As both the Nightwatchman and guitarist for his new-old band, Rage Against the Machine (not to mention his old-old band, Audioslave), Tom Morello has made a name for himself by coaxing otherworldly sounds from his axes. As it turns out, he’s more than just a sonic craftsman; he’s also something of a budding designer. During a recent conversation, the Harvard-educated guitarist shared a story about one of his most memorable creations.

“It was during the recording of the last Audioslave  album, Revelations. Our producer, Brendan O’Brien, brought a plethora of guitars to the studio. Usually I try to find that one orphan guitar to use, because a lot of times, that’s the guitar you’re going to be able to get some music out of. One day I found this Les Paul sitting in the corner-and I love Les Pauls, of course, absolutely adore them-but the weird and shocking thing was, somebody had painted this hideous, screaming orange beer logo on it. I don’t know if that’s the way Brendan got it, and I certainly have no idea what would have possessed somebody to deface a beautiful instrument in such a horrible way. I mean, a beer logo on a Les Paul? It just isn’t done.

Anyway, it was a late night in the studio, and Brendan and everybody were sitting around playing that shooting game, Halo, so work for the day was basically finished. Something was bugging me about that guitar, though. I felt sorry for it. I wanted to use it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to play it with that beer logo. I tried scraping it off-no dice. 

So I decided to get serious and a little inventive about the matter. I went into the parking lot with the guitar and a lighter, and I set the enamel of the guitar on fire. I was surprised that it burnt very slowly. So there I am, having a fine time, watching this beer logo burn, and after a while it didn't look so bad anymore. Then I took some steel wool to it, sanded it down, and it looked beautiful. And I’ll tell you something: The guitar played and sounded awesome! I wound up using it all over the album.

Now, I’m not advising the kids of America to take lighters to their guitars. That’s only exclusive to Jimi Hendrix and myself. Of course, Jimi never had a guitar with a beer logo on it.”