Thin Lizzy Interview with Marco Mendoza
April 23rd 2012
Interview by Mark Dean
Welcome back to Belfast where you have played many times before both with Thin Lizzy,and Whitesnake, but never as a solo artist. What can we expect from your solo show?
“Its good to be back! The main focus is my music, to let people know the other side of what I do.
It is something I have been putting on the back burner as I have been busy and I even had a few reservations about it, as its just four UK shows and tonight something told me it is just time to do it and have fun, tell a little story of who you are.
To open the spectrum and let people into your story; songwriting and singing, playing is part of things. It was the logical thing to do. People can expect original stuff,and a couple of other things…We have not decided exactly what yet”
Can you introduce me to the other band members: Pino Liberti and Favio Cerrone.
How did you get together?
“Pino Liberti was introduced to me by Stefano a promoter in Italy. He got in touch with me and wanted to me to go down to Italy after my album came out and do my solo stuff.
There is a market here, and people know you, he knows the business.
Initially we could not put it together, then it finally happenedand it blew me away, when I went down there. I did it with Kee Marcello of Europe and we had a blast.”
Were Pino,and Favio working together?
“No the promoter puts people together. We did that run and I realised there was a market there and that people were digging my stuff, as I was singing a couple of songs in the set of my own stuff. Stefano then said to me that I needed to return with my own band and asked me to get in touch if I was interested. Pino is one of the top session guys in Italy, you will hear him tonight.
(Hope that you are coming?!)
Being a bass player you have got to have a kicking drummer, to have that harmony and that groove pocket. We had another guitarist, we did 19 shows-all festivals and I then got busy with Lizzy.
I hooked up with Pino on a friendship level, he is a great guy and a great player. He introduced me to Favio, who has played with Tony Martin and Eric Martin, to name a couple. Pino himself has also played with Buddy Miles and Eric Bell. They are doing a great job!
At what age did you first develop an interest in music? Was it difficult coming from Mexico setting out to pursue your musical goals?
“There was some activity and there still is, though it was very little. I did get recruited and I started like everybody else in garage bands..,playing the school dances and private parties, then you become more proficient and your gear gets better and you spend more time rehearsing until you get better.
I gradually got recruited by better bands, that were much better organised about their work, then I realised that this could be a good thing. What made me a full-time pro was that I got married at sixteen…yeah I know it is insane! Got married, we had two kids right away and all of a sudden I had to work for a living and that’s what pushed me towards earning some money.
When something happens when you have to earn money you become better at it. It was hard and I went through times when it was really lean; trying to raise a family but there is a rhythm.
I think it applies to any artist; if you are doing anything that is passion-driven in the art world it is feast or famine.You have extreme highs and lows. After a while of doing it for so long you find that rhythm and you groove with it. I think that I have got really good at it, there has been a lot of peace recently and I love it. I hope that it continues. That is why I am here doing my own music too. “
How did you come to meet John Sykes and join Blue Murder?
“John heard about me! They did the first album which everybody knew about it; its still an amazing album. I was doing a jazz thing and I was coming out from touring and doing albums. I did jazz to challenge myself with the bass playing and I played fretless as it is my first love, my first passion. John heard about me through the grapevine and he heard that there is acat in town that plays great fretless bass. He had parted ways with Tony Franklin and he had to deliver a second Blue Murder album. He came to a club, we took a break, introduced himself and I said yeah! I knew who he was. He said that he had to do an album to do for Geffen; its Blue Murder and would I be interested?
We went into the studio and within two weeks we were doing the album; that’ how we met!
He actually came to one of my gigs and we ended up doing six-seven albums, a great guy.”
And then you followed John into Thin Lizzy?
“He was very instrumental in hooking me up with the rest of the guys.
There was some interest in Japan,to, maybe entertain some live shows there. The dates were being booked and they needed a bass player. It was the Thunder and Lightning lineup with John where we recorded a live album there. “
Was Thin Lizzy a band that you had grown up listening to?How was it to meet Scott,and Brian?
“It was a trip, though in all honesty in the West Coast we just got the hits. Jailbreak,The Boys are back and occasionally whiskey in the jar. If I can remember clearly they were a band that played so far away to reach, it was great music and I loved it, but we got exposed to it in very small quantities.
When John called and said the guys were coming out to LA, he had thought about me and would I be interested? Then that was when I got everything to do with Thin Lizzy.
I did my homework, videos, lots of stuff and I learned 25-30 songs and hit it off with Scott and Brian also.”
Next musical venture for you was hooking up with the legendary, wild man of rock ‘Ted Nugent’! How was that? Did he live up to his label and reputation?
“He is wild and crazy; like a fox if you know what I mean! He is very smart and he has got it really together-ultra-together”
Have you any repeatable stories of your time with him?
“Tons! But privately I consider him to be a friend, because we got really close. I grew up with my father, who collected firearms”
So you both had a common interest with that?
Something also that you still have a keen active interest in to this day (Marco has done some campaigning in US regarding their gun legislation)
“We are going through some changes right now( in USA), I generally don’t try to mix politics with music. Anyway Tommy Aldridge hooked me up with Ted as he was going to do the Kiss Reunion Tour 1999-2000, I was thrown in the mix, to hang out and play some songs. When I was going to the audition, I brought along my 1914 Luger; which my dad had given to me. Anyway, we played some songs and he was checking me out with my tattoos and piercings (with him being ultra-conservative).
He asked me to recommend a place for Mexican food, so we went and had something to eat. We played a couple more songs and I still wasn’t getting an upbeat positive response, so I went to the car, grabbed my gun and took it in to show Ted. Wow! It was then we had instant bond and we clicked, it was then we had a great time! I did a few shows with him also recently, hes awesome”
You played on David Coverdales 2000 solo album “Into the Light”,had you remained in contact with him,or were you surprised when he asked you to join Whitesnake”?
“Yes that is correct, we stayed in touch! There was a tour in 1996-97 with Whitesnake that I was supposed to be involved in. My father got diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was given three months, so I obviously couldn’t do the tour. I called David and explained the situation, and they got Tony Franklin in, Adrian Vandenburg, Danny Carmassi on drums; it was a good lineup!
David said to me that we had to work together, and we did his solo album, we had the connection then made”
You played in several different lineups of Thin Lizzy (3 times) Do you feel that the current one is more true to the passion, and spirit of the band. Have you encountered any negativity that still exists with some old fans?
“Absolutely! We accept that there is going to be that hardcore element, I think that last year it really proved to all of us, and also to the fans, that this is something to be proud of.
We are doing it respectfully, and we are doing a good job! Ricky is doing an amazing job as the passion is there.”
Your solo release ‘Live for Tomorrow’ differs in style from your previous solo release ‘Casa Mendoza’, was this a conscious effort to peruse – a more rock-edged release than the jazz and latin-influenced previous release?
“Yes absolutely! ‘Live for Tomorrow’ was my first solo album on Frontiers and I had such a great time with Casa, I got approached to do something more primitive, more ethnic with Mascot.
If we had more time I could give you my opinions more extensively, or deeper. Music is a wide palate and there is no reason why we cannot dip into different styles or genres. There are also some parameters that you can stay within Rock n Roll, they shouldn’t really dilute it. Casa was really based on that, it was more free-form”
Are Lizzy writing new material? Do you feel that there is a huge weight of expectation on the bands shoulders to produce the goods?
“Yes ,we haven’t yet gone into the studio. All of us are writing, but without sounding pretentious or arrogan t(because that isn’t me), if you look at what the band has to offer as individuals, its really strong. We are going to do it the right way, we aren’t going to come out with something that is not going to be right. We understand the importance and it wouldn’t be fair to the fans or to the legacy of Thin Lizzy! We don’t want to fall on our face!”
You also played on two solo albums with Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries). As a huge fan of that band, what was it like working with her?
“She was a doll! A lovely, powerful person and it was a pleasure to work with her, I cant wait to work with her again…there may be some things in the future. Those two albums were highlights of my career, she is just brilliant”
Final question – In your musical career you have worked with many and a wide variety of artists, who would you still like to work with in the future?
“That’s a long list and other book-lots. Daily I am reminded of things I would like to do…
I would like to get together with “the song-writers. I am now at the point of my life, where I want to write songs, to tell stories. It is really rewarding. I have always been really pushing myself, it keeps you humble and always learning new shit! Variety keeps you alive man, I love what I do!