The Dead Daisies

Grande Rock had the opportunity to sit down with Marco Mendoza, the amazingly talented bassist, singer, and songwriter for some of the greatest bands of all time. He has been in bands such as Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder, and Black Star Riders. Not only has he been in some of the top bands, he has also recorded with some of the top musicians like Neal Schon of Journey, Bill Ward of Black Sabbath, and Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries just to name a few. So, when we had the chance to interview him we leapt at the opportunity. In our time together, we talked about his hot new band The Dead Daisies, and his solo career among other subjects.
The Dead Daisies band pic

Hi Marco. How did you get started in music?
 
M: I grew up in a musical home. My father, even though he wasn’t pursuing music professionally, he was a great clarinet player. My mom she was a professional singer. When she married my dad, she retired. She actually got on the charts in Mexico. At one point my parents separated and my grandmother, my father’s mother, came to take care of us. She was a piano teacher. We had a piano and there was music all over the place. I think it was part of my destiny. It was in my DNA. Everybody in my family sings. We had some excellent singers in our family I think I liked the idea of playing in a band. So, my father saw some interest there, so he surrounded us with electric guitars and amps. He even built a little room for us to goof around in. My brother was a drummer and I started out as a guitar player. I think it was part of my environment, growing up in that environment and then getting the record “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. It sparked my interest. It started as a hobby and I had no idea it was going to be my life decision, my career. But it ended up being that way and I am glad. It’s been a great journey and I love what I do with a passion. I still dig it after so many years. It was a good decision.
 
 
Did you get a lot of support?
 
M: My father supported it. But he felt like he wanted us to not get in trouble. He wanted us to focus on something we enjoyed, and music was part of it. We got into it, (laughing) we still got into trouble. I will never forget he said “Marco make sure you get good grades, I want you to get a career going. I would love for music to be part of your life as a hobby or whatever”. He had no idea this was going to be a lifetime commitment. When he passed away he saw some of the successes that I’ve had, and he was proud. But there were a few years where he was disappointed. Because it’s a hard life being a musician. It’s not all that it seems. You go through a lot of ups and downs in life. I got married very young. I got married at 16. At 18 I had 2 kids and a wife, and a home to support. I had some work at one point, and sometimes I didn’t. It was a rollercoaster. Every chance he had he said I needed to finish school and to go back and get a real job. When he passed away, I discovered he collected a lot of recordings I had done, magazine interviews. He was very proud. I am glad. I was lucky those lucky people that knew early in life that this was going to be a life endeavor.
 
 
At what point did you know this?
 
M: I think when I got married, I was recruited by a bigger band that was recording, had 2 albums released. I was playing a big stage to bigger audiences. I was making a decent living. I was married, I had a home and kids. I knew this was going to be a thing. But you go through periods where you second guess yourself because it’s hard. I’ve had some periods where I had to decide whether to buy food or milk for the kids or buy myself a set of strings because my strings were dead. I remember situations like that a lot. At the same time, it worked for me because it made me more assertive and more goal oriented. I remember knowing in my heart this was going to be my career. I had to be a provider for my family, so I had to be really good. I somewhat grew and progressed really fast to the point where I felt really confident. After so many years you know what to do. I don’t audition anymore. I can’t remember the last time I auditioned. I was all in by 18.
 
 
Growing up in LA with all those great musicians there, did all that competition fire you up to get even better or did you just push yourself regardless of everybody?
 
M: The more I played, the longer I played, the more interested I got. The more I progressed, the more I challenged myself to learn harder stuff. I grew up in Tijuana Mexico. I was surrounded by great musicians there. The music scene was thriving. I was inspired everywhere that I looked. That inspires you and it triggers that mechanism inside you to go well if I want to be like that I need to put the work in. It still is a passion driven thing. But also, you have this internal fire thing where you want to be good, I want to learn more and more. I went through a period, I started out playing rock and roll. That was all I played. I wanted to challenge myself, so I got into progressive rock n roll. We were writing and recording progressive, then I got into jazz fusion. To the point where I was singing with some of the heavy cats that were big names in the jazz fusion world. Because I wanted to challenge myself. Now I’m back to playing music. There are no labels… genres are just labels we use to identify different sounds to music. I like to consider myself a bass player. If a jazz pianist asks me to record with him, I’ll practice and do my homework. If I get called to play a salsa groove, reggae, rock n roll, whatever, straight ahead bebop, old fashioned jazz. I love that walking bass. For me it’s very cool. Later on, when I got sober and I got to L.A. in 87 or 88, I was surrounded by the cream of the crop. Even when you’re playing little clubs in L.A., George Duke, Stanley Clarke, David Lee Roth, Billy Sheehan, Graham Hughes, to name a few would come in and hear you. So, absolutely you have that in mind and you always want to be on top of your game. L.A. is definitely the place. When I do clinics or master classes, which I do sometimes, I always tell the younger cats that want to do music for a living to take time and go to L.A. for the same reason. Because you have to step up your game. You will grow, or you won’t float and then you’ll disappear. So, L.A. was the best move for me absolutely.
 
 
You’ve played in some major bands in your career. How did you get your big break?
 
M: The beginning of what I call my real career is when I got sober. That was on September 20th, 1987. When I got sober it became clear to me that I wanted to be in L.A. in the center of it all. There were a couple of things that put me on the map. The first is when I met Bill Ward of Black Sabbath in sobriety. He was working on his album. We would meet at the 12 step meetings. I knew who he was, and I would leave him alone. One day he approached me, maybe he did a little bit of homework, he realized I was a bass player, a singer and a songwriter, and he approached me and said I want to surround myself with sober people. He said he was working on his solo album and asked if I wanted to play on a couple of tracks. I said absolutely. We made the appointment and I wound up playing on 5 tracks. To my amazement, and he down played it, but Ozzy was on it, Jack Bruce, Tim Bogart was on it, some of my bass heroes, Ginger baker played drums. So many cats, so many names on this album. It was called “Ward 1”. That solidified me coming back to the scene, productive, together. Because previous to that, let’s just say I destroyed my reputation by being strung out on alcohol and drugs. So, I got very loose. I would disappoint people left and right. So, I called that the beginning of my career in L.A. This happened in 88. By 89, 90 the album came out and a lot of people heard it, a lot of Black Sabbath fans heard it, and industry people heard it. By then I had a few projects going on the side. I got called by Edgar Winter to work. I go called by so many people to work. A lot of session work, a lot of recording. I recorded with Al Jereau. Chaka Kahn would come in and we would work with her.

One day John Sykes came in and he was looking to replace Tony Franklin who had left. So, he was looking for a fretless bass player. Exclusively I had been playing fretless bass. So, he came to a show of mine and introduced himself to me, and I said I was a big fan of your Blue Murder albums. I know you from Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. He said I have to come out with this album and it’s a bit of a deadline. I love your playing would you be interested coming in? So, I came in and that album solidified me more. Those 2 situations kinda got me on the map. The album is “Nothing but Trouble”, the second Blue Murder album. Up until that point I was doing a lot of different stuff. I was working with Scott Henderson a brilliant fusion guitarist who was working with people like Chick Corea. It was all good until these situations came and brought me back into the rock n roll scene. We ended up doing 6 or 7 albums with John. John was my introduction to Thin Lizzy in 94 which I ended up doing for 22 years up until 2016. You never know in the future I may be doing that again. The word gets around. Your reputation gets around. The only thing that was different was I was sober. I realized the importance of me being productive. I acquired the attitude of gratitude. Which meant I prepared myself. I did my homework, I showed up on time. I tried to look decent and bring positive energy to any project or situation as much as possible. The rest took care of itself. Word got around and I got tons of work.


 
What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you knew starting out?
 
M: Music in my opinion is such a gift. There are very few of us that get to follow our dream. When I was young yes, I dreamt of playing on stage and play music. I had no idea I would be playing with all these cats. So, I learned the attitude of gratitude. It’s been a great part of who I am and how I am. How I proceed with life and business and the music business. I learned that there needs to have discipline involved. The better you get, the more you prepare yourself, the better the results. Whether it’s a one-off gig or an album, or a tour, or whatever. Applying yourself as a bass player is such an important thing. When I was younger I really wanted to shine. But I would overplay. I had a lot of ability and I would play circles around the music. The most important lesson I’ve learned as a bass player is that I am in a supportive roll for the rest of the music. My first job is to support the rhythm, the harmony, and the groove. The rest comes later. If there are opportunities to be a soloist and you have the ability you try to deliver that as well. But my main thing is I am in a supportive roll. As a backup singer or a lead singer I apply myself as well. We are there to support the song. My job is to lock with the drummer and create that foundation for the soloist and the singer, for the lyrics, for the melody. Which is why I work more and more because I apply myself. I try not to overplay. I try to play enough. What’s happened along the way is I’ve built myself a bit of a reputation where people would say what would you play here. So, I am given chord charts as opposed to parts. So, you have to learn to apply yourself, and prepare yourself. Know your role in a quartet, a quintet, a 6 piece, in a big band, a trio. Then bring the right tools. For a while I would bring the fretless. It’s a beautiful instrument. If I am given the choice I will bring the fretless. But some artists want to hear the frets. You be open minded and apply yourself, learn to be patient with yourself and other people. Because you’re dealing with egos here. You’re dealing with creative ego. So, learn to navigate that stuff. Respect every body’s opinion and input.
 
Marco Mendoza pic
 
How did The Dead Daisies come about?
 
M: The Dead Daisies started for me back in 2013. I was in Australia touring with Thin Lizzy, Motley Crue, and Kiss package. The opening band was David Lowy, who is the founder of The Dead Daisies. He had another band he was doing. They had some great songs. I was backstage listening to their songs and I was like wow! We were doing big arenas. Their sound was big, it was huge. I started checking out the band and I dug it. So, we started saying hello backstage. So, I said I dig your songs, very cool writing. Who does the writing? He said I do with one of the girls. Very cool bravo and that was it. 2 shows before the end of the tour I was approached by his manager David Edwards, who is our manager now, he said “Marco, David and the singer John Stevens have recorded an album. If things possibly work out to go out and get some gigs, play live, would you be interested?”. I said ‘ya, absolutely’.
 
I get approached a lot. But 19 out of 20 things don’t happen. So, I take things with a grain of salt. To my surprise a few weeks later the manager called me and said we are going to send you some songs and see if it’s something you could dig. I remember I was working with Neal Schon on a project. I was in the studio and I got 2 tracks. I took a minute to give them a try and right away they spoke to me. The singing was great, the writing was great. The production, the song, everything was cool. I sent an email and said I love the stuff keep me posted. Then another few weeks go by and another 2 tracks came in with an email saying “looks like we are moving forward. We have an opportunity to play live. We need to put a band together and we would like for you to join us. What is your opinion?”. I said “let me call you”. So, I called David the manager and we spoke for a minute and everything felt really right. I felt good. So, I said let me see if I can change things. I was busy. I was booked. I was working with Neal Schon and Delores O’Riordan the singer from the Cranberries that passed away. So, I said let me see what I can do. It was a 3-week commitment. 4 or 5 days rehearsal and then a tour. To my surprise they were trying to get the Aerosmith tour. But they needed some names, so they thought it would be great if I could be part of it. To add a little more profile to the band. Then he called me back and said he was talking to Richard Fortus, who was part of the Thin Lizzy alumni, and Dizzy Reed. So, I called Richard and said I’m doing it. So, I moved some things around. I went down to Sydney Australia. The moment we got into the studio on the first day the vibe was so big, the songs were good. We knew there was something good happening. Before that tour with Aerosmith ended, we had a little bit of a meeting. The manager was like this could be a cool thing. Would you be into me pursuing other opportunities to playing. I immediately said “yes. I have prior commitments, but if I can fill those commitments and work around my schedule absolutely I am in”. Everybody was into it. It sounded great to be honest. So, the next thing you know I am touring the US on the Uproar tour with Janes Addiction, Alice In Chains, Duff Mckagens Walking Papers. It was a great festival.
 
So, that got us exposed in the US. The rest is history. The more we did it, the more we dug it. There is a lot of talent here. It’s a writing machine. We are always writing songs. We are very happy to be here. It’s a good energy band. We are on album 4. We are here we are flying the rock flag.

 
 
How does the Dead Daisies feel compared to the other bands you were in?
 
M: I always like to say I am still looking for my highlight. Even though I’ve had a lot of highlights in my career. Because that is how it’s been in my life, mind-blowing stuff has been happening, and I’m waiting for more. But I like to say that the project I’m in today is the highlight I’m in right now. The differences between The Dead Daisies and other projects is this is the closest it’s been to a real band in every sense of the word. I look around and there’s Doug Aldrich one of the legendary guitar players of our time. I look behind me and there is Deen Castronovo, who’s is a talent out of this world. Not just as a drummer, but a singer, and a musician. Doug is a good friend, Deen is a good friend. There is tremendous rapport between all of us. Then there is John Corabi, who in my opinion is one of the best frontmen out there, and he is a true songwriter. He is a dear friend. I admire all these cats. To my left is David Lowy, who keeps us all in line, cracks the whip. He has a great work ethic. He is very ambitious, and I love that. I’m learning so much. The difference is that. We all collaborate. We all put our 2 cents in, when it comes to the writing, to the performing live, to the recording, to any of the input we all have. Our manager runs it all back and he calls the shot. You gotta have that one person. It’s a very cohesive hard to catch. We have all been around the scene. We’ve seen the high side and we’ve seen some of the lows. I think we’ve learned a lot along the way. So, we try to keep our egos in check. It used to be a problem in other bands. We keep being productive and moving forward. So, that is the difference. A lot of mutual respect. We all support each other. We all have the common denominator, the band not the individual. We all appreciate where we are at and we are all having a blast. Honestly, we are having fun. That’s the difference.
 
 
On your latest album “Burn it Down”, you have songs with titles like “Resurrected”, “Rise Up”, “Burn it Down”, “Judgement Day”, and what goes around, was there a theme you were looking for on this album?
 
M: It’s definitely a theme we embraced. In the writing process we wanted to, we all believed that music sometimes can be used to relay a message. It can be a positive message, and we are focusing on that side. There is a lot of negative stuff out there. We are all optimists. We wanted the music to be tougher, to be more aggressive. After the first song was almost finished, there was a theme and we went that way. We want to make people think. We want not only for the fans to have a good time, but also walk away going hmmm listen to the lyrics. There is a little message there that is pretty cool. I think that some of the best songs are that way.
 
 
How did the opportunity come about to play with the Gorzów Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland?
 
M: A lot of bands are starting to do that now. I think that they are trying to find a new vehicle to connect with classical genre. I grew up listening to classical music. My grandmother was a classical piano teacher. That came about because we were invited to play at the Woodstock festival in Poland. We weren’t the headliners, but we were part of the festival. We did so well and the turn out for us was so amazing. After we got off stage the promoter came up to us and said you were amazing, we love you, you guys are great. We want to do a concert for peace. We have a philharmonic available. They want to contribute. Before you know it a year later we were back in Poland. It was an amazing night. Something like 5 or 6 thousand people showed up. We were the headliners. It was definitely a night to remember. It was a highlight. Logistically it is a lot of work. There were 61 musicians on stage plus us. We loved the whole thing.
 
 
Have you thought about being part of one of the large festivals here in the US?
 
M: We are actually in the process of considering it and talking about it. Everything starts with what can we do to help our profile and get our music heard by as many people as possible. It’s easier said than done. Logistically there is a lot of things the need to be moved. There are a lot of moving parts. We consider anything and everything. Right now we are touring in the US. We are doing small clubs. After all that, touring with major bands, doing arenas, festival , we decided to get down into the clubs to bring the music to the people if you will and build our fan base that way. We did it in the UK and sold out the shows. In Europe we are almost 80-90% sold out. This is our first time in the US headlining in clubs. So that is our main mission now.
 
 
When you aren’t making music what are you listening too?
 
M: To be honest, the last 10 years have been insanely busy. I’m either listening to the next project, listening to the music of the tour that I am on, or I’m writing music. Occasionally I will listen to Aerosmith. Of course I love Led Zeppelin. I am a big Beatles fan. I love the Stones, Deep Purple. All the classic stuff. Some of the newer bands, Kings Of Leon. But not as much as I should. But that is because of work. After I get done touring. I am doing 18 dates in Europe for my solo album “Viva La Rock”. You can go to www.marcomendoza.com to get all the information. After all of that we are doing the Kiss Kruise. Then we go to Europe. There is always work, so there is very little time to listen to music.
 
 
You’ve done 3 solo albums, The Dead Daises albums, and all your other projects. How has it been just doing your own thing?
 
M: When I do my solo thing it is my vision. I write the music, the lyrics, and the whole thing. With “Viva La Rock” I had a lot of help with producer Soren Anderson, who is a friend of mine. I used him in my solo tours a lot of times. He is my cat, he’s my guitar player. I surround myself with the right people that understand where I need to go, and what I need to do and support that. If you want to use a cliché, the buck stops here. It’s your thing, your vision, your music, your lyrics, and your singing. It’s challenging to say the least. I’m lucky that I’ve worked with the baddest bands, the best musicians, and I’ve been part of some killer projects. I try to be honest with where I am at. I try to be honest with what I sing about. I try to be honest about my abilities and inabilities. I try to put the best side of me possible out there. With Soren, we did the whole album in 12 days. I’m not that guy that hangs around and works on a song for weeks, changing this or that. I’m more like this is where I am at this moment in time. Let’s document where I am at today, then you let it go.
 
The Dead Daisies is my priority number 1. My solo career is priority number 2, 3 or 4 depending on what’s going on. I love doing it. It keeps me on my toes. It keeps me in shape. When I go out I insist that every show is different. No doubt guaranteed. There is more spontaneity; there is more ad-libbing, more connecting with the audience. I insist on audience participation. I want it to be an experience. There is so much more. I want to do as much as possible. Music is an item; there are no boundaries. There are no borders. Music can keep going and going. It’s ever changing, it’s progressing.

 
 
Thank you so much for your time!
 
M: My pleasure!

close support grande rock & "like" our fb page