Tom Morello

Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello Claps Back At Guitar Center’s CEO On “Serious Musicians” Needing More Expensive Guitars


Gabe Dalporto, who assumed the CEO position of American musical instrument retailer Guitar Center this past October, has found himself on the end of a clapback of sorts from Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, etc. guitarist Tom Morello. In an interview with Music Inc Magazine, Dalporto outlined a vision for the chain which will focus more on premium and high-end instruments and gear.

He was quoted as saying:

“If you want to experience musical instruments and start off or accelerate your journey as a musician, our customers and vendors need us. But in order to earn the right to be here, we need to evolve and execute better.”

“Somewhere along the way, we forgot who our core customer was. Our core customer is the serious musician – the gigging artist or passionate player where music is a big part of their identity. Over the years, we’ve evolved significantly into serving the beginner and entry-level customer – which is great – but if you walk through a GC store, you’re going to see an awful lot of $300 guitars.

We have some premium product, but we don’t have enough, and it’s very hard to experience our premium product because we have our best guitars locked on the top row where you can’t easily get to them.

So, if I’m a serious musician and I walk into a Guitar Center, it doesn’t feel like the right place for me anymore.”

Dalporto went on to clarify, that not only does he want more premium instruments and gear available in stores, he also wants it to be more accessible to the customer. He said his vision for the company in that regard means, “having a much more premium assortment that’s more easily accessible where [customers] can get in and grab a guitar and plug it in and try all these pedals and effects and just geek out and have a great time.”

Dalporto also has plans to modernize the company’s digital retail aspects too. It was the comments above though regarding “serious musicians”, which were picked up by Guitar World, that caught the attention of Morello.

Regarded as one of the most innovative guitarists of his generation, Morello‘s work with political rap metal firebrands Rage Against The Machine, and his focus on pushing the boundaries of guitar using analog techniques, earned him a legion of fans. Morello made clear that musicians needn’t pursue only premium instruments to make an impact on the world

Across their career Rage Against The Machine notched up 7 GRAMMY nominations, including two in 1997 for a pair of tracks from their acclaimed 3x multi-platinum sophomore album “Evil Empire“. While the band’s second biggest hit, “Bulls On Parade“, didn’t win Best Hard Rock Performance that year, the track “Tire Me did earn the band their first GRAMMY. It did so against stiff competition too, beating out Korn, Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie, Pantera, and White Zombie.

That GRAMMY win was obtained not solely with premium instruments, as Morello utilized a guitar he bought for $40 CAD at a pawn shop in Toronto, ON. Speaking on social media about it back April of 2021, he showed off both that instrument, and an equally inexpensive practice amp, each of which were used on “Tire Me“. He stated in that post:

“This guitar/amp combo was used to record “Tire Me” on @rageagainstthemachine’s Evil Empire album which came out 25 years ago last week. The guitar, which I’m not even sure is made out of wood (plywood?) cost 40 Canadian dollars at a Toronto pawn shop and the amp is a 20 watt solid state practice amp I had in my apartment. The song won our first Grammy.”

Upon reading the comments made by Dalporto and taking apparent offense to the snobbery of sorts towards cheaper instruments and gear, Morello took to social media today, April 27th, offering to respond on the matter. His reponse read as follows:

Rage Against The Machine won our first grammy for “Tire Me”, a song on which I played a guitar costing 40 Canadian dollars. Though admittedly I’ve never really considered myself a “serious” musician!”

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