Marco Mendoza is quite a legend in the world of hard rock and heavy metal. He is a former member of both Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, two of my favorite bands of all time. In addition, he has appeared on many artists and bands recorded output; these are quite a diverse range of artists that include Dolores O’Riordan, former singer of the Cranberries, right through to rock legends Ted Nugent and Neal Schon.
Outside of his mainstream releases, Marco has also released several solo albums which illustrate a variety of styles and colors from his Latino roots. The latest series of solo dates to promote his new album, Viva la Rock, are already underway in the UK. I had the opportunity to chat with Marco again about the new solo album, the Dead Daisies, and his other recent musical endeavors.
Marco Mendoza: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Nonstop busy.
ANTIHERO: You’ve just got back from NAMM. I just wonder how NAMM is for a musician?
Marco Mendoza: It’s great, I mean it’s a time to network and talk to companies and look at new product. I always end up seeing a lot of friends that I don’t otherwise see, so it’s all good. It’s a great time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a great time.
ANTIHERO: Do you book a hotel? Are you there for the whole weekend?
Marco Mendoza: I live in the area, so I drive in, I stay there sometimes a night or two, and then I come home because I’ve been away from home, so I try to come home and be home as well.
ANTIHERO: What about with Journey? The Journey gigs that you’re doing with Gregg Rolie and the other guys? How did they come about, and secondly, how did they go?
Marco Mendoza: It was amazing, man. We’re just talking about possibly doing something in the future with it when we’re all available. It’s definitely something on the back burner, and I see it happening. I just don’t know when exactly, nobody does. It will be, you know, hopefully, it will be soon. I don’t know about this year, maybe next year.
I’ve worked with Neal. A lot of people don’t know this, but I’ve done three albums with Neal Schon, and on all three albums, Deen Castronovo was part of that project. So, we have a history. I’m like Neal’s go-to guy, one of them anyway, to get the bass work done. He calls me these days and keeps me in touch. Last October, we started talking. We were in Nashville working on the Dead Daisies album, and he called me and said, I want to give back, I want to do a benefit to raise funds for the fire victims of that California fire, would you be into participating? And I said, yes of course. It all depends on my schedule and all that. He worked it out where everybody was available, and the calls started going on, and then we put it together for February 9 which was when we played. It’s all good, man. It was last Friday.
ANTIHERO: How was the set? Did you do a mix of stuff, did you just focus on the Journey stuff?
Marco Mendoza: It went off … complete success. It was great. It was awesome. We did, well you know, I don’t know how far back you go, but Journey came out of the band Santana, right? And Santana, as you can imagine had big, big hits, big, big, big, massive hits. So, there was no way not to do any of that, so we did. The main focus was on the early Journey album. Look at the write-ups, man. People were really happy and content. It was really cool. Complete success. We managed to raise a few dollars for the benefit, you know?
ANTIHERO: That’s good. Is that obviously how you hooked up with Deen, how that connection was made before he joined the Daisies, then?
Marco Mendoza: Yeah, I’ve known Deen … Deen and I did a band called Soul SirkUS with Neal Schon. I don’t know if you ever heard about that.
ANTIHERO: I’ve heard of it, not familiar with the music, though.
Marco Mendoza: It’s a great, great, great, great album. Frontiers, look it up, Soul SirkUS.
But I knew about Deen, and we all knew each other, and we were running in the same circles. And like the business is, you end up working together inevitably. Sometimes you hook up, and we had a great time with that band. Great, great band. Unfortunately, everybody got busy and we had to move on. But you know, a great talent. Great drummer, great singer, great guy. I love that guy. He’s just a great human being, and so we were glad to be working, man. He’s a great singer, too. He kills it.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. Was he allowed to sing anything on the Daisies album, or was that solely John’s department?
Marco Mendoza: Yeah. Unfortunately, that’s what it is, it’s John’s department, and that’s what it is for now. I was hoping to be able to sing by now on the album, but we’ll see what happens in the future. That’s fine. I have my solo album, that’s my main focus which is why I need to do my solo stuff, so I can go out there and get my rocks off, and sing my songs and do all that and then come and spend some time with the Daisies.
ANTIHERO: What about your solo album? It’s your primary focus right now.
Marco Mendoza: I’m staying really busy. Right now, I’m excited. I start on the 16th in Germany with my Viva la Rock tour supporting the new album that comes out March 2, and the album is ready for presale. Pre-order it and check it out, and it’s getting some great reviews. I’m really happy and excited to go out there and face the music behind it, you know?
ANTIHERO: What about the musicians on that? Is that the same musicians on the album that you’re going to go out and tour with, or is it different?
Marco Mendoza: No, no, no. Unfortunately, no. Soren is tied up with Glenn Hughes and Mike Tramp, and all that. He’s got some studio production going on right now, so I won’t be able to have him, and the other guy is also really busy, so, I’m trying to at some point, maybe this year, I will have those guys with me. But right now, this is the only opportunity that I had to go out and play, so I had to get some other cats to go out there. I’ve got some great players: Micky Crystal from Tygers of Pan Tang and Kyle Hughes from Bumblefoot on drums, so he’s great. He’s a great player. He’s from the UK.
ANTIHERO: What about the album? I mean, obviously, you’re a busy guy. When did you lay down the tracks? When was it recorded?
Marco Mendoza: It was recorded in September. I had booked a tour after the Dead Daisies in September. I had most of September and October, to mid-October, I had an opening of six weeks. So, I booked some dates, I booked a tour. Then the label, we started negotiating, well we were negotiating for about a year, and I signed up with Target and, so I left LA on September 4. I got there … no, September 5, I got there on the 6th, and we recorded for 12 days in Copenhagen, which would make it the 18th. On the 19th, I was off to Germany to do my tour, to start my tour. We made time. We made some time to go in there and it was very productive. I’m really happy with the results that we got.
Soren and I get along really well, and he’s really great in the studio. He’s very creative and he brings so much to the table. He and I have talked about doing this for a while, so I’m really happy with it, man. I mean the reviews again, I’m doing four to five interviews every day and it’s all good. People are digging it. I’m really happy, man. Really, really happy. Like I said, for me, it’s a month of me doing my stuff getting ready for the Dead Daisies which is a bigger project and it’s my number one priority, the Dead Daisies, but whenever I can, I do other stuff. You know me. I’m always doing something.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of mix, the solo album? I mean, you’ve got new songs, you’re playing a little bit of homage to things that you’ve done previously as well?
Marco Mendoza: Yes. I’ve had to … you know, I’ve stayed away from doing covers or in tribute to the bands that I’ve been with. I’ve been with quite a few bands. I was so inspired, I started playing some Thin Lizzy live, and the response was great, and people were digging the arrangements and how I performed them, so I said, why not? I spent pretty much the best part of 22 years, Mark. I’ve been with Thin Lizzy, man, since ’94 bro, ’94 and ’95 off and on.
I just wanted to pay tribute and say thanks for the time I spent there, and also celebrate the legacy of Thin Lizzy and maybe bring it on and reintroduce to the new generations that are following, the history of Thin Lizzy and all that. And then I did the same thing with Ted Nugent. The bottom line, Mark, is I’m still a fan. I’m still a fan of rock and roll. I’ve just been very lucky to be part of it, you know? But I dig it, man. I’m a fan.
When I first got the call to audition for the boys to do the Thin Lizzy gig, I had no idea how vast the songs they had, how many albums. Here in the US, we were only exposed to so much. So, when I went into Warehouse … or Tower Records, I’m sorry, I’ve got everything Thin Lizzy and it was amazing at the catalog, the albums, the history, the songs. I fell in love with it. It was just beautiful, great rock and roll music. Phil was one of a kind, and the band was one of a kind, and they were definitely influential and inspirational for a lot of bands to follow. They set a standard. And it came out of Ireland, so for me, it was like, wow. And I have to say to thanks to John Sykes, because he’s the reason, he brought me into the fold, you know? I fell in love with the whole thing. And then I started playing live, and then I realized, wow, this is beautiful stuff.
The same thing with Ted Nugent. I was a fan of Ted. You can’t live in the US and not be a fan of Ted Nugent if you play music or even if you’re a fan. He was definitely part of the fabric of American rock and roll. He has been on the scene since 1963, ’64, and he kills it. He’s legendary status. He has inspired and/or influenced so many guitar players and musicians in the US and all over the world, really. So yeah, that was another way of me tipping my hat to him and saying thank you, and I just happened to sing some of the songs. I used to sing with him, and I recorded Hey Baby which is a classic and also paying tribute to Derek St. Holmes the singer, the original singer, who is a friend and I’m a fan of.
And the next albums I’ll probably continue to pay tribute to some of the people I’ve worked with, there’s so many. Right now, we lost Dolores O’Riordan. I want to pay tribute to her, too. I did three albums with her, and we were very close. She was like my little sister. My mind was blown, my heart was broken. I lost it for about a week, I was done. It was, the impact, I didn’t realize how strong of an impact it was going to have on me, and it did. Sad. But life goes on, and we have to move forward, and so that’s what it is.
Having said that, I’ve been one of those guys that I’ve been very lucky and privileged to have played with some of the killer bands of our time. That was just my way of saying that. And then, when you write music you’re influenced by so many cats and so many bands and so many artists. My time with David Coverdale with Whitesnake was definitely a highlight. We could talk about where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but right now the focus is my new album, Viva la Rock. I’m very proud of it, I hope people out there can have fun listening to it, as much fun as we had recording it, because we had a blast. Soren and I had a blast.
ANTIHERO: And of course, you’re coming to the UK again. You must love the UK, you seem to tour here quite often.
Marco Mendoza: Yeah, you know what? Honestly, bro, I can’t imagine me going to Europe or anywhere close, and not participating in the UK one way or the other. As you well know, it’s become very hard to tour the US, I mean the UK. And the US, but the UK for a lot of reasons. But I can’t imagine coming to Europe and not at least going out there and doing a handful of gigs. This time, I had five days available, and so we’re doing Belfast, and we’re doing Edinburgh … Belfast, Edinburgh, Chesterfield, and London. So, four gigs, and then we take off to Denmark from there.
I’m glad my agent was able to put some dates together. Because I wanted to take this opportunity to just, kind of like, wave the flag and say, hey guys, I have a new album. Check it out. I definitely have a long history with my friends and fans in the UK after coming there forever, since ’91, ’92, maybe longer than you have been there. So yeah, I have to come to the UK, man, whenever possible, and I will. I have a lot of friends there that are very supportive, and I totally adore the people there and the fans. I always have a great time.
I don’t actually care about the size of the venues. To me, honestly, sure it matters. Of course, we want to play in the bigger venues and all that. What’s important to me is to keep connecting with my friends and for them to experience my musical career, growing and ever-changing, and to be supported by them is all that matters to me. You know what I mean.
ANTIHERO: And of course, the Dead Daisies album is also coming out soon. I have had the chance to listen to it and it’s an incredible album.
Marco Mendoza: Thank you!
ANTIHERO: It is. Did you feel when the Dead Daisies got together, that it would be a long-term thing, or was it just a one-off project, as you saw it?
Marco Mendoza: Well, we saw it as a one-off thing. I originally got the call back in ’13. I was touring in Australia with Thin Lizzy, as a matter of fact. We were out there with Motley Crue and Kiss. David Lowy and his manager, David Edwards who is now our manager with the Dead Daisies, they approached me and said, hey, we’re doing this project, the Dead Daisies, and we have an album, we just don’t have the players. We need studio musicians and you should take a listen and see if you want to be a part of this, we would love for you to. And I said, yes, of course. You always take things like that with a grain of salt because I get approached by a lot of people as you can imagine, Mark. Tons of projects and opportunities and all of that, and nine out of ten times it doesn’t come to anything. It’s just tough for whatever the reason. It never to comes to fruition.
I got home from that tour and it was a complete success, that tour, it was amazing. I got home, and a few weeks later I got the call from David, and he says, well, now that you’re home, we really want you to consider us, and I said yes, please send the music, and so from the moment I heard the music, I fell in love with it. I felt like this is something I could really chew into.
It just had everything. It had the great writing, it had the great guitar riffs. It had a great groove, great folks, and the singer then was Jon Stevens. Amazing vocals. So, I heard it, I heard three or four songs, then I went on YouTube and I heard, the band did gig live and I heard it, and I heard Jon Stevens doing his solo thing, and I’m like … so I called back, and then I heard my friend Richard Fortus from Guns ‘n Roses and Dizzy Reed from Guns ‘n Roses were going to be part of it, and I’m like, I have to do this.
I changed some things around, the schedule went around, and it was originally just a two week, about 20 days, it was like a 19, 18 or 19-day commitment. So, I moved some things around and all that, and from the moment we hit the ground in Sydney, Australia, it was a great band, man. It was sounding amazing, there was something very special going on. And after three or four … we were opening up for Aerosmith, actually, and after three or four gigs, we’re all looking at each other going, wow, this is too much fun, and it’s good. Maybe we should consider doing something.
And so, management got involved, and before you know it, we landed the Uproar tour with Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction, and a few other, you know, Duff McKagan’s Walking Papers, and his solo project. And it was great. It was a great tour and then, there you go. One thing lead to another, and then we started getting offers. It’s a great project. Unfortunately, some of the original cats couldn’t stay. Obviously, Richard and Dizzy had to go back to Guns ‘n Roses when Slash and Axl made friends again, and so they’re out there with the boys kicking butt, and so we had to look for some new players. I called Doug. At one point, Jon Stevens was having some personal stuff, and I called John Corabi, and that’s how that happened. I called Brian Tichy and he came on board, and he’s left. Now we have Doug Aldrich, John Corabi, David Lowy, and Deen Castronovo, and yours truly,
We’re here man, we’re just trying to make a difference and create the best music and deliver the best show as possible, you know? Classic rock.
ANTIHERO: Does feel now like a proper band, or does it feel like, you feel like people come, people go? there is a revolving door/lineup?
Marco Mendoza: Yeah, well, we went through that for the first year and a half, two years. It was starting to feel like that, and then, bottom line, Mark, whoever wanted to make this a priority in their own careers, we made it. I did. I saw something very special for a lot of reasons. It’s structured like a real band, which I love. There’s no, you know, the singer and the guitar player, it’s their vision and their project. It’s a band. We all have input and we all write songs together and we all contribute, you know? I like that idea. I like that idea, but I also like the idea of challenging ourselves and trying to get back on the map with our own music and our own projects. I dig it, man. And so now we have, this is the team. The latest change has been Brian Tichy, and got Deen Castronovo who is amazing, an amazing drummer and singer. We’re going to have fun, man. You heard the album. It’s killer, and we’re prepared to go out there and make a difference again this year. This is my only little chance to go out there and wave my flag about my solo album, so I took it, you know?
ANTIHERO: What about the live shows? I mean, the Daisies have got several albums. Live set, will you be still playing the cover versions, or will they be sort of kind of fading out?
Marco Mendoza: Oh, well, you know, that’s become a bit of a tradition with the Daisies, man. We started like that, and I think it’s something that’s not going to change. We have, you heard it, we have a cover there, and it’s a good one. Again, we’re fans of music, we want to keep celebrating what rock ‘n roll is all about, how it influenced us and how it inspired us. We have plenty of catalog, but let’s be honest, a lot of this music the fans don’t know. So, we have to deliver the best show possible, the best live show possible, and whatever that takes. If it’s playing a few songs that people know, we’ll see. We want to come out as a surprise, too. There are a few things in store that are going to surprise the hell out of everybody. But I’m sure we will include some covers.
ANTIHERO: What about, returning to the solo album, the solo dates that you’re doing, you’re only doing four shows. Do you have plans to come back and maybe do some more solo shows?
Marco Mendoza: To the UK, you mean?
ANTIHERO: Yeah. Or is that not logistically possible with your schedule?
Marco Mendoza: That’s the idea. Right now, I just found out the Daisies are taking a break between May 10 and June 20.
ANTIHERO: Oh, you are?
Marco Mendoza: I’m going to plan on, we are getting some offers. I couldn’t include a lot of offers that I was getting for my solo on this one because I only had a month, from the 16th through the 16, the 16th of February through the 16th of March. I’m putting the feelers out for May 10 through June 10 and then I’m going to take a break with my family, we’re going to go somewhere. But that’s the idea, so hopefully, we’ll come back to England.
There’s a lot of places that I want to play, a lot of cities that I know. I want to play in Newcastle, I want to play Glasgow. I would love to play Dublin. I want to play London, Manchester, so on, you know, Cardiff in Wales. So many cities that I played before that I know I have some friends and fans there that would love to come out to the show and hang out. We’re looking at it. If it makes sense and it fits the right time, we’ll put it together. The other factors, I don’t want to come back too soon and too often. You have to be careful with that. That’s what it is, man. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.