is my favorite off the new album. It's “How Long” with Steve Aoki and Tim McIlrath, and the quote that I wanted to highlight was, “With lights and sound, we drown them out.”

And I think this gets at some of the sort of marriage between being not just a musician but a rock star, specifically, and an activist. And you were on the WNYC podcast, “10 Things That Scare Me.” And one, I think number seven was that the lights and sound will drown out the message. So can you talk about the risk of trying to use, being a rock star, specifically?

TOM
[9:45] Sure. Sure. It's fraught with peril, being the activist rockstar. But I didn't choose to be a musician, that chose me. That was like a calling from above. So now I'm stuck, and it's my firm belief that whatever our vocation is, we should weave our convictions into it.

And so I put in my ten or twenty thousand hours practicing guitar, but I never wanted to leave my convictions behind. And so finding a path and a way to do that has been what my career has been about. What, one of things it can lead to, though, is if you're a rock band, you're doing it right, the music is going to be attractive to people across the political spectrum. That certainly was the case with Rage Against The Machine and, to a certain extent, with this Atlas Underground record. And my point of view was always… I grew up on KISS records and then found my way to The Clash and found my way to Howard Zinn. So I try not to be elitist in the venues we would play, the magazines that we would be in.

But at the same time, you will have a racist component to your audience. You will have a violent component. There's people that, who would behave in the audience towards women in a way that we have to stop the show, time and time again, and go, “This is not the show where that's okay. You can't do that here.” I understand when you hear aggressive music and the young woman is crowd surfing – it raises instinct, but you can never do that here. And so, in some ways the lights and sound can drown out the message, but the lights and sound have attracted a global audience, which you can expose to a set of ideas that is absent from much of the music that has that same aggressive impact. And that's your job as an artist – to curate a path for your audience and for your art.

EMERSON
Well along with the lights and the sound and the activism, another main feature that's been a through line throughout your career is the number of collaborations that you've done. And the importance of collaboration, that's especially highlighted on the new album, which is under your own name. It's your first album under your own name. But every track is with an amazing artist of a different kind. And I wonder how you sort of conceptualize the politics of those collaborations.

TOM
[11:50] Sure, sure. Well I've had the good fortune of playing with everyone from Pete Seeger to Metallica and to the Wu Tang Clan in my career. And have learned a lot from those experiences and brought them into my own work. In making this Atlas Underground record, which is a solo record, but it's a curated work with 20 artists of diverse genres. And the idea was to tell social justice ghost stories, ideas of martyrs and the fallen in social justice struggles, of the past to inform the struggles of the present, and hopefully light a sonic beacon towards a more just and humane future.

So then, that's the broad strokes idea and then you sit down with GZA and RZA and go, here are the broad strokes, what in that makes sense to you? And to them, it was the issue of police brutality. With Marcus Mumford, it was the idea of like, sort of IRA hunger strikers in the 80s. And sort of finding a tether between each of those artists and the broader picture, to bring an album’s worth of ideas to life in a number of different voices.

EMERSON
Well I read somewhere that you count among your friends folks like Kid Rock and Ted Nugent.
But I noted that they were not on this album. Was there…?

TOM
They'd be more than welcome to. Yeah yeah yeah. I grew up in a town that didn't, in a county -- Lake County, Illinois -- which didn't even run Democratic candidates, it was so archly conservative. And it’s Trump country through and through. And I've always been sort of empathetic and had been open-minded towards people of different political persuasions. And with, in the case of Kid Rock and Ted Nugent who are, I consider, good friends of mine. I think it's alright to have people that you disagree severely with on some issues but find common ground and humanity.

How Ted Nugent became a friend was, I didn't know him. And through, his people reached out -- it was either his fiftieth or sixtieth birthday -- and they said, we're compiling a video of notable musicians to give Ted Nugent birthday greetings. I was like, well I loved Stranglehold and Free for All as a kid, but he's become this kind of right wing caricature through the years. What could I possibly say to him on his sixtieth birthday? So I decided to come up with a list of things that Tom Morello and Ted Nugent have in common. And I made this video and he called me up and we laughed about it and have been friends since.

EMERSON
[13: 56] That’s great. I mean, one question that you can ask anybody who's had a career as long as yours is, how have you stayed so relevant over time? I mean, I've talked to my colleagues at the ACLU and some of them say, “Oh, my dad loves Rage Against The Machine,” where we also--

TOM
I’m getting more and more of that these days. It’s sobering.

EMERSON
But at the same time, we have we have colleagues who are fresh out of college who are saying, “Oh, that Atlas Underground album rocks.” So how do you think you've been able to stay relevant, not only musically but also politically over the decades?

TOM
I mean I've, I've, a lot of it has to do with making that vow, you know, when I was dropped from that, my first record company and said, “I'm never gonna play another note of music that I don't believe in my heart.” And everything I've been involved with -- whether it was Audioslave records that sold millions or Nightwatchman records that sold thousands -- from playing stadiums to playing anarchist bicycle shops with the same conviction. That's seems to have resonated in some way with people who like their art uncut.

EMERSON
Well have you noticed that your music or your activism has changed over time, or are you exactly the same guy you were when you made that vow?

TOM
The same North Star is there. That's for sure. There's no doubt about that, that the, unwavering commitment to combat injustice, you know, that -- when my mom gave me that speech when I was four, and that stuck with me. The unwavering commitment to stand up for the oppressed, the unwavering commitment to side with the poor, the unwavering commitment to speak truth to power, whether it's with a microphone or with a Marshall Stack, has remain unchanged.

What has changed is, you know, I’ve become a parent, and I have a 7 and 9 year old, so I have a certain amount of bandwidth and much of it is taken up coaching little league now. And I have fewer sort of civil disobedience arrests that I allow myself these days than I once did because there’s pickup and drop off at school and that's, you can't let those guys down.

EMERSON
I understand the trials that are pick up and drop off.

One other question I wanted to ask about the Atlas Underground is how you sort of conceptualize genre, because it seems like you're more of a sort of know-the-rules-and-then break-them type of guy. But I know that there are also a lot of artists who reject the whole idea of genre and don't even want to be put in any boxes.

So how do you approach reaching out to rappers and folk musicians and rock stars and pop artists?

TOM
[16:08] Yeah. It really began when, you know, Rage Against The Machine -- great band, but a band that was not particularly prolific. And we would take four or five years between records and often get long gaps in our touring. And I'm someone, like, if a studio door's open, I'm walking through it. If there's a show to be played for a cause, I'm doing it.

And often, and it led me to musical interactions with a pretty wide variety -- like the first two remixes I ever did were for KRS-One and the Indigo Girls. And it really made me think like, oh, there's a lot of possibilities of working with people and having artistic expression not tethered to one outlet. And through the years, you know, touring from, you know, with Billy Bragg and Steve Earle to to hip hop artists to country artists and always having a firm belief that there's no political litmus test for doing a good deed.

I would do these Mayday shows in Chicago and L.A. And I would call up my friends across the political spectrum. I was like, “We're doing this show for the unions and immigrants here. Can you sing Woody Guthrie's ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and shred a solo on this?” “Yes.” And then it opens those artists’ hearts and minds to a new set of ideas that they leave -- not only the audience rocked -- but perhaps with a different perspective.

EMERSON
Well in addition to your political North Star, which you say has been fixed, do you have a musical North Star?

TOM
The musical North Star, it really is twofold. One is, I grew up in the heavy-metal-gunslinger guitar-player-eighties, which is the thing that I think -- I was slightly older than other 90s guitarists, who rejected the idea of guitar solos and things like that. I loved, you know, Randi Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen and John Coltrane and Charlie Parker as expressive, creative, inventive, soloists. And I thought, well, you can bring that into -- why can't that be on an on a 90s record, like with Rage Against The Machine? And so that's, that’s one element of it.

The other is the experimental end of it. And I really found my voice on the instrument. In the earliest, I was a shredder before then and sounded like every other awful Guitar Center, 80-second-notes-per-second guy. But I self-identified as the deejay in the band, in Rage Against the Machine. And once, then, like the blinders came off, I'm like, well the electric guitar is a relatively new instrument on the planet, it's just a piece of wood with six wires and a few electronics. You need not play like Chuck Berry or Keith Richards or Eddie Van Halen. You just make some noise with it. If you play that noise four times in a row, it becomes the verse of a song. And I deconstructed the sonics of the guitar as the deejay in Rage Against the Machine. And the floodgates opened to a vast new world of sonic creativity, which it hasn't stopped to this day.

EMERSON
[18:39] You said Rage Against The Machine was not particularly prolific. But I think it's fair to say that you have been quite prolific in your music, but also in your activism. The range of issues that you've worked on is enormous: mental health, income inequality, label rights, racial justice and many more. I wonder, what's the goal when you speak out on these issues? Is it to inform and influence your fans? Is it to move public policy, public leaders? Where do you think you've had the most impact?

TOM
I mean it's really been a lifelong quest to justify playing guitar for all, you know? And like I said, I'm stuck doing that. And there's a, there's something deeply ingrained in the reptilian brain of humans in our DNA -- when rhythm and rhyme come together in the right way, it feels like the truth in the way that nothing else does. I mean if you were, if you were here last night you could taste it. That it's different from a lecture. It's different from painting. There’s something in the tribal gathering and this unity. And when you combine that sort of spiritual connection of a big group with meaning and intent and tether it to like, what is happening and what is wrong now and what could we possibly collectively do about it, it can be a lightning rod for change.

EMERSON
Well I guess this brings us to our big announcement, which is that Tom has just signed on to be our new artist ambassador for the ACLU’s Smart Justice campaign.

Thank you very much. Yes. And as you all know, and others might not know, the Smart Justice Campaign is an unprecedented multi-year effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent, and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

So I know the cause of criminal justice reform and Smart Justice has been central and close to your heart for a long time. But what made you decide to take up this new role now?

TOM
[20:35] Yeah well, I mean, it has been, not just a thread of my activist work, but it's been a part of my life. My mom was a public high school teacher in the town that I grew up. And one of her students at 17 committed a murder and was abandoned by family and everyone. And over the course of his 40-some years in jail, his one friend and advocate was my mom. And he remains a family friend to this day.

And I got to sort of see the process firsthand through his story, of how he had the wrong lawyer and made all the wrong decisions, and other prisoners who committed identical crimes were out 25 years before he was, and how a life could just be lost in a system -- in like a Kafka-esque way, just lost in the system.

And then, when I worked for Senator Cranston, one of the thrusts of the office was identifying, exposing racial injustice in the death penalty, in capital punishment. If you've got the capital, you don't get the punishment. And so that was something that was very important to me. The political prisoner issues as well, of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal in particular, were huge touchstones of the Rage Against The Machine activist work. And those two people have become friends of mine and I visited Mumia on death row when he was there. And getting to sort of see firsthand what the injustice of those unique situations that has broader national ramifications.

And then lastly, in my civil disobedience work, I've spent some time behind bars and I've eaten the food and seen what it's like. And fortunately, my time has always been very, very short because it's through these choreographed activist events. But it certainly has informed my ideas about reform of the criminal justice system. And it's an honor to be ACLU’s ambassador for Smart Justice and I hope to serve well with my rock.

EMERSON
[22:19] We look forward to it. And you mentioned when we were backstage last night that you've actually played shows in prison as well.

TOM
Yes. About 10 years ago, we did a thing called the Justice Tour where I would gather musicians, and in each city we would perform a show for a particular social justice cause. And then the next day, the artist who played the show would participate in some way in the cause.

And there's a great organization called Jail Guitar Doors that provides instruments to inmates as rehabilitation tools, and has dramatically impacted of the recidivism rate both in Billy Bragg's version of it in the UK and Wayne Kramer of the MC5's version of it in the United States.

So that was one of the stops on this tour, and we performed in Sing Sing Prison in upstate New York. And it was a tremendously eye opening thing where, getting to hear these men’s stories afterwards and how this, you know, this 90 minute afternoon was like the best day of their lives in 30 years. And also Wayne Kramer, who is a former convict who spent years in jail, spoke before that. And he's my bridge to that world and spoke in such a way -- like, I know Wayne is like a rocker, and he does good deeds, and we’re dads and whatnot, but he put on a different hat, you know, in front of a roomful of convicts. And in the ensuing years, witnessing his service and commitment to reforming the criminal justice system via rock and roll has been very inspiring to me.

And I am hopeful that we can find a myriad of ways in which I can help amplify the ACLU’s commitments to criminal justice reform and also the ACLU can help amplify the musical component to helping people on the inside.

EMERSON
Did the guards let them form a mosh pit?

TOM
We played Thin Lizzy's “Jailbreak,” and you could, you saw them like they're looking back, like, is it alright to stand up for this one? Turned out it was alright.

EMERSON
[24:08] They didn't, they didn't pre-approve the set list apparently.

TOM
No, they didn’t take a look at it. Next time they probably will.

EMERSON
Well, I guess one question for you is how do you describe your politics overall.

TOM
I don't like to be pinned. I like to be non-denominational, as my business card reads. But like I said, I think it has less to do with -isms, and more to do with who you stand up with and who you stand up for.

And like I said, my, that's always been crystal clear to me, and to try to have an unapologetic and an unwavering and a fearless -- just as I was told to be fearless in that day care. Like I try to do that whether it's with an audience member sort of molesting a fan or whether it's a government in Brazil who’s mistreating land rights workers. To be able to swing that hammer as hard as I can with music.

EMERSON
Well I know the listeners to the podcast can't see this but you're wearing an FC St. Pauli jersey right now which indicates--

TOM
Some of your listeners may know what that means.

EMERSON
--which indicates basically left of left politics, I think it's fair to say. And I think in the United States, we've seen a resurgence of this sort of left left, if I can say. But at the same time, we've also seen a resurgence of what you might call the right right. And as a lot of people calling for sort of a re-centering and a return to centrism, I suspect you will not be joining in those calls.

TOM
Well I mean, I think, I think that when you do see that... You know, there's so many votes cast for, recently for socialists and fascists in the United States that it is a rejection of business as usual, of politics as usual. Like I said, I come from Trump country and the pastoral street that the Morellos grew up on, four of the houses have gone back to nature. The opportunity for young people there is you join the army, you work at Wal-Mart, you become a stripper, or you sell meth. It’s the ultimate failure of neoliberal policies that have enriched the .001 percent and have sacrificed the working class. That's what it's about.

And it's easy for demagogues like Trump to blame Mexicans or Muslims for that, but the real issues are systemic.

And that is what I think is being revealed in people's rejection of accepting what they're spoon fed by the two political parties.

EMERSON
[26:15] Well you talked about the seeds of your activism in Libertyville and then you jumped to the, to your music career, but you skipped over your college career, which some people might know you spent in a school in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Harvard University. And I was struck by the idea of what would your Harvard classmates have thought of you now. Would they have expected that you would have become a rockstar activist or would they say, “That guy?”

TOM
Well, while I was majoring in political science, every night I was walking the hallways wearing my leopard print spandex and practicing in Yngwie Malmsteen solos. So there were some--

EMERSON
So it’s about right.

TOM
There was some, there was some markers.

No I was, like, I had the calling at 19. Not because I was particularly brilliant, but I was the first person from my town to ever apply to Harvard -- so I felt having been accepted, that it would have been sort of letting down my people to quit at 19 to go join a Chicago bar band. So I stuck it out and did my studies.

But at the same time, I had this commitment to rock and roll that was really was my second major.

EMERSON
Well it's not just a commitment to rock ‘n roll broadly, or to music broadly, but you are acknowledged as one of the greatest certainly living guitarists. So I wonder, how your pursuit of mastery of the craft also fit into? How did you have time to become the best?

TOM
Well having obsessive compulsive disorder is helpful in that regard. I started playing at 17 and I'd never heard of another guitar player who made albums. There's only one that I'd heard of that made albums that started that late and the one was Robert Johnson. And he had to sell his soul to the devil to do it. And I didn't want to have to make that trip to the crossroads. So instead I put in my 20 thousand hours while at the same time doing an honors concentration at an Ivy League university. It left precious little time for some of the regular college shenanigans that I see going on on 6th Street in the background here.

EMERSON
[28:02] It makes me question what I've been doing with my day so far. Well maybe we can close with looking forward to the next two years or so. You've had such an amazing career packed with so many different things. What are you most looking forward to?

TOM
Yeah. Well I mean this last night was the inaugural show of the Atlas Underground live thing, and partnering with ACLU to kick that off felt like very, very appropriate. Over the course the next 18 months, along with the ACLU, we're gonna be bringing shows of that intent and hopefully impact, not just across North America but around the world, and finding ways to amplify each other's social justice power from the stage and from the courtroom and from the streets in our working together.

EMERSON
Well maybe we can get you back on the podcast later on in the tour and see how it’s going.

TOM
See how it’s going. That sounds great.

EMERSON
And we can get to sharing stories about Kenya at that point.

TOM
Right on. Yeah. Cool. I look forward to it.

EMERSON
Thank you very much Tom Morello. We really appreciate you taking the time to join us.

TOM
Thanks so much to everyone out here. Thanks to everyone out in listening land. Take it easy, but take it.

EMERSON
Thanks to Tom for taking the time to speak with us today and thanks to all of you for coming. Please subscribe to the At Liberty podcast wherever you get your podcasts and look for new conversations in your feed every Thursday. Thank you. And peace.

To learn more about the ACLU’s Smart Justice campaign, go to www.aclu.org/smartjustice.

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