Many of life’s biggest questions remain unanswered: What’s the meaning of life? How are the Giza pyramids so precise in measurement? Why does Tom Morello never cut the strings off the headstocks on his guitars? At long last, we have the answer to that last question, straight from the man himself.
The answer came as part of the Rage Against the Machine axeman’s 2021 appearance on The Howard Stern Show where the the legendary radio personality secured an answer to a longstanding question, as has been his knack throughout his decades on the air.
The short and long answer to it all basically boils down to the fact that those loose ends of strings just look really cool. The dilemma for Morello, however, was that the coolness had to be earned.
“By the way, why do you not cut your strings? Why do you always have your strings sticking out? I feel like it’s an accident,” asked Stern (transcription via Guitar World) after engaging Morello in conversation about his pre-Rage Against the Machine group Electric Sheep.
The guitarist clarified that the move was “no accident” and that he “didn’t cut the strings because I thought it looked cool.”
Other musicians in the area had a different opinion though and weren’t bashful about expressing their thoughts directly with Morello.
“I was shamed by a musician friend. He said, ‘Who do you think you are? Do you think you’re in the baddest band in town?’ I thought, ‘I’m definitely not,’ so I cut my strings,” he relayed. Certainly, this was before his band went on to pen the iconic line, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”
Eventually, there came a time in his life where he felt comfortable letting his strings hang out. “Years later, when I was in Rage Against the Machine, I was in the baddest band in town and so I let my strings go,” he beamed.