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Marco Mendoza - Spring 2022

Legendary bass player Marco Mendoza is perhaps best known for his work with Whitesnake, Ted Nugent, The Dead Daisies, Thin Lizzy and Journey, but what people really need to pay attention to is Marco’s outstanding body of solo work. To date this comprises of 3 albums: Live For Tomorrow (2007), Casa Mendoza (2010) and Viva La Rock (2018). These records represent the very best in driving hard rock delivered with groove and soul, and it’s at Marco’s live shows where the music really comes alive. As a front man, Marco’s passion connects with the audience in the most extraordinary way, genuinely creating a rock party and an altogether hugely freeing experience. With an imminent UK and European tour and the prospect of new music, we caught up with Marco at his home in Orange County to get the full story. It’s a hot day and Marco, relaxingly dressed in a blue t shirt and shorts, very happily takes us on a tour of his gardens. Classy and bountiful ratten furniture sits neatly beside the most tranquil and inviting of pools. It’s the perfect environment to drift away and dream. With the sun beating down, our conversation begins…

It’s a wonderfully exciting time with 2022 looking like it’s going to be an incredible year for you, Marco, and of course for your fans, with a solo tour kicking off imminently, a new solo album on its way and being part of an incredible new project, Iconic. But let’s start with the here and now. In less than 2 weeks time, on 2nd April, you begin an 8 date UK tour before heading off to Europe for another 28 dates. What sort of thoughts are going through your mind as you prepare for the tour? 

Honestly, and it’s a good question, because I’ve been doing this for a while but it’s always exciting! I start thinking about the last time I was there which wasn’t too long ago. Hopefully my friends in the UK won’t say “Hey, you’re coming here too often, get out of here!” (Laughs!) Whenever I’m on that side of the pond, across the Atlantic, I always make an effort and try to touch base in the UK because for me the UK is very important for a lot of reasons. The fans are very loving, very supportive and after so many years of touring there with so many projects, you build relationships. It’s human nature: we go where we are supported and where we get hugs and we’re appreciated. I always make an effort to do that. I was there in November where I did a handful of dates and against all odds… it was like “don’t go, don’t bother, there are a lot of restrictions” and I’m talking agents, promoters, managers, family members and other musicians! But I have this thing in my gut, like ‘no, right now, I need to go!’. It’s like a calling. I can’t explain it. Let’s just say that I had three or four dates in the UK but more invites came and then the rest of Europe got wind of it and they started calling and and said things like “Well, if you’re going to be next door you might as well come here and visit us!” And now it’s 30 something dates and that’s how it works. So right now I’m trying to figure out, since I was there in November, what the set list needs to be and try to deliver something different. It’s also about trying to find a good message to take us away from the realities of the planet right now. So I’m excited! I’m starting to talk to my guitar player, Tommy Gentry, who’s going to be with me on this run in the UK, and Kyle Hughes (drums). We have so much material to choose from that I think we’re going to go back to the beginning and my first solo album and readdress some of the songs from Live For Tomorrow. It’s a great album, and Frontiers, my label is supporting that. We’re also going to be supporting the book which Mark Allison and myself have put together called Showtime. It’s a credit to him, he’s an amazing artist and graphic design guy. He’s kind of like my right-hand guy and I have a lot of friends like that. Fans simply see you coming out and playing on stage but the reality is that behind-the-scenes we have a lot of support, a lot of moving parts, a lot of people who have all your doing and respect it and support it. I give a lot of credit to them! I’ve been very lucky that I get some of the best players around. But Mark has been very prominent and has been helping me a lot. And my social media folks Jim and Delilah. I’ve had a lot of friends along the way! But the short answer is I’m really excited, I get giggly, I’m like a little kid with a new toy! I think I may come out and do trombone solos or half an hour! (Laughs!)

I think an important point to make is that the tour is happening! It was wonderful to see how your Autumn 2021 Take It To The Limit UK and European tour was so successful and in fact one of the most special and talked about tours amongst our readers, especially as despite you doing everything you could, some shows in the early part of 2021 had to be cancelled. As an artist, do you feel a greater sense of certainty and confidence about being able to book live shows and tours?

It’s getting there. There’s still some reservations mainly from the venues, and I do understand because they took such a beating financially, but I think I’m getting to the point where without sounding pretentious I try to work there with them on the business side so that it does happen. I have an inherent thing that I feel it’s very important to bring music and to bring a couple of hours of solace, of therapy and a fun so that we can all get away from the daily thing. That’s my driving force. Unfortunately there is a business side that hinders things and can get in the way, and logistically I have to start figuring out what I’ve got to do vaccine-wise as well as other things. There’s a lot of moving parts but once I get there and we’re doing the shows there’s never a doubt in my mind where I know this is where I needed to be! And this is where the fans needed to be! The best compliment I get, and I’m proud to say I got a lot of those, is that people come up to me and simply say “thank you for coming” and “thank you, we’ve been struggling here in so many ways and it’s nice to come to a place just to get away for a few hours”. It is getting easier. 2019 was one of the best years for my solo thing in that The Dead Daisies, who I’d been involved with a five years, went on hiatus and I’ve been invited all over the place, all over the planet. So I started putting shows in. The reviews were over the top, the reviews for the album were good and everything was really positive so 2020 was going to be huge. I had a ton of festivals, a ton of shows and it was going to be the pinnacle or whatever you want to call it. It was going to be a high point in my solo career but then we know what happened. Right now, we are in the process of picking up all the pieces to go back to where we were. It’s a bit of a work but I’m a believer in live music and it’s very important to keep it alive, and the thought of all these venues disappearing is very prominent. It’s there! We can see it! I tell all the fans who turn up to the shows “I want you to think about this – imagine this venue closing down and then another one at closing down, you have to support it!” That’s part of my driving force right there, that’s the fuel to my engine, you know? The other side of course is that I am a ham! I love what I do. I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to do that and I enjoy it. So when it’s not happening I miss it so much. I’m like a fish out of water. So it is getting better and 2022 is looking to be a very, very good year.

You will be again joined on this by the amazing Tommy Gentry from Gun and Kyle Hughes who’s worked with Bumblefoot on this tour. Clearly this is a partnership that works. What does it mean to be joined by such exceptional talent?

It means the world to me! I’m very lucky in that place where my circles are concerned. Every time I go out I get calls from all over the place and I’m very flattered that people want to participate, collaborate and be a part of whatever I’m doing. Again, it gives me fuel to keep going. The thing that we have with Tommy and Kyle, we’ve done enough runs and enough dates right now. Music is like our conversation. When you meet someone, you start talking to each other but you really don’t know each other until you’ve been out a couple of times. We have great conversations on stage and that’s very cool! I have the upmost respect for both of them as human beings first of all – they are great people – they have big hearts and they are talented! To be able to count on them to be a part of my thing, it means a lot! It means the world to me and it keeps me going. Unfortunately, again, there is a business side of the whole thing that gets in the way and that’s when I need to start scrambling around and talking to other folks. But we’ve done enough runs with the boys and the combination of Kyle and Tommy just really works. It’s almost like we can sit in a room and not talk because it’s done – we communicate without communicating. And that happens on stage. I think they appreciate what I’m doing as well. I tell the guys constantly and often enough that if I could lock them down and if we could continue with this project for the next five years it would be awesome but I understand that we all live off of playing music and sometimes Tommy’s commitment to Gun is prominent and Kyle is getting calls from everywhere. I always try to get the best players I can. We have a connection that is a very deep connection and when they’re not around they will be missed but I’ll try and find some other guys that I can start some conversations with. But I have them for the UK dates which I’m really glad about and then we move on to Europe and we’ll see what happens there.

Well let’s talk about new music because excitement has been snowballing since it was suggested that you had been recording new solo material in Copenhagen and there has been a hint that we might see an album sometime in 2022. What can you tell us?

This is an album that started back in 2019. I was out touring and I was flying in and out of Copenhagen with my friend Soren Andersen, another big talent, songwriter, producer, mixer, guitar player, singer extraordinaire.

Oh absolutely! His work with Glenn Hughes for example is outstanding!

Well that’s another little story! I kind of introduced them. I was talking to Glenn at a NAMM show and he asked me what I do when I’m travelling to Europe. And I said “I’m so lucky because I’ve met some of the best musicians on the planet”. I talk to everybody and I’m a social butterfly so through my conversations with meeting people at the trade shows, for example Frankfurt Musikmesse, I met Soren from a distance. Every time I went to a trade show he would be there and he would wow me every time. My first band for my first solo album, Live Fir Tomorrow, he was my guitar player in LA and he was brilliant. We were at the NAMM show, Glenn and I, are we were talking and I said “Yeah man, I’ve got this cat out of Copenhagen who is just amazing! You should really consider getting in touch”. And I’m not kidding, Soren comes in and shouts “ Marco!”, and I just said “This is your guy right here!”. And the rest is history! I’m a big fan of Glenn’s and what he is doing with The Dead Daisies. It’s amazing! As a bass player and as a singer he is an amazing artist. I have been a fan of his forever and I consider him to be a friend, with all the respect and love due there. The first time Soren and I got together to write songs it was after rehearsal and we were getting ready for a European day. Everybody left and he and I stayed in the studio that he owns in Copenhagen, Medle Studios, and we just came up with a song. Without planning it, it just came out and it’s called Burned and it’s on the Viva La Rock album. From that point on, we kept saying that we have to get together whenever we find the time to do an album. The opportunity presented itself. I was doing some gigs in Scandinavia and I came to Copenhagen where I met up with the label. I met with Michael Andersen and I liked what he had to say, he liked what I had to say and we signed a contract for one album with the opportunity for a second if both parties agreed. So we did Viva and we had a blast, and to my surprise, the reception was just ‘wow’! Unfortunately, it came out in February 2018, and The Dead Daisies album came out in April. So the timing was terrible. The album got great reviews and I started to get invited to shows and festivals. But I was with The Dead Daisies and that was my main commitment. I did a handful of shows in England in 2018 but we got on the map! In 2019 when The Dead Daisies went on hiatus that’s what I talked to my agent and said ‘let’s go!’ Two months turned into three months, and three months turned into more and more and more. I got invited across the US and across everywhere in Europe. So a lot of things were happening and I just thought this was going to be a nice project to have when all the other projects are taking a break. I can’t get enough! I love what I do and I love the challenge of getting in front of an audience, fans and friends. 2020 was going to be the culmination of the work that we did in 2019 but Covid happened and everything fell apart. But we are picking up the pieces and trying to make it work. We have a lot of fun on stage, I have the best of the best with me and we always make it a point to leave with a good message, something uplifting and optimistic - and maybe put a smile on peoples faces!

Well let’s talk about your solo albums because Live For Tomorrow, Casa Mendoza and Viva La Rock have represented the very best in driving hard rock but also music with a groove, with soul and essentially music that you can dance to. It’s like being invited to a rock party. Does the new music continue to follow this path?

Absolutely! I think Soren and I, we never say “let’s go here, let’s go there”. I think we have a foot in the pop side of the genre in that if you have a good song that’s produced right it will make you groove. Being a bass player, I understand where the carburettor is. The drummer and a bass player are the foundation of any song, and I’ve always said this: no matter what genre of music I am playing, ‘if it don’t swing it don’t mean a thing’! When we write, I think we have that in common. That’s the language that we speak. We write about positive lyrics and create that party vibe. And the single is apropos for what is going on today. It’s all about living your life the best you can – to the limit – every day, every minute, every hour. Push yourself to enjoy every moment – smell the roses! Allow yourself to be a kid, have fun and go to places you’ve never been to. Go to the edge and jump! So the single is a party song and we have a lot of that in this album.

I think there’s something hugely profound and empowering about that message. I think it’s really important and a message that people will now be ready to listen to. I think people will know what it means not to take opportunities for granted.

Absolutely! And I have to say, without sounding pretentious, I’ve had a chance to listen to the album and there’s some good songs! I think the collaboration between Soren and I is getting stronger and more focused. The first single will be out 13 April, they’ll be another one in May and the full album in August.

If all this wasn’t enough, there is a very special project you are a part of. Iconic is a new band comprising of yourself, Michael Sweet, Nathan James, Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Aldridge. The collective musical heritage of this band is incredible. How did this collaboration come about? (and what is the band’s vision?

Wow! Am I a part of that? (Laughs!) It’s amazing when I hear somebody say it! We’ve just been shooting some videos and I love those guys. I have so much respect and the body of work that they’ve done is amazing. It came about through Frontiers Records. Serafino (Perugino – Frontiers SRL founder) was instrumental in me doing my first solo album. When the pandemic hit we started talking and this is as a result of that. Nathan James, Joel Hoekstra and Michael Sweet were already doing a project together and then they thought about me coming in as a bass player to do the session work. They called me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and I said yes! They started moving along and they called me one day and asked who I wanted on drums as they didn’t have a drummer locked in yet. My buddy, my brother my all-time favourite Tommy Aldridge! I called him up, hooked them up and we became the rhythm section. It’s very appropriate because it’s reminiscent of the Coverdale years, the Whitesnake years. One thing led to another and boom! There are thoughts about releasing a single soon!

As a band, the great thing is that you have been able to spend some time together in the same room, and what I’m referring to is how in February you got together to record videos. The band photos that have since emerged just ooze chemistry. I’ve used the term ‘project’ to describe Iconic but when there is already such incredible chemistry and an absolutely massive buzz building it would be a shame if the focus is only on creating one album. What are your hopes and expectations for the longevity of the band?

Well there’s been so many in the past and it’s unfortunate what’s going on in this industry right now, especially now after the pandemic where the industry took such a big hit. As you can tell, everyone is involved in other projects. And yes the term ‘project’ doesn’t sound right. Everyone is involved in their own solo projects but I’m hoping that we find the time and that we understand how much fun this could be, that the music is a blast and that it deserves to be taken out and played live. But having said that, logistically sometimes things don’t work. But I agree with you 100% – it needs to be heard, it needs to be packaged and presented in the right way. I could see the project doing the festival runs because we all get on great and there’s a lot of mutual respect. There’s talk about it but nothing solid just yet.

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a truly unique and uplifting experience a Marco Mendoza show really is. It’s perhaps one of the very best examples musical escapism. Marco himself phrased it perfectly: “push yourself to enjoy every moment and smell the roses”!

For more information, check out www.marcomendoza.com and in the meantime enjoy the video to Viva La Rock below.