A flashy bass player once said, “Image is at least a third of the entire package”—T.M. Stevens. The metal funk master’s statement reminds me of Marco Mendoza. We know rock and roll is show business. And bassist Marco Mendoza has the rock persona and showmanship down, but also has the musical goods to back it up. From his 4-string rock grooves to his fretless jazz work and vocal range, we learned he’s got a lot to offer and share with the world.
After touring the universe with the Dead Daisies, who are on a break, Mendoza’s been busy: he inked a record deal for his next solo album Viva La Rock, which will be release on the Scandinavian rock/metal label Mighty Music. He’s also doing a club tour of Europe during the months of September/October.
Mendoza’s Viva La Rock tour hits select cities throughout Europe, including a show with with Great White in London on October 20th. The live band includes John Macaluso (Yngwie Malmsteen) on drums and Michael McCrystal (Tygers of Pan Tang) on guitar.
Particularity at his solo gigs, for Mendoza it’s also about delivering an inspirational message. “What really matters to me is when people say ‘you uplifted me. The next day I woke up and I felt like a new person. I felt like a big weight was taken off my shoulders.’ When I do that, I walk away feeling like I’ve accomplished something; and that makes me happy.”
The Dead Daisies’ bassist has played with many varied artists. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s been the go-to rock and session bassist for a lot of years. You may have spotted him on the covers of bass magazines, but his first “known” recording was with Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward. He then played in bands Blue Murder, Whitesnake, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy and with Journey guitarist Neal Schon; among others.
Phoning in from Denmark, Mendoza says “These next two weeks are very important to me as a musician, an artist and a person. It’s very exciting for me.” For the album Mendoza’s collaborating with Danish guitarist/producer Soren Andersen (Glenn Hughes, Mike Tramp) and drummer Morten Hellborn.
Guitar Girl Magazine caught up with Marco to get the scoop on his solo project and what’s next for the Dead Daisies.
It’s 1AM in Copenhagen and even after a day of interviews, business meetings and recording, he’s still fresh as a daisy talking about his latest musical journey.
Why are you in Copenhagen?
Hey, I’m in the studio working on my new solo album and I started my European tour September 20th.
That’s great. How many musicians will be on this solo album?
I’m using some amazing musicians from all over the planet. A lot of people you guys know. A lot of my dear friends that are gonna be collaborating. It’s a big project. It’s going to be really cool. If you have been following my career you know that I do a lot of different projects, but this one is kind of important for me personally. In fact, there’s a little boy inside of me jumping up and down going bananas; like I’m inside a candy store going yeah, yeah, yeah!
So, this mini tour is a club tour. How is that different than some of the larger gigs you’ve done?
Yeah, it’s clubs. When I do clubs the first thing I notice right away is the instant gratification from the fans because they’re up close. It’s a very personal contact. When something doesn’t work you can tell right away – this is not working, this is just OK. When it works you can also hear the reaction immediately. So, I’ve learned through the years to just do the ones that work – stick to that formula and try and give the fans the best for their time and money; they come to see you and want to be entertained.
What’s important to you on these live solo projects?
I will say this, I try and focus on not only just playing music, singing, entertaining and all that, but I also try and deliver some kind of message. It’s very important to me personally to walk away feeling like I’m not just playing music and delivering songs and singing the best I can, but that people walk away feeling better that there was a message I shared. It’s all very positive and uplifting. It’s about being optimistic and good to each other and supporting each other.
I know I get heavy like this. To hear you sing great and you play great, that’s important too. Don’t get me wrong. I want to hear that, but what really matters to me is when people say, “you uplifted me. I felt very optimistic. I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” So, when I’ve done that, I’ve accomplished what I feel is why I do what I do. I know it’s deep, but that’s what keeps you going. I don’t know if you know, but I’m a sober guy.
I’ve heard you share that in interviews.
I don’t mind telling you I was an addict. I came from hell to be honest. I was lower than the sewers. I was the worst of the worst. I was gone, so I feel I was given an opportunity to try and share that message. It relates to all human beings, it’s about working on yourself and trying to improve on what you can to be a better person. And through music when people pay attention they can hear the message a little better because they go home and think ‘maybe he’s right sharing that message over there.’ That’s what I dig out of the whole thing. I dig that a lot.
As far as your writing, how do you channel your inspiration when you go into the studio? Do you have the beginning sort of seeds of songs — or work as you go?
For me, I’m always writing little ideas always documenting them: recording on my phone, on my computer or if I have a little studio I go to the studio. I have like thirty to sixty ideas floating around at any given moment. If I need to bring songs up – like with the Dead Daisies I brought some ideas out. Then we taped them. With the seedlings, the little seeds, you take em into the studio and you pick the ones that fit the direction you want to go in, and then you spend more time developing the ideas. Then you decide which one you want to cultivate and grow. So that’s how songs are. You’re constantly picking up ideas from, you know, catch phrases, things that happen in your life, philosophies, points of view, ideas you want to share with the rest of the world – and then you put music to it. It’s always fun. It’s a great journey at any level to start from the beginning and do the work and see it end, and then share it all over the planet now. The digital thing, it’s boom. Unbelievable.
What are your plans after this tour?
Then I go to Quebec to play at this jazz festival with my jazz project. The Dead Daisies are not going to do anything live until next March or April. We’ll be in New York in October writing songs for our new album, obviously we don’t have a title, but we’ll be going into the studio and announcing what’s coming in November/December.
The Dead Daisies have just been blowing up. You’ve been all over.
The last album “Live & Louder,” was well-received all over the planet. It was insane. We’ve been working very hard, which is why I wanted to be a part of this project (now) and I was invited to do this and I said this is the only time I have available. It’s all timing with show business. That’s how it is. It’s all cool.
I’ve always wondered how touring musicians deal with the grind of it?
I’ve learned to find a rhythm on the road. To be OK. But look at me, I’m working. I woke up in the morning and I’ve been working all day. I haven’t stopped and it’s almost 2AM in the morning. And probably, to be honest, when I’m shutting down I’ll go write some lyrics because when I start shutting down I get inspired. Your brain starts slowing and that’s when you get lucid. For me, when you’re in that state, where you’re falling asleep, you just start writing things or ideas – some you might not even use, but write them down anyway. You adjust, you make it work. It all balances out.
I want to talk about your playing. Your slap and fingerstyle are pretty crazy…how did you develop?
You know, to be honest, slapping is something I started when I was doing a lot of sessions back at the end of the 80s and 90s when slap bass was really requested here and there. So, I had to get into a little bit. I kind of shied away from it because some of the people I look up to (and who are my friends) are MASTERS at slapping, like crazy, you know, ahhh! Back then, like Stanley Clarke he was a pioneer with slap bass, and Larry Graham. Also, I’m a big fan of Victor Wooten, Alain Caron, John Patitucci. All the cats who developed that thing.
So, you play mostly fingerstyle now?
I went more to the fingerstyle of playing for a lot of reasons. I got to a place where I was doing a lot of sessions and I noticed that was what was required of me was to play the bass. Mainly, to be more of a supportive role for the guitar player, the keyboard player and the singer, etc. So, the slapping became very minimal. It just became a part of what I had to do when I had to do it. To this day when I do solos – to be honest I do less solos now. But when I’m asked to do solos, they always want me to slap. And I’m going ‘ahh, you know, go see some other cats who do it magnificently and they’re masters at it.’ I do what I do, and I’m ok with it, and I don’t stop working. So, I must be doing something right.
What music do you listen to – any funk?
I’m a big fan of funk. Yeah, I listen to a lot of funk. These days not as much as I’d like to. I’m really busy. I go from project to project. I don’t listen to a lot of music right now for a lot of reasons. Mainly, when I’m finishing one project I’m getting ready for the next one. I’m getting acquainted with what’s in front of me and that requires a lot of time and energy and focus. When I go home I like to spend time with my kids and my wife and be home, which is very important. It keeps me balanced.
How does a solo project add to your musical experience/energy apart from the Dead Daisies?
It’s all music. Obviously, different projects require different attention to commitment and energy. So, for me I love the whole process. I still enjoy writing the music, collaborating with other songwriters, going into the studio and recording it and having your friends play on it. It’s a great journey. It’s documenting where you’re at in life creatively.
The way I do things I like to put my mark on music (where I’m at and what I’m doing). It’s the same energy, obviously when you put more energy it requires more commitment, more time. When you’re working with five, six, seven, eight people, your job is a lot easier.
As far as your singing, you have a distinctive voice. Will you be handling vocals on this effort?
My voice will be part of the bigger picture, but there’s other singers. Yes, definitely. What really amazes me Caroline is that I’ve been singing for years and I’m a lead singer – even though I don’t take myself seriously because I just want to have fun. I ended up getting a lot of work as a bass player because I sing background vocals. And I’ve been doing it for a long time; and thirty something years later people are like ‘Oh, you sing, too’?? It’s always something I’ve done my whole career and I absolutely love doing it. I enjoy it very much. When I do my tours, I front my band and I deliver the message I want to deliver.
What does that message mean to you?
When I’m singing and fronting my band, I try to walk away having done something that’s positive. If two people come and say, ‘hey, thank you so much for tonight,’ that’s enough to keep going. That’s the fuel in my tank!
By Caroline Paone
Hear a different side of Marco on “Still in Me” from his solo album
Live for Tomorrow
Check out the ESP MM-4 FM Marco Mendoza Signature Bass
For more news, gear and tour dates visit:
Follow Marco Mendoza on Twitter @CasaMendoza2012
The Dead Daisies