A couple weeks prior to the launch of The Dead Daisies’ first North American headlining tour, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with bassist Marco Mendoza. In part one of our interview, Mendoza discussed the band’s busy summer, the upcoming tour and more. In part two, after more on the tour, the talk turns a bit more personal, with Marco discussing his solo act and his addiction history.
LIVE METAL: So this is actually the first North American headliner for The Dead Daisies, right?
MARCO MENDOZA: It is. We’ve been very lucky. We did quite a few tours with KISS. We did Aerosmith in Australia, and we did Bad Company/Skynyrd in the U.S.—Def Leppard. But we got to the point where we realized that yes, their fans—KISS fans and Bad Company, Skynyrd fans—are rock ‘n’ roll fans, but they’re very devoted to those bands. We can’t say thanks enough to all those guys that had us participate and collaborate and open up for them or whatever you want to call it, because we got exposure. We got the initial foot in the door, if you will, and people were digging it, but now it’s time to work and build our own fan base. So that’s what we’re doing. Cats like you keep us out there, keep us relevant, and we talk about it, come out and hang out, have a good time.
We have a great bunch of songs, a bunch of great cats. Doug Aldrich, one of the great guitar players of our era, is here with us. As a bass player, Brian Tichy, one of the quintessential drummers of our time—as a bass player, I’ve been very lucky to play with the best drummers. I adore playing with Brian. He’s amazing. David Lowy, our founder, who keeps the whole thing going, Mr. Riffmaster, and he’s the steam of our boat, if you will, and the brains; he keeps it all together. And then John Corabi fronting the whole thing. It just doesn’t get better, man. John is a poet, he’s a songwriter, he’s a singer, he’s a frontman, and he’s my friend. (laughs)
You can really hear all this come together on the newest release, “Live & Louder.” Did you put that out to capture that, what you’re talking about?
Yeah, exactly. We were sitting around. We put “Make Some Noise” out, and it got some great reviews, but it can only go so far, because, again, we’re still relatively a new band. So we were sitting around—and we have a great label, SPV/Spitfire out of Germany, that’s being very supportive, and they’re working very hard, as well—with management, and they’re like, “You know, every time we see something on social media, 19 times out of 20, it’s all about how well you guys perform live on stage—the vibe and the audience, and how you really get the audience involved and all that.” So that’s where that came from, and I think we captured that.
I’ll be the first one to tell you, it’s not a perfect album. I started listening to it, and there’s a couple of things where I said, “Oh, man. Oh, wow. Ooh.” But the reality is most of the fans out there are sensitive to the vibe. They’re not into the technical stuff. They’re not into the flatness or the sharpness or the tempos and all that. It’s the vibe. And we have big, big bollocks, man. We have a big vibe on stage. Again, without blowing my own horn, it’s a great band in every possible way, and we’re just beginning. It feels really good, so in answer to your question, yes, we wanted to capture the live vibe, and I think we did it. It’s a great album. The box set is a mark of what we’ve done so far, and yeah, come on the team, man, the Dead Daisies team. I promise you a great ride, a great journey, and we’ll have a good time together.
I saw you have some solo dates that were just announced in the fall. What can people expect to see there?
Oh, that’s very kind of you mentioning that. Man, I’m surprised. That’s very cool. I try not to step on any toes. My main thing is The Dead Daisies. That’s my main focus, but as you well know, no project can keep you busy year round. I absolutely love what I do. I’m getting invited all over the planet to play. This year, I played in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Cape Town, Johannesburg, to name a few, and then all of Europe. I’m getting invited to South America, Japan, et cetera, et cetera.
These dates, what they are is a little club run that I do to kind of celebrate what I do—my songwriting, my singing, my fronting, I can’t stop, you know? It’s something that I definitely need to do for personal reasons. I’m kind of selfish sometimes. The personal reasons being to be creative, to stay on top of your game, to always push the envelope, to keep growing, to keep learning, new experiences. And what better to do that than in front of an audience? So what I do when I go out there, I play songs from my—I have two solo albums. One is “Live for Tomorrow.” That’s a Frontiers release, which I have Ted Nugent, Steve Lukather, Doug Aldrich, Richie Kotzen producing on it, playing guitar–some amazing friends on it. I have Brian Tichy playing drums, Tommy Aldridge, my son Marco playing bass on some tracks and my daughter on the cover. It’s a family affair. And it was really well received. It’s me writing songs, talking about my experiences in life and a little bit of philosophy. I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict, and so everything that I’m involved with—even my music, my writing—involves being positive and uplifted. I talk about where I’ve been and what happened and where I am today—emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, if you need to get deep.
So I do 80 percent songs from that album, and then I have another eclectic, jazzy kind of vibe that’s called “Casa Mendoza” that came out on Mascot. I do maybe one or two songs from that. It all depends on the audience, to be honest. I also celebrate my time with the biggest bands ever, like Thin Lizzy, like Ted Nugent—songs that I recorded with these bands—like Neal Schon, my time with Neal Schon, Soul Sirkus—we’ve done three albums with them. I’ll bring out a song or two from that and talk about it.
So it’s a little journey through my career and expressing my gratitude and the privilege it is to be playing music. I’ll tell you, honestly, man, Greg, my goal when I do my solo thing is just to make people think and maybe uplift a little bit and have them walk away with a little bit of a positive light in their lives. That’s my job. That’s my story, and I stick to it.
I have what I call—some of my friends laugh at it but whatever, I’m being honest when I say it—I’m at my best when I have the attitude of gratitude. I wake up in the morning, and even though I can’t feel my face or my body and I hurt everywhere, I wake up and I say, wow, look, I’m in a good place. I have a great home. My kids I adore. I have a great wife, great life, great career. The cats that are calling to work with me are over the top, mindblowing. I mean, come on. It’s like yeah, let’s go, enjoy the ride. So I try to share that every time, because I know for all of us life gets tough sometimes. Maybe we can be a little spark, a little shine.
What has gotten you to this place and enabled you to overcome addiction? We just had this huge double whammy of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. What prevented you from going down that route?
I’ll say this, and I say this with all the love and respect toward another alcoholic and/or addict. I’m one of them. I still am. The difference today is I don’t drink. No matter what happens in life, I don’t drink, and I don’t take any mind-altering chemicals, period. Does it get heavy and hard from time to time? Yes. Have I gone through some times in my life where I just wanted to just run? My father died, my mother died, on and on. The cancer scare with my wife was a moment of—I was being tested big time.
But what happened? I wish I could tell you it was my own doing, but Greg, I had gotten so low. I won’t get into details. I hope to talk about it in more detail sometime, maybe in a book. But things had gotten so bad with me, I had gotten so into the nasty side of life, the dark side, that I got busted. And that saved my life. That was divine intervention in my life. It was a .357 at the back of my head, saying you move and your brain will get splattered. I know this sounds hardcore, but it was, and I can talk about it today because that’s not me anymore.
So that’s what it was. I was facing 15 years in the penitentiary, and by the grace of God, man, I got spared, and I got sent to a rehab place as a last resource. I was given a chance, and I realized the opportunity, and I embraced it. It was 1987, Sept. 20, at 3 o’clock. I’ll never forget that. That’s when my life changed, bro. I choose to say that’s when my life started and when my career started. I was in my mid- to late 20s, and I started taking every bit of energy and focus to undo what I had been before. And that seems to be working.
Like I said, I just don’t indulge, man. I don’t need to. And I’m here to share this story with people like the cats that we just lost. I’ve had some close relationships with people that we’ve lost in the business. We actually had tons of conversations, and I was hoping that I would influence or plant a seed or whatever, but we’re all on our own little path, and we decide where we want to go. In their cases, I would say what happens in this business—I’ve seen it—you get to a place where you’re in a very privileged place. The success, the celebrity is a place. The fame, the fortune, the financial freakin’ freedom, whatever you want to call it. And all of a sudden, you surround yourself with yes people. That’s what it is. And nobody has the courage or very little tolerance to people standing up and saying, “Hey, bro, you’re sick. You have an issue here. You have psychological situations. You have depression. You’re bipolar. You’re this, you’re that”—which artists, by the way, tend to be, I have to say, because you’re constantly walking that edge between reality and fantasy, which is the songwriting and the music writing, the emotional commitment, spiritual, psychological.
So these people that live in this privileged place, they don’t have the people that really, genuinely care enough to stand up and say, “Bro, let’s look at this. What are you doing? What are you taking? Why?” If anything, I’ve learned in sobriety it’s not about how much or what you’re indulging in, it’s the why of it all. Why do you feel you have to drink? Why do you feel you have to medicate yourself? Because you can’t deal with what? You can’t deal with insecurity, fear? Guess what? We all have that stuff. I’m the most insecure person I know. I’ve gotten to a place in my life where this is what I got, this is who I am, this is what I got to offer. I’ll end up in places where I’ll be of some use, and where I’m not supposed to be, I won’t be there. That’s it. It’s that simple. I don’t overanalyze.
So I think that’s what happened, man. The short answer to you is I got scared shitless. I got to a place in my life where I saw it ending before my eyes. I saw that everything was gonna get stripped away from me—the freedom to live where I want to live, to have the privilege of playing music, living off of music. Everything came to a screeching halt, and I had to take inventory and decide where I wanted to be. Obviously, I chose the right place. Twenty-nine years of sobriety, Greg. If I make it to Sept. 20, at 3 o’clock, it’ll be 30 years of sobriety. I’m blown away.
That’s the other thing. Especially now with what’s going on in our business, I feel that it’s very important for me to share my story. And I tell you honestly, man, I was not into prescriptions. I was addicted to freakin’ street drugs—heroin and cocaine. I was in the gutter. You know where the gutter is? I lived under the gutter. (laughs) If you can picture that. I’m not bullshitting you. It got really bad, and I really got to a point where I wanted to end my life. I just didn’t have the courage.
It sounds like you have a lot to offer to people who might be going through similar problems.
Yeah, I’m hoping, which is why I talk about it every chance I get. I apologize for deviating a little bit, but that’s my flag, that’s who I am.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I just want to say thank you so much. I just want to say thanks for your support, Greg Maki. Go to thedeaddaisies.com for info, and we are coming to your area, which is a demographic we are shooting for. We’re coming to Rams Head LIve, and that’s gonna be on Aug. 18. I promise you, you come out there, you won’t be disappointed. It’ll be great fun together. So come and join us. All the info is at the deaddaisies.com. If you’re interested in my solo stuff, marcomendoza.com. And I love you guys and appreciate you.
Buy tickets to see The Dead Daisies at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Md.