Best known for his work with Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Journey, Ted Nugent and The Dead Daisies to name but a few, Marco Mendoza has shared stages with some of the greats. Stepping out on his own, he's about to release a new solo album, 'New Direction', his second collaboration with Danish producer Soren Andersen. We sat down with Marco to discuss the album, his departure from the Dead Daisies, and what's coming next for the bassist and singer. Shooting For the Stars; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Marco, how are you today?
I’m good, brother. Today, I’m in the south of Spain. I’m by the coast, and I’ve been doing interviews and promoting the album. It’s a lot of work, but I love doing it. I like to talk! I’m ready for it, and I’m excited about it, obviously.
Before we get to the new album, I have to ask you about your split from the Dead Daisies.
Everybody is very curious, and I can see why because I have to say that was one of the highlights of my career. I was having such a great time. I was instrumental in putting the people together, and we were all selective with management of who we brought in. It was flying man, it was flying great. We got on the radar in a big way, we came out with some great albums, the fans were loving it, but I will say, it was a lot of work! It was like, to an extreme. I won’t get into details, but that’s the kind of work you need to do these days. When you have the hunger and the thirst to achieve something like that in the music business, you have to be ready a hundred and twenty percent of the time.
Vocalist John Corabi's departure was announced at the same time as yours.
Some of us were getting fatigued, and we used to talk about it, and my attitude was; “yeah, this is a great opportunity, let’s keep going”, but John was the first one to say; “hey, I need a break. I need some time off. I’m up to here, and as much as I love it, I’m fatigued”, and you know, it has to do with his vocals and his state of mind and all that, being a front man. We were on the clock eighteen hours a day to be honest; shooting content, and doing interviews, and then doing morning shows, and then do an acoustic show at music stores, and then going to the venue and doing an acoustic performance to fifty select fans, and then doing the main show! It was extreme, and he started feeling a little compromised and started talking about it.
So John left first?
Long story short, I think the rest of us were into keeping moving forward, and he just said; “I can’t”. What he should have said is; “guys, is there any way we can take six months off and then reconvene?” But one night it got the best of him and he said; “I can’t do this”, and he just pulled away, just threw in the towel and said; “I’m, not coming back in ‘19”, and that was it. Management and everybody, we talked about it, and we went out looking for the next singer.
John was gone for quite a while before it was officially announced?
We wanted to wait to confirm a new singer, and the process proved to be pretty heavy and hard, and the singers that we were talking to were already committed to other things, bigger things. I mean, we were going for the cream of the crop, I don’t mind telling you. We were going for some great cats that would have been awesome, and of course, in the back of my mind I’m going; “yeah, this would be cool, and exciting”. In the meantime, my ‘Viva La Rock’ album came out in February of ‘18, and the Daisies’ ‘Burn it Down’ came out in April of ’18, so I got morphed on the fact that my album came out, and the focus became the Dead Daisies’ album, and so it should; that was my priority anyway.
So you had your solo album ready to go at the same time as the Dead Daisies?
I put that together with the fact that I wasn’t touring behind it to support the album. I did a couple of weeks here and there, so it just came on the radar, and the reviews were great, everything was positive, but I couldn’t really break away from my commitment to the Daisies. So I started getting invited to play places, and given the fact that we were going to take a break and we didn’t know what was happening with the new singer, I asked management, and they said; “yes, keep yourself busy. Let’s keep the line of communication open, we’ll check in, we’ll make confirm the new singer, we’ll move forward”.
What happened next?
So, March came, April came, and I keep adding dates, and I was having a good time doing my music and getting invited here and there. In June or July I got the call from David Lowy [band leader] saying that Glenn Hughes got on the radar; “we’re thinking of giving him a call, how do you feel about that?” I said; “absolutely! Do it!”, because the amount of energy, blood, sweat and tears, and financial commitment that this project had had, I needed to continue. So, long story short, they said; “we don’t know how it’s going to go, we’re going to get together with Glenn and see what happens”, they hit it off, and we made the official announcement on August.
You were busy anyhow with other things, weren’t you?
I was really busy. In the meantime, I’m on the road adding dates, and I get the call from Neal Schon to do the Journey Through Time thing, which ended up being the Journey gig, and so on. But that was the reason; nobody left, nobody got fired, it was one of those mutual agreements. I’m a big fan of Glenn. I’m a friend, I consider him a friend, but I’m a big fan. He’s an amazing singer and bass player, he’s got status, so I knew that it was going to be taken to the next level. That was my opinion, and I was happy.
That brings us up to date, with your new solo album ‘New Direction’; you worked with guitarist Soren Andersen on this one.
You know, this thing that Soren Andersen and I have is just uncanny, man! It’s so beautiful, a symbiotic thing that we have. We just get together and we forget all the logistics and all the business and we just remember who we are as kids, as teenagers. He was my first guitar player with my solo project, so he got to know me really well, he saw the good side, the bad side, the rough side, the whole thing, and there’s just a lot of mutual respect. He’s a great cat; he’s got production chops, he’s a singer, he’s a song writer, he’s an amazing guitar player, and he mixes and he masters. He’s just got the whole thing.
The album opens with ‘Take it to the Limit’, which is a real rocker.
We have fun, and funny enough, the first time we got together we came up with ‘Burn it’ for ‘Viva La Rock’, and without exaggerating, it was probably done in thirty / forty-five minutes. The reason I’m saying that is because the same thing happened here with ‘Take it to the Limit’; we just got together, and within the first hour the song was there. We went it to the label and they go; “yes! We love it. That’s the name of the album!” But subsequently, that ended up being the ‘Take it to the Limit’ tour for 2021 that was supposed to happen, and listening to the album, knowing that we had used the title, we kind of overdid it, and we chose to pick another single for the title cut.
And that is ‘New Direction’.
‘New Direction’ is really apropos po, it’s so relative to what we’re going through. It’s just a statement saying; “hey, we’ve got to find another way of coexisting together in our personal and in our public lives”. So that’s what happened; we decided that’s going to be the thing with the label, and they agreed, and here we are!
It occurs to me that Soren Andersen has worked with Glenn Hughes in the past, which makes for a weird symbiosis, given what we’ve talked about.
Yeah, I can share a little story. A few years back I was sitting next to Glenn doing some signing at the NAMM Show, and there was a long line of people. So we’re catching up and the conversation came up; “so Marco, I see you’re doing solo dates in Europe; what do you do hen you go there, do you bring players from L.A.?” I said; “no, it’s pretty much impossible for me to do that. The budget would go bananas, so I started digging musicians in Europe”, and he goes; “maybe that’s something I should consider”, and I said; “there’s a cat that’s just blowing me away, his name’s Soren Andersen. I have to introduce you to him because you’re going to fall in love with him. He’s got everything you need”, and as I’m saying this, I hear; “Marco!” behind the line! Are you kidding me?! It was Soren! So he came up to the front of the line and I said; “Glenn, this is Soren, Soren, this is Glenn”, and the rest is history.
Glenn and Soren worked together for quite a while.
They hit it off. He produced one of his solo albums, and co-wrote and all that, so it’s cool man! That’s how the business works. The cream always will float to the top, in my opinion.
There’s a great mix of styles on the album, from hard rockers to the likes of the bluesy ‘I Just Can’t Get Over You’.
Soren and I, we never had a plan, per se. We’d just get together to write, and it was spur of the moment. Whatever was in our heads that day, that’s where we’d go. That particular song is talking about relationships, and I’ve been writing about my wife and my relationship with her. She blows my mind as a mom, as a wife, as my partner and my lover and my friend, thinking about her; "I just can’t get over how amazing you are", but that applies to other situations. I have a daughter too, who is mind blowing, so it’s dedicated to the opposite sex. It’s lyrics that are palatable and easy listening and the message is very real and honest.
One of the more surprising tracks on the album is ‘Can’t Explain it’ which is a real commercial pop song.
I’m glad you’re saying that because I will take it as a compliment. Soren and I are big pop fans. In my opinion, the pop world represents some of the best writing ever, starting off with the Beatles, and the Stones. They have their heavier side and all that, but the best songs in my memory are the pop songs. It’s unfortunate that we have to label it ‘pop’, ‘heavy metal’, ‘classic rock’ or whatever, but I’m glad you said that because it did come up in the writing, what songs were our favourite songs, and I think subconsciously we were headed in that direction. We wanted to write some songs that were memorable, not necessarily commercial but they’re available. ‘Shoot For the Stars’ in my opinion, is a pop song too. Having said that, when you come to my show, I’ve got a lot of the heavy stuff; the heavy riffing and the screaming and that energy, but I really enjoy singing a bluesy song like ‘Leah’. So this album in my opinion, the writing was brought up a few levels, but we don’t mind the direction that it goes to.
You’ve worked with some of the greats over the years including David Coverdale, and there’s a real contemporary Whitesnake sound to ‘Walk Next to You’.
Yeah, absolutely, well guess what, did you see the writing credits? Take a peak and you’ll understand why. I just got chills, man! When I was working with Whitesnake, Tommy [Aldridge, drums], and Doug [Aldrich, guitar] and I had this thing, this chemistry, and we talked about, when the time came around, let’s just do something musically; get together, write some songs just for heck of it, for fun, and that’s the result of that writing session, that song.
That’ll explain the sound then!
Obviously it was going to go in that direction given the input, and the three of us got together in Doug’s studio and we wrote the song, the lyrics, the melody, the whole thing. It was a 33.3% effort, and I love that, when you can do it with two, three, four other guys, which is what was so cool about the Daisies! Five guys, all getting together and throwing it in the pot, which is why you get something very special. You take one of those persons out of the equation, and it’ll change the direction; it’s just how it is.
What are your hopes for the album?
I’m just here putting one foot in front of the other, doing the shows, trying to deliver the best shows possible with the best players possible, and then I stay out of the results and just let god take care of it, or Buddha or the universe or whatever you believe in. That’s how it works for me. It’s the process that matters for me. The results, they change, so it can be good or bad or indifferent, whatever.
You’ve played with some amazing artists during your career; is there anyone you’d love to work with?
There are so many down memory lane. Obviously, Aerosmith, being part of that would be amazing, but talking about the equation, you have those five cats, and if you take one of the guys out, it would change the whole thing. I would love to have the opportunity to work with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, of course. Alice Cooper is one of those guys that you aspire to. He was one of my first concert, ever, and it’s so funny, a lot of my friends are working with him now, and he’s brilliant, mind blowing at what he does. There’s so many that I would love to work with.
What’s next for you?
I say this with a lot of reservation, but there’s so much coming, man, so much more. There’s a few things that I’ve got asked not to talk about, but there’s some cool things cooking for the next two / three years, so it’s an exciting time. There’s a lot of recording scheduled, and so the career is flying! We’re picking up the pieces and we’re getting back on track, and I’m getting all these calls and all these offers, and I’m like; “let’s go!” But I’m mostly excited about my music and my shows, right now. I’m really trying to be focused and making it a priority. It would be a shame if one of these bigger opportunities come up and I go; “alright, I’m going to put it back on the back burner again and move on”, because all this momentum and all this effort will disappear. So I’m going to try my best to keep it and make it a priority.
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Marco Mendoza's 'New Direction' is released on 16th September 2022. Click here to pre-order.