LET IT FLOW – an interview with MARCO MENDOZA
For what feels like days now, I have been thinking about how to write a proper introduction to this little interview of mine with the brilliant musician that is Marco Mendoza and how to summarize or put into words what an extraordinary musical history the man possesses. The thing is that his musical resume is highly impressive and includes stints with such legendary acts and artists as Whitesnake, Bill Ward, Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders, Dead Daisies, Ted Nugent, and so on and so forth. The list of albums that he has appeared on is pretty mind-blowing too. The bassist/singer is hugely talented and a great songwriter, which is more than evident on his killer new album entitled “Viva La Rock”. This beautiful 10-track effort is a spirited and energetic one with an uplifting vibe to it not to mention that it contains so many irresistible melodies and wicked hooks that it is damn-near impossible not to be carried away by it. Simply put, you owe it to yourself to check “Viva La Rock” out as soon as it is released in early March. Not surprisingly, we simply had to have a chat with Marco about this latest endeavor of his as well as his career as a whole.
Hi Marco, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions of mine. I really appreciate that. First of all, how are you doing?
MM: I’m doing really good and totally grateful for the response of “Viva La Rock” all over the planet!
Could you tell us a bit about your musical upbringing? What initially turned you on to the bass?
MM: I actually started playing guitar, and started playing in a band with my brother Carlos. He was the drummer, but then this bigger and better band lost their bass player and asked me to audition on bass and I just fell in love with it. It was more of a challenge for me, playing bass and singing.
What bands were you into when you were a youngster? Were there any specific bands or artists that inspired you to become a musician yourself or perhaps a specific record that changed your perspective on music?
MM: ABBEY ROAD! The Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad, the Allman Brothers, Bread, Zeppelin, Stones, etc.
“Viva La Rock” sounds so vibrant, fiery, and full of spirit and vigor. I love it! It truly sounds like a labor of love. To my ears, it has a positive and uplifting vibe to it. I cannot put my finger on why or put it into words as such, but it just sounds so vital and muscular. Is the mood and atmosphere of the album a reflection of how you feel about life in general? It certainly has this magical larger-than-life vibe to it.
MM: Thanx! And yes, I would say that it reflects in a big way how I feel about love, life, music, and rock & roll.
How did the deal with the Danish label Mighty Music come about? It is nice to see that they have really branched out these last few years and released excellent records by Tygers of Pan Tang, Blitzkrieg, and now your new solo album.
MM: Yes, I was introduced to Michael Andersen by Søren Andersen, and from the first conversation, we knew we were going to work together.
I am curious as to how the songs on the new album were composed and arranged. Did you bring more or less finished songs and ideas to the studio and then present them to Søren Andersen, or did some of the songs come about through jamming and rehearsing riffs and rough sketches and so on in the studio?
MM: To be honest, Søren totally understands where I live musically and supports that, so our chemistry is off-the-wall good and very productive. I did bring quite a few sketches with me, but we ended up writing the title cut “Viva La Rock” in a few hours of the first day and a song each day after that. Some days we would start a second song and finish the next day. We wrote 8 songs in about 7 days and the whole record in 12. The thing is we really enjoy being creative and we have a blast doing it!
“Viva La Rock” has a very organic and natural flow to it. It sounds and feels like some of the songs have more or less written themselves, but that goes back to what I just said about the natural flow and organic feel of the record. Nothing sounds forced or contrived. Everything flows together beautifully. Did any of the songs come about rather intuitively and spontaneously? Were there times when you started out with just a single riff or melody and then ten minutes you had a song put together?
MM: YES! The songs pretty much came very easy and they just started happening like they were hanging out for a while and as soon as we opened the door they just happened. That’s how it is sometimes. The only song that took a bit of time was “Leah” because of where it came from and whom it was written for (my wife Leah), so it got a bit emotional at times.
I love the fact that every song on the new album tells a story, which is what great lyrics are supposed to do in my opinion, but what exactly is “Rocket Man” about? Would you care to elaborate on that one?
MM: “Rocket Man” came from a dark place, something that was on the news everywhere nonstop and it was the talk of the town in Copenhagen constantly about this retired rocket scientist that had lost his way and ended up in a dark place doing pretty freaky things and that’s all I’m going to say about it. You know, songs come out of good things and sometimes bad stuff as well.
When it comes to writing music and lyrics, is there anything in particular that inspires you? Perhaps a certain theme of sorts or things that you experience and encounter in everyday life? What about literature, movies, and so on?
MM: I’m pretty much an everyday guy, things that happen to me, or life in general can inspire you to write, but you have to stop and listen to your brain, plug into the source supplying all the info, then you try to rhyme and work the rhythm and melody out. It’s really a fun process for me anyway. I can get deeper when something emotional is happening to me at the time of writing lyrics.
How did you like recording in Copenhagen and does the city itself hold any special memories for you? Quite a few legendary bands and artists have recorded albums there (Rainbow, Metallica, Glenn Hughes, etc.) and it seems that many musicians and artists enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the city. What about you?
MM: I like it when you go to a place that has a slower pace and has a cool vibe about it. It seems to be more conducive to have a better creative and working environment and I also dig the city. I have been traveling to Copenhagen and Scandinavia for quite a few years, so I have a few friends there as well. Also, Søren’s studio is there (Medley Studios).
Do you have fond memories of your time as a member of Thin Lizzy? I love and cherish the 2011 and 2012 live recordings that were released (High Voltage 2011, Shepherd’s Bush 2012, etc.), but the “One Night Only” live album from 2000 is also quite interesting, I think. In retrospect, how would you summarize and describe your time with Thin Lizzy and the live recordings that were released?
MM: Well, my time with Thin Lizzy was definitely a highlight of my career. Playing those songs and being part of the recordings was a very cool thing to be a part of.
Speaking of Thin Lizzy, the groovy rendition of “Chinatown” on your new album is fantastic! Was Thin Lizzy one of those bands that you grew up listening to and was there a specific reason you chose to cover the “Chinatown” track? I have always loved the words to that song – Lynott was a genius when it came to writing evocative and interesting lyrics.
MM: Yes, definitely. I wanted to pay tribute for all the time spent there. Also, I wanted to do it via a more obscure song that the real fans could identify with.
Another fabulous live recording is “Live…in the Still of the Night” by Whitesnake. The whole thing just sounds massive! What are your thoughts on this album? A lot of us fans rate that album highly.
MM: Yes, it got so many awards, and I just recently took a look and listened and it is very good. It documents a great time for me with the band. Great memories, great friendships, and of course the collection of great songs!
A wonderfully eclectic albeit overlooked and underrated album is “Along the Way” by Bill Ward (Black Sabbath). Did you guys know each other beforehand and did he reach out to you and ask you to take part in the recording of the album? There were many highly talented musicians on that album and the actual music was really interesting and diverse.
MM: I met Bill Ward at a 12-step meeting when I was newly sober and yes, he did ask me if I would like to come to the studio and check out what he was doing and maybe play on a track or 2. I remember I was really impressed with the music and also the fact that some of the big names in music were participating, so when he finally asked me if I wanted to play on the album, I just said A BIG YES!
Given that your discography is both impressive and huge, I reckon that it must be quite challenging to put a set list together whenever you are about to tour as there is just so much material to choose from. Will your upcoming solo dates feature any material from Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders, Ted Nugent, and Blue Murder, for instance?
MM: I try to stay relevant to what I sang on, like Ted Nugent, and I do a few Thin Lizzy tracks here and there, but nothing from Black Star Riders, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder for obvious reasons. Also, one of the main objectives is to introduce my songs to be honest.
Will Søren Andersen take part in the solo tour that you have lined up in Europe in February/March?
MM: No, Søren has become a very in-demand cat and has a pretty booked schedule and calendar, but I do try to get the best cats available and interested in going out with me. I have Michael McCrystal on guitar and Kyle Hughes on drums – great players!
Speaking of performing live, how do you feel about touring nowadays? Do you ever find the traveling bit a little tiresome?
MM: I must say that the TRAVEL PART OF IT ALL IS THE HARDEST THING! However, I’m always motivated by the fact that at the end of the day, I will end up on stage playing music and singing my songs, and that is a good deal in my book.
From a fan’s perspective, following your career is incredibly rewarding. You are always keeping busy and there is always something going on, but would it be fair to say that The Dead Daisies has been your main priority these past few years? That is such an amazing band and your discography is damn near flawless. I especially dig the “Live and Louder” album; it is right up there with the very best of them. Could you briefly outline the Dead Daisies’ plans for 2018?
MM: Thank you, that’s a very big compliment! Well, you are right; The Dead Daisies is priority number one for me and has been for the past 4 years or so. The plan for 2018 is to release “Burn It Down”, our new album, on April 6 and to do as much touring as possible to PROMOTE IT. In my opinion, this is the best work we have done so far and I am looking forward to bringing these songs to the stage and to the fans all over the globe.
I think that was about it, Marco. Thanks once again for taking the time to answer these questions of mine. Any final words to our faithful readers?
MM: As always thank you for your all the love and support, that does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. We will see you on the road somewhere sometime. Love and respect!