I know you were obviously doing other things before this but in 1994, if I’m not wrong, you joined the reformation of Thin Lizzy. How’d that happen?
Yes. I was working with John Sykes who was part of the last line up with Thin Lizzy, the ‘Thunder and Lightning’ album. I was working with him and his band Blue Murder and we would include some Thin Lizzy songs in the set. I think we were in Japan and we were with the big promoter over there and after the show we’d do almost this ritual, you know, after you do a tour he takes you out for like Kobe beef and this amazing dinner. And then we all started talking like ‘oh do you still stay in touch with the boys?’ and things like that, so I go ‘what do you think if we put something together? to pay tribute to Phil?’. Phil had passed away in ‘86 and this was in ’94. And John says ‘yeah, let me see what I can do’. A few months went by and then I get the call from John, and he tells me they’re getting together and they need a bass player. He tells me that he told the guys about me but they still want to meet me, so to come over and learn the stuff. We hit it off, long story short. I’ve been part of that thing since ’94 and it’s been great, what a gig. To my surprise I had only known a few tracks of Thin Lizzy, the ones we got in the US. Once I got to see the whole library I was like- wow! I had chills because of it. I remember being like man, this band is amazing. And just learning the bass parts and seeing the vocals and melodies Phil had down, he was just a very talented cat. So yeah, I was very honored to be there. And this is the first year, this year, that I didn’t play with them. They had six or seven festivals in Europe but I was tied up with the boys here and that’s because my focus right now is The Dead Daisies. But I put my time in, and I never say never. They’re talking about possibly doing something next year and I’m like yeah, please.
And you have a very extensive amount of things that you’ve done with various groups and solo artists. Do any of those projects stand out to you as favorites?
They all do. When I first got to LA- and I have to say this, it’s very important that I talk about this. When I first got to LA I was partying a lot.
What year was that?
That was back in 1925, haha! But I came to LA and it was overwhelming, it took me. There was this storm that happened in my head, I started drinking and drugging and doing all these things you’re not supposed to do. But it’s part of the environment, and I fell into it. I’ve got that compulsive personality, so I fell into every hole you can imagine. By the time ’84 or ’85 came around I was really bad, like out of control. I was losing gigs, I had a bad reputation- nobody would call me. I would either not show up, show up unprepared or show up drugged out and wasted. Who’s going to hire you? And the word gets around in these circles. But by the grace of God, absolutely divine intervention, I got clean. I won’t get into details, if you want to catch up on that I would love to do a more extensive interview about sobriety.
I would love to.
It’s pretty heavy. I came back to LA sober, I had a year of sobriety. This was ’87, September 20th of ’87 was my one year of sobriety. So by the time ’88 came around, I was ready to take care of business. I had lost some years, I was very hungry and I was very focused. I had friends that I knew from before, and yeah, people just started calling me again and again. I realized what a gift it was, and what a gift it is to be able to do music- period. Not to mention if it’s going to be your profession. It’s a word of mouth, it’s a people thing. I realize now with a clear mind, clear heart, clear spirit, what a privilege it was. It’s like it came back with a vengeance. I’m gonna focus, I’m gonna be the first guy there, I’m gonna try and look my best you know, start working out! I’m gonna look my best, I’m gonna learn all this stuff and more and to this day that work ethic has been part of my, if you want to call it- success. I wake up in the morning, I’m traveling the world playing music, that’s my success. I try to remain in what I call the attitude of gratitude. Some of my friends laugh at it but that’s okay. Because when I wake up with the attitude of gratitude nothing goes wrong, everything happens the way it’s supposed to. My level of acceptance and tolerance is really high, I’ve got no expectations- just take life as it comes. I roll with everything that comes along, you know? In our business, things change so fast- by the minute, by the hour, by the day and by the week. Anyways so I came to LA, to answer your question in the long way, or longer way, I ended up working with cats like Edgar Winter, Bill Ward from Black Sabbath and I was surrounded by nothing but good. The best players around, just a ton of cats. That kind of put me back on the map and solidified the fact that I was back in order. And the next September 20th from now, so long as I don’t do anything mind altering, you know drink or do any drugs on a daily basis, on September 20th I will be celebrating twenty years of sobriety.
Aw, congratulations! I’m happy to hear that.
I really owe my career to my recovery and my sobriety.
And you owe it to yourself, too, for taking the steps to get there.
I have a very fulfilled life, it’s totally mind blowing.
In 2007 you recorded a solo album, what made you want to do that?
I actually started getting approached by labels out there in Europe.
Yeah, Frontiers. The name for it is ‘Live for Tomorrow’, it’s still available on iTunes, Amazon and all that stuff. Actually, I have Doug playing on that album, I have Ted Nugent playing on that album, I had Steve Lukather from Toto and some of my friends playing on drums like Brian Tichy.
I love him!
He’s amazing. There was Tommy Aldridge as well, Richie Kotzen- so I got lucky. I got a lot of my friends to play on it and most importantly my son played on a few tracks. We had a blast. I think I finally got to the place where I had some songs and wanted to get some writing done, I had been extremely busy so I kept putting it on the back burner. And to be honest, from that album on I’m hungry for more. I’m actually talking to a few labels right now about the next album, either solo or maybe a power trio. Keep moving, keep moving forward. Music is so vast, there’s so much you can do. So that was it! The label started calling me and they convinced me after a year and a half, I guess. They heard me sing with David Coverdale and I was getting into a little bit of the Glenn Hughes parts, and I’m a big fan of Glenn, but that seems to be my range. So they went ‘wow, this cat can also sing a little bit…let’s do an album.’ And we did, it was a complete success. They’ve been calling me and a few other labels have been calling me. The next album was Casa Mendoza.
My next question is about Black Star Riders- I know you’re the cofounder, what made you want to start that band?
I can’t really say I’m the cofounder. I was part of Thin Lizzy and without getting too extensive into the story, let’s just say we couldn’t continue. The label said we love the music, we love the band, it’s a killer band with great players- I think there’s some business here, we’ll support you. So we had to come up with a new name and that’s what happened. Soon after that I was starting to get a lot of calls. You know, Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, I started working with her- Neal Schon from Journey, I worked on an album with him. I mean I started getting really extremely busy, I couldn’t do it all. I had to make a choice. And then The Dead Daisies called and it’s been amazing. So I called the guys and said listen, I hate to do this but I’m gonna bail, let’s find someone to take my place and then Robby came in and killed it. I love the guys, I love Scott- I’ve spent a lot of time on the road with Scott and we’re very good friends. I’ve known him since ’94, that’s 22 years. And then Ricky, you know, he kills it. Damon, I’ve known Damon since he was working with Ted because I also worked with Ted. And then Jimmy DeGrasso, he’s up there.
He’s a top notch drummer. So it was a great band, but also as I get older, I can’t do it all. You’ve gotta find time to have a family, you know I’ve got my kids and I live in California so I had to start managing my time- you’ve gotta pick your priorities, like anything else. But I’ve gotta say, The Dead Daisies has been keeping me pretty busy and it’s been a blast. What a roller coaster it’s been. Very exciting.
I know The Dead Daisies have got a new record out…
‘Make Some Noise’! Can you make some noise?
Yes I can, haha! I’ll be sure to at the show tonight. I listened to the album in its entirety yesterday and it sounds very southern rock inspired, given all your backgrounds in bands like Dio, Whitesnake, Motley Crue- what made you guys go in that direction?
This is something that started back with ‘Revolución’, that album got started in Cuba. I remember Richard, Dizzy, Jon and me getting in the studio and just talking about these bands we used to love and we have all that in common because we come from the same era, 1950’s, there was a lot going on. So that’s where the influence comes from, that’s where the inspiration is. You learn from your teachers. And then you remix it, you have another way of inventing the wheel. It’s still the same wheel, but it’s your wheel. So that’s what we did, pretty much. A lot of stuff reminds us of things we grew up listening to, it’s gonna be reminiscent of stuff like that. We had a great time. When Richard and Dizzy left for Guns N’ Roses, we found ourselves in a bit of a situation. So I called Doug and he expressed that he was very interested and found some time, spoke with management and one thing led to another. Same thing happened in the studio with Marti Frederiksen, same thing happened. We were just talking about our favorite bands. You learn from the bands you listen to, and then you write stuff that kind of represents that and pays allegiance to it. If you really think about music, not to get technical, there’s only seven notes. Music is such a big part of who I am, I can’t imagine being without it.
I know you’ve gotta get going so I’ll make this my last question. You were on the road with Kiss promoting the new album- what’s next for The Dead Daisies and you?
Well for me I’m negotiating right now, hopefully I’ll have some news in a month about an album that’s probably going to come out next year. For the Daisies we go from here, we’re playing a football game- all the information is at thedeaddaisies.com, it’s gonna be great. We’re starting a relationship with the NFL and all these sport situations out there, but then we go to Japan! Then we come back, then go to Korea. Then we go to Europe again, and we’ll do the Kiss Kruise too. And before that I also do a Latin-jazz funk project with some amazing players out in California and Florida between that. So I stay busy. And there’s another project that I was asked not to talk about, it’s pretty heavy duty. It’s gonna have an entourage of big names and big talent and it’s a project with my friend from Russia, it’s gonna be amazing. I’m really excited, but that’s all I can say. But go to marcomendoza.com and thedeaddaisies.com and all the information is there. I really appreciate all of your support, thank you so much.