Interview | bass player Marco Mendoza
A Low Maintenance Guy
Bassist, singer, songwriter Marco Mendoza is a very busy guy with an impressive track record. He recorded albums with Bill Ward, Alias, John Sykes, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders, Blue Murder, Tommy Shaw, Ted Nugent, Soul SirkUS, Right Said Fred, The Dead Daisies and also shared the stage with many more. Most recently with Journey. On his recent solo tour Marco Mendoza visited The Netherlands and HeadBangers LifeStyle’s Raymond Helebrand caught up with him.
THE LEFTOVER SHOWS
Hello Marco, first of all I would like to thank you for your time. How is the ‘Take It To The Limit’ tour going so far? And do you still see a lot of restrictions because of the whole pandemic thing?
,,Actually these are the dates that are left from June 2020 because after that everything came to a stop. Slowly we see the numbers of shows rising again because people saw that we showed up for the gigs. A lot of venues are cancelling events and visitors do not buy the tickets because they don’t get refunds. Everybody is very skeptical.”
People are hungry for live music. They are going bananas.-Marco Mendoza
,,We decided to start in Spain, because Spain was a little more open and we just rolled the dice. We got fully vaccinated and tested and a month before we left they put restrictions on shows, so the number of tickets went down 50%. We showed up 2 or 3 days before the first gig and to our pleasant surprise venues opened up at 60/65%, which was great. So based on that we sold out. A few venues kept adding tickets, you know “breaking the law”, they simply said ‘screw it’. Luckily nobody got into trouble and we did some great shows. I flew the guys in [Kyle Hughes and Tommy C Gentry], we rehearsed there and it went just great. People are hungry for live music. They are going bananas.”
I have heard that live shows are now even more appreciated than before.
,,Yes absolutely. We went to Barcelona when they opened the capacity but they made the audience sit down. So we had more people but they were all sitting down. I happen to go out and want to have them to scream and yell and having a good time. The manager came in and started yelling at people because they did not sit down. Screaming “SIT DOWN, we are going to get into trouble!” That was one of those things that doesn’t work at a rock show. But all in all we had a great time and a great response. The guys are playing fantastic, I love the music we’re doing. Some of it is mine, from ‘Viva La Rock’. Its all great.”
A GOOD ADDICTION
Given the number of records on which you can be heard as an artist and the amount of shows you have done, I think it’s safe to say that you are a busy bee. What gives you the drive and energy to write new music and keep entertaining people, over and over again?
,,The bottom line is that when you love something so much, you can’t get enough. It’s simple as that. And then music goes in periods. You get really busy with touring and then you don’t and when you don’t, you start writing. It usually takes a couple of weeks and then I start making things happen again. I start digging and I can’t stay put, because music is so exciting. It’s like there are so many doors that just want to be opened. Every time I commit to do a solo album I discover new doors and I’m like ‘WOW’, very cool very cool. So, you can say I am addicted to it, but it is a good addiction.”
I turned out to be an alcoholic and a drug addict. When I got sober all that energy started focusing somewhere else.-Marco Mendoza
,,I am always very compulsive and obsessive about everything. It got me in a lot of trouble when I was younger. I turned out to be an alcoholic and a drug addict. When I got sober all that energy started focusing somewhere else. I love to work, I love to be moving forward. When I go out with my family, on a little vacation, my wife’s like ‘leave the phone at home, don’t turn it on, don’t do this, don’t do that’, but I just can’t!!! The other fact is, when I got sober I was in my late twenties. I lost valuable time and now at this point in my career there are a lot of things coming my way, so I’m like yes, yes, yes we will worry about the rest later.
Sometimes I do overstretch myself, but it is what it is. We did too many gigs in a row which is physically heavy but at the end of the day it’s all about the show and the people who bought the ticket. That’s what matters. So the short answer to your question would be, I am addicted to it.”
FAILURE AND COMMITMENT
The music you make [are involved with] always has a certain funky, almost danceable signature. How did it develop? Have you ever followed musical education or are you self taught?
,,I’m pretty much a self taught musician. I have had a few opportunities where I had to study. The bigger the jobs, the more reading is involved. You just have to deliver if you commit to a job. It took years and years of doing something and you fail and learn by doing it again and again. Along the way, from playing all these different genres, you pick up bits and pieces and then you will find your voice or style. It is from years and years of playing, that’s just how it is. If you do anything, you develop a skill that is only yours. Unique. I am sure you have done quite a few interviews and you also start to develop a certain style. I have done, without exaggerating a thousand interviews and they are all different.’’
That’s also the beauty of it, I’d say.
,,Yeah, sometimes in the old days, I mean 10/15 years ago, we did 20 interviews a day and of course they come from all the magazines. All the journalists gathered in one place, which is not my favorite thing. You started a 9 AM, and after a while the questions started repeating themselves, because there are only so many questions you can ask. Then the answers started to be like ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Yes’, ‘maybe’, but it is part of the business. I am still flattered and blown away that anybody is interested in talking to me. I just find that cool you know, I am flattered.’’
SHARING THE MUSIC
Throughout your career you have worked with a lot of people in the music industry. Bill Ward, various times with John Sykes, a stint with Ted Nugent, George Lynch, Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders, David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, Journey’s Neal Schon and the list goes on and on and on. You must be a very happy person, with a CV like that. Are there more additions/collaborations coming up in the near future or do you stick to your solo work for now?
,,All of these people were way beyond my expectations. When you are a little kid, in a garage playing with your little brother and got a little band and you are learning and playing C.C.R. you can’t imagine that twenty something years later you’re going to be on stage with these guys. When you got the albums and put the needle down and think wow AMAZING. You can’t even dream like that. I couldn’t. I am sure there are exceptions, but I couldn’t. So totally blown away. All I know is, that music grabbed me, my heart, my imagination, my attention and I dug in. I am just a big fan of music, performing and getting in the studio and start rehearsing/recording with other musicians. It’s a form of conversation.”
THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
,,Everybody that you mentioned blew me away when they called me. I was like “WOW”………….”wow”….. and excited like a little kid, jumping up and down and saying yeah yeah yeah. And then I had to be cool, take care of business at the same time. I take pride in my work and I think that’s what happened. I got sober, stopped getting in trouble and got focused. It is very important to respect the music, the fans, the stage and always deliver the best you can. That word gets around, and I am a pretty simple man, I’m really low maintenance. Put me out there, two or three guys to play with, we rehearse and that’s it. Nothing complicated.”
I know my poop stinks, just like from the rest of us so I choose to be very grounded, very simple.-Marco Mendoza
,,There are people in the business that demand things and I understand that they do that for their ego, to feel better about themselves, but I am like just being grateful to be doing music after 85 years [laughing]. I am still doing this and people call me to do gigs and I am like, ‘wow’, so I am very grateful. I call it ‘the attitude of gratitude’. I know my poop stinks, just like from the rest of us so I choose to be very grounded, very simple. It’s all about sharing the music, that’s the mission here. What you give is what you get.”
Can we expect a follow up record for the amazing 2018 ‘Viva La Rock’ album soon?
,,We have a new album in play, yes. It’s an album that was supposed to be ready and delivered already in 2020. But we don’t need to talk about what happened. We did our best to finish it when we could, we tried to put it out in February this year but couldn’t do it. In September of last year I went to LAX, the airport, got vaccinated, had everything in place but they would not let me get on a plane. So it has happened three times and finally this year June I made it to Copenhagen (DK). Once we started writing stuff in the studio it was like bam bam bam. We had so many ideas, so I went in to do a new album and I am excited. I’ve been hearing some mixes and without bragging, these are great songs with great lyrics. I think the writing on my end is getting better and better. The production is amazing and I have a great guitar player [Tommy].”
,,I am excited, but there is a business side to it all and that’s where I am not too happy about. We need to be careful when we release it, so we can tour and book some dates to support it. When I am tight up with other things I won’t be able to do that. When it gets released, it will be good for a couple of months and then it will just disappear. That’s how it is. When you support it by playing live it will stay alive. So that’s my big dilemma right now; to find the right time to put it out there. The label said something about June 2022 and I was like “Jesus, another year!!”. Why not April, or spring so that I can book the festivals? Because in 2020 I got invited to a ton of festivals and they did not happen. If we are late, all the festivals will be full, if they are not already. So hopefully it will be released sooner.”
You recently jumped in for a few Journey shows. How did that come about?
,,Years back I worked on a project with Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo called Soul SirkUS and that’s when we met. Since then he [Neal] has been calling me to do bass work for every project that he is doing, I am one of the go to guys. There’s a lot of people that he calls, but I am one of them. They had these dates scheduled and Randy [Jackson] couldn’t do them. I was in Copenhagen when he called and he said: ‘What’s going on, where are you?’ And I said ‘I’m in Copenhagen but will be at home in 2 days’. He asked me to call him when I got home, which I did. He said that they had a couple of shows and Randy was not able to make it and he asked me if I wanted to do it. That simple.”
I don’t want to talk about money, hotels, agreements. So the Journey gigs were easy to do for me.-Marco Mendoza
,,So we were in Chicago doing a 5000 seater. We did La Palooza, it’s a 120.000 people and then we did Central Park, that was on CNN television with 100 million viewers. Insane stuff and now I am here again doing my own stuff. Actually this is a bit more challenging to be honest, because it is my band. I am fronting, I am singing and take care of the business. Too much sometimes, to be honest with you. A lot of things to care for like flights, hotels, rehearsals, shows. Right now I do not have a manager and it sometimes is hard to keep all the balls in the air. Because the side of me that wants to have fun, the kid that just wants to play music always competes with the business side. I don’t want to talk about money, hotels, agreements. It is hard, but you got to do it. It takes away from the excitement for me. So the Journey gigs were easy to do for me.”
THE DEAD DAISIES
You have had quite a decent run with The Dead Daisies. And although that band was first designed as kind of a project, you have been a constant factor for years. Also putting a big stamp on the music, shows and evolution of the Daisies. How did the sudden break happen?
,,It’s pretty simple and there is no bad blood at all, with anybody. We were working so much, so hard. An album a year, one year we put out two albums and all the touring behind it. We sometimes did 3 shows a day, because we had a private plane we were around the globe literally. It got to the point where John Corabi said: ‘guys, I need a break’, three to six months just off, which is logical. I agreed with him. From the business side we were saturating the market and needed to lay back a little bit and then come back. But we were very ambitious at the same time and we had a nice thing going. We were also like, we want more and more, like we were talking about earlier on. John said he just couldn’t do it, so we knew that was going on.”
YEAH! THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN
,,In 2019, because I didn’t tour to promote my solo album, I opened doors and my agent started booking shows. I had a lot of gigs, I was happy because I played my music, was doing shows. It’s all good. So it did not bother me, I wasn’t at home waiting for that phone to ring. In April the management started looking for singers and we talked to some heavy ones. A month later I received a call from David [Lowy] and the manager saying there was a chance to meet with Glenn Hughes. They wanted me as the bass player and him just to sing. I was like ‘yeah, that’s not going to happen’ because I know Glenn, and I am a fan and a friend. He is amazing. I said they needed to move forward, regardless. Mind you, I was doing a lot of gigs, I was really happy, had opened that solo door and I was getting invited in 2020 festivals and decided to go for that. They got together in June or July with Glenn because they wanted to feel what the vibe was like and it was great. When they went into the studio the announcement was made that John and I were out and that’s it. It was that simple. Nothing bad, it was just time to move along.”
To me, being a fan of the music, it felt like someone ripped the heart out of the band, because you and John were also heavily involved in the writing of the songs for the band.
,,Yes, I was going to say it. The feel with Glenn… look he is amazing, he’s got the track record, he’s Hughes, he developed a sound, he is the voice of rock, a great bass player and Glenn is going to be Glenn wherever he comes. You have to love that, because this is something we all strive for. I was there with the Daisies from the beginning and ‘Revolución’ is my favorite album and the track ,,Face I Love” from the 2014 EP, is my personal favorite song, because that was, wow. We got together and it was like magic. Like bam bam bam, one day in the studio so it sounds very raw. With ‘Revolución’ we took our time to write , produce, but ,,Face I Love’’ is like what you hear is what you get. It was a lot of fun, because there was no pressure and nobody expected something from it. It was a great run!”
Who are the biggest influences for you as a musician/songwriter/performer?
,,I started with Creedence Clearwater Revival with John Fogerty, and then I got into Cream. Regarding bass players I must say Jack Bruce, Tim Bogert, Greg Lake [Emerson Lake and Palmer] were a big listen and Chris Squire [Yes]. But I have to say, before that, without knowing it was Paul McCartney, the Beatles influenced me in such a big way.”
As a songwriter or as a bass player?
,,I don’t even know, just the music. It was like, I used to grab a broom and pretend and learn the notes by ear, like a lot of kids. Later on, if you get better at your instrument, you start wanting more and more. You keep growing. You hear Tony Levin and then you hear someone going bananas like Billy Sheehan. Guys who are doing amazing stuff that inspires you. Stanley Clarke, back in the day and then Jaco Pastorius, an AMAZING bass player. So, to this day fretless is my passion.”
THE CRAFT OF SONGWRITING
Do you still have personal goals/ dreams in life you want to fulfill, or maybe easier musical goals?
,,Yes, all of it. I want to become the best human being I can and as a musician I want to keep growing as a singer and a bass player. To come up with the best songs possible. For me the songwriting was put in the back for years, because I was busy with huge bands. The writing was something I did on the side and now in the past 10 years it keeps coming and I hear that I am improving. Sometimes I even surprise myself with cool lyrics that seem to come from nowhere. You just start getting better and better at it. It’s a craft. I’d like to pursue the songwriting thing more and with this next album, it’s obvious that it’s growing. I like to play the piano and also compose on it. I have quite a few songs on the piano, but for now we’ve been focusing on the rock thing.”
IT CAME AND IT WENT
Is it also a thing that you must be able to label music?
,,You kind of have to. With ‘Casa Mendoza’, which is all over the place, very eclectic, the label did not know what to do with it. They were calling magazines and journalists that mostly cover one genre and they were stuck, so it came and it went. But naturally those influences also show in the rock songs. Bottom line, if it comes from the heart, if it makes your heart dance, other people will dance. Nothing complicated about it.”
I’m really trying to make things work for next year. The album is ready!!-Marco Mendoza
Every time you manage to surprise the fans by appearing in some great band. Do you currently have something planned that you officially can’t tell yet?
,,It’s my own thing until the end of November. That’s all I can say and then we are looking at next year. If we release the new album earlier, we will be able to get on the festivals. If we release it too late, all the spots will be booked. So then I would have to wait till 2023 and I don’t really want to wait any longer. I already lost these festivals in 2020 and I’m really trying to make things work for next year. The album is ready!! It can be delivered in 2 weeks, mixed and mastered plus we have two video’s ready to drop, one is ,,Take It To The Limit’’, which I want to do before the album release.”
I would like to thank you for your time and do you have a personal message for our readers?
,,My pleasure man, “live and let die” hahah. I don’t know if you really find the time to find out what makes you happy and you pursue that, life will be wonderful. Very simple stuff.”
Marco Mendoza is a recording and touring artist and a true dynamic live performer. He can cover just about any musical style from jazz, fusion, world music, Latin groove to all out hard rock. He worked with big names like Journey, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent and The Dead Daisies but Marco also works on a solo career.
Rock, Rock 'N Roll, Jazz, Fusion