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Guitarist Tom Morello Answers The Question: What Scares You?


The things that scare us sometimes reveal a lot about who we are. Member station WNYC recently asked people to list their biggest fears, and we've been sharing a few of them.

Today, we hear from Tom Morello. He was born to a Kenyan father and an American mother and raised outside of Chicago. He became famous as the guitarist for the band Rage Against the Machine. Here are some of his fears.


TOM MORELLO: Nooses. As a 13-year-old, there was a noose in my family's garage. You know, I was the only black kid in an all-white town. While it was, in some ways, this bucolic community with good schools and lots of fields, occasionally there'd be a noose in your garage. It was not the only noose. I saw three nooses growing up. It just made me feel that, you know, while I was sleeping last night, people crept up my driveway, quietly opened my garage door to send a message that they wanted to kill me or the members of my family...


MORELLO: ...That empathy is dead.

I grew up in Trump country, where the factories have closed down, where the employment options are Walmart or the Army or selling meth, where 1 out of every 4 houses on the street where my family grew up has gone back to nature, and they're looking for something different. And so when a demagogue steps forward and says, I've got the answers, like, we're all going to be winners, and the problems are brown-skinned people. Well, that certainly is clear.


MORELLO: That my children will be unsafe around the police. I've been put in handcuffs coming back from the bar walking to my mom's house of my hometown of Libertyville for walking while black. And so I've had to have the discussion already with my kids that while they could probably pass, you know, when you are around a police officer, there's no joking, and you just sort of get through that situation so that you can live a long and healthy life to confront injustice in other places.


MORELLO: The devil. I'm afraid of the devil. And I grew up - I grew up Catholic. And in Catholicism, like, the devil's, like, a dude with a pitchfork who's, you know - who you will meet and answer to.

I do really remember having a literal discussion with high school classmates about what of yourself you would forfeit in order to achieve fame or excellence or something like that. As a young guitar player, I thought, will I ever find myself having to sell my soul? But I really want to play guitar great. I started when I was 17. I'm kind of late. But I don't want to forfeit my soul. I mean, I was straight - I grew up straight Catholic. The devil was invoked early and often.


MARTIN: Guitarist Tom Morello. His latest solo album is called "The Atlas Underground." And that was an excerpt from the new podcast 10 Things That Scare Me. 10 Things That Scare Me comes from WNYC Studios. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.