MARCO MENDOZA INTERVIEW:
December 29, 2010
Websites: www.marcomendoza.com – www.myspace.com/marcomendozamusic
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Marco Mendoza is an inspiration to all the kids with Latin American roots who aspire to have a career in music. Mendoza is a bass player by trade, but he also writes, sings and plays guitar. He has performed with some pretty big names in the metal and hard rock world — playing with David Coverdale in Whitesnake and with John Sykes in both Blue Murder and Thin Lizzy as well as on Sykes’ solo work. He’s also recorded and toured with Ted Nugent, been a part of Planet US which evolved into SoulsirkUS, played on the latest Lynch Mob album ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ and he’s recently released his second solo record ‘Casa Mendoza’. Marco’s latest album is an eclectic body of work that ranges from hard rock to soul to blues to jazz with a Latin flavor to it. ‘Casa Mendoza’ is an album that any true music connoisseur will sink their teeth into and give multiple spins to. Sleaze Roxx recently spoke with Marco about his new album and the various projects that he’s beeninvolved in — most recently the resurrected Thin Lizzy with new recruits Vivian Campbell and Ricky Warwick.
Sleaze Roxx: How long has ‘Casa Mendoza’ been in the planning stages?
Marco Mendoza: I’m always writing. I’m always moving fast as you know — I’m always involved with something. I’m constantly writing and recording demos. I tuck them away and when there’s a window of opportunity to do some work on my solo material I’ll pull them out. I’d say that about two years after the release of my last album ‘Live For Tomorrow’ I was approached by Mascot Records to work on a new album. I agreed to do it when I had some down time. The advent of Protools has made recording so convenient, it virtually makes pre-production easy. I like that once you get going things move relatively fast. Right now I have about five songs that are ready for the next album, there’s a tentative time frame for the next record — it will also be released by Mascot Records. I’d like to have the next album released around August of 2011, so I’d like to have that record turned into the label by April or May of 2011. The last three years have been extremely busy for me, it seems like I go from one project to another to another.
Sleaze Roxx: As rock fans we try to find comparisons when we hear new music — it’s what we do. I compare ‘Casa Mendoza’ to classic Santana if the band debuted in 2010. There’s a great mix of classic rock, blues, soul, funk and jazz.
Marco Mendoza: Thank you for that comparison. I agree with what you said, it just happened that I went into the studio with some of my friends and the only rule was that there would be no boundaries. I’m hearing a lot of positive things in the reviews and interviews that I’ve do so far. It’s very cool man, I think everybody has been pleasantly surprised with what they heard on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: The bulk of the material on ‘Casa Mendoza’ is original material but there are some covers. Steve Wonder’s “Living For The City” is in there as is the classic “Suzie Q” which has been rearranged and sounds nothing like the version that we’ve come to know.
Marco Mendoza: I’ve been doing new arrangements for classic songs for years when I’ve played with friends or with my trio. “Suzie Q” is the first song that I ever learned when I was getting into music. There’s a lot of sentimental value in that song for me, whenever I get a chance to play it live I do. “Suzie Q” is a very simple song but it’s well known amongst the classic rock fans. It’s a blast to play that song live — we feed off the audience’s energy. “Living For The City”, which you mentioned, also gets a pretty good response. These songs have been a huge part of musical vocabulary and they’ve left a lasting impression on me as a musician. This, for me, was another way of saying ‘this is a classic, here it is like you haven’t heard it before’.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve assembled a solid band on ‘Casa Mendoza’. Bass players aren’t given much credit in the hard rock realm unless you’re Geddy Lee or Billy Sheehan but you showed off your chops on this album.
Marco Mendoza: You know what, I’ll agree with you there. The common denominator has been, in all of the interviews that I have been doing today, is that people are surprised with my playing. I’m so happy with the response and the compliments about my playing… I’m so honored. I’ll say this, if you see me and the band live we take it to an entire other level. I surround myself with nothing but the best musicians.
Sleaze Roxx: You close out ‘Casa Mendoza’ with a bonus cut entitled “Tu” which is sung entirely in Spanish. Is this a potential market that you would like to explore in the future? Rock music in Spanish is hard to come by in North America.
Marco Mendoza: My first language is Spanish — I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and then lived in Mexico City. I was bombarded with all of the Latin American influences and rhythms, then the English invasion and southern rock… so again these were part of my musical vocabulary. A song in Spanish will surprise some but to me it’s very natural. I included my mother on “Tu”, she sang on it — she’s since passed away but I will always have her on the song. I didn’t note that on the album, I’d rather do it in these interviews.
My mom was a professional singer, it was my mother who said to me, “Marco why don’t you think about doing a song in Spanish?” As you know “Tu” is the translation of “you” in Spanish. The song, in essence, is me talking to God — it speaks to my spiritual beliefs and the power of prayer. I hope you like it, I know a lot of people are digging it. It’s a trip because we did an English and Spanish version and I think the Spanish version is better. I’m not one to listen to my own music, but when I heard “Tu” I was like wow!
Sleaze Roxx: Your musical resume is outstanding — you played with John Sykes and Blue Murder, then you followed him to Thin Lizzy and you worked with David Coverdale and Whitesnake. How uncomfortable was it for you having had a foot in both the Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy camps, seeing as the falling out between Coverdale and Sykes has been well documented.
Marco Mendoza: Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head, it was uncomfortable. I have since resolved my issues with John. I’m a bass player, it’s not only my livelihood but my passion and my trade. If you can believe this, I received a call from David Coverdale who was looking for a bass player. He offered to fly me up to his house to see if we clicked and we hit it off. During the time that I was with David we talked about maybe him reuniting with John Sykes. I’ll take credit for them talking again years after their falling out. I did the same with Tommy Aldridge. For whatever reason things didn’t work out and John didn’t return. It would have been great to have John back in Whitesnake but it didn’t work. In my opinion that would have been the right move.
My time in Whitesnake was a great time, I loved every second of it. Going back to my time with John Sykes we did a great live album that wasn’t well received for whatever reason. I’m a guy that if I make mistakes or have issues with somebody I like to resolve them. The truth is life is too short, bury the hatchet if you will, and move on. I like to keep my sanity, resentments are not good period. I was a little disappointed that John and David weren’t able to forgive and more forward, but they make their own choices. I haven’t spoke to David Coverdale since I left Whitesnake. I talk to John Sykes, our paths have crossed and we live in the same town.
Sleaze Roxx: What are John’s thoughts on Thin Lizzy continuing on without him? I guess he thought that Thin Lizzy had gone as far as it could and wanted to put the band to rest. Scott Gorham obviously thought otherwise because he went out and picked up guitarist Vivian Campbell and singer Ricky Warwick.
Marco Mendoza: I think that in John’s mind the idea had run its course. John had been there for years and he needed to address what he wanted to do musically. I wanted to do my solo album, I was slated to do some work with Ted Nugent and was working with Neal Schon. I don’t think I would have been able to get this album done had there not been that break from Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. It’s hard for fans to understand, but for John he just needed to move on. It was Scott Gorham and Brian Downey that wanted to revisit Thin Lizzy, they made some phone calls and I was one of them and here we go. I have to say the band sound great and the players couldn’t be better. The new guys are Irish, they know the history of the band and they experienced the Phil Lynott phenomenon first hand. We’re excited the word is out and now we’ll see how it goes.
Sleaze Roxx: I think the live performance speaks for itself. You guys released a great live album ‘One Night Only’ with the previous incarnation of Thin Lizzy — you would have to hear the band before you pan it.
Marco Mendoza: The bottom line is the songs speak for themselves. I would say that you can take any line-up and the songs would sound great. It’s one of those rarities where the songs and the legacy are so strong that it’s truly a testament to Phil Lynott’s incredible ability to write a song. You can’t go wrong here man, the true fans will really appreciate the players and the musicianship. Ultimately I think you’d have to see it to believe it. We just played a showcase for about 150 people a few days ago. It was a full set for people in the press and industry people and they were just blown away. That’s all I’ve got to say, just come check us out before you judge. I fly out of L.A. on January 3rd and we kick off our European tour on January 6th. We’re looking at booking some U.S. dates for 2011. We’re getting invited to play places now. It’s an exciting time for us right now.
Sleaze Roxx: You recorded with George Lynch and laid down the bass tracks for the new Lynch Mob album ‘Smoke And Mirrors’. Why didn’t that work out because you were supposed to do the tour, right?
Marco Mendoza: We did the album and we were supposed to do a big summer tour with Cinderella but Tom Keifer blew out his voice and the tour was cancelled. George called me and Lynch Mob had some festival dates slated which was cool because I was free. It was a blast, we wanted to do some writing and get a deal. We got a deal with Frontiers Records which was my label, we recorded and started looking into promoting the album and I started getting calls about other projects. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Dolores O’Riordan, the former singer of The Cranberries, on her album, I got a call from Neal Schon, Ted Nugent and Mascot approached me about the solo album. There was a conflict because George was spending his time doing Souls Of We and I just couldn’t wait around for him to do the Lynch Mob tour. I was offered the Lynch Mob tour but I just couldn’t wait 2-3 months to do it. He understood, I talk to him all the time. I just saw him at the Thin Lizzy rehearsals, we talked a little bit and we talked about possibly doing some dates, so we’ll see what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question, you were also part of Soul SirkUS, which was initially Planet US, and originally featured Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar. Then Jeff Scott Soto and you stepped in and joined guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo, who was later replaced by Virgil Donati. The talent pool was there, so why didn’t that band make it?
Marco Mendoza: I was disappointed that band didn’t continue. Neal went back to work with Journey, Jeff always has something brewing, and I was doing other things. We went out and did a few shows behind the album and there was little support by the label and our management. Soul SirkUS wasn’t our priority at that time, that along with some personality issues which I won’t go into. We lost interest and the thing fizzled. Sorry I can’t go into specifics, but sometimes things are just not meant to be. If the people involved aren’t fully committed it just won’t work.
Having said that, I just completed an album with Neal Schon and Deen Castonovo. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago wrapping up the recording. The record will be out early next year right after the release of the new Journey album. I hope that we get a chance to go out on the road to promote that because we all sing on it. I’m curious to hear the fans’ reaction.