Interview with Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake/Ted Nugent)

Current Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza had a break from recording in Rome to chat to Mick Burgess about his forthcoming solo tour and the future for Thin Lizzy.

Later this month, you’ll be coming over to the UK to play a few shows with your own band. How many shows are you playing in total?

In the UK we are doing 5 shows starting in Sutton on the 19th of April. We’ll also be playing in Bradford, Nuneaton, at The Borderline in London on the 22nd of April and ending up in Belfast on the 23rd. There’s 5 shows and I’m really excited at the thought of coming over with my band.

Your schedule with Thin Lizzy this year looks pretty full, especially as you’ve now been added to the Guns N’ Roses tour, did you not feel like putting your feet up for a few weeks or do you just keep getting that urge to go out and play?

I really live off music. You could say I’m addicted to it. It’s feast or famine. Everything happens at once then you get breaks and that’s when you can kick back. For the last 2 years it’s been one thing after another so it’s been good. I’d been getting invitations to do solo shows but I’d been so busy with Thin Lizzy that I just couldn’t fit it in. Thin Lizzy has just taken off in such a big way again, so much more than we expected. I returned home after being out with Thin Lizzy and not long after being back I got a call to do Daniel Powter’s album over a three week period. He was working with producer Howard Benson and guitarist Tim Pierce and Josh Freese on drums. It was a real blast. That was my time off but it was a great project to do and it opened a lot of doors for me to work with those guys again in the future. As far as my shows are concerned, these were in the works for a year to a year and a half as being really busy with Lizzy and other things meant that I put it on the backburner but now I think the time is right to do a few shows of my own. I thrive on music and I enjoy playing so much that I can say that I need my daily fix. Even my wife and my family can see it in me. When I get home and I haven’t done any music for a while they can sense me getting angsty so when I get home I still have to play and book shows.

What can people expect from your shows? Your last two albums were a diverse mix of Rock, Soul, Funk and Jazz and your history features the likes of Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder amongst others. Will you be concentrating on your own solo work or will you pop in a couple of songs by the bands you’ve played with over the years??

I’ve been focusing on the Rock side of things for a while now and that’s what I started off playing then I got into Jazz too. I think on this tour I’ll be playing about 80% of my Live For Tomorrow album and I’ll do some songs that I’ve performed with high profile artists like Whitesnake, Ted Nugent, Soul Sirkus, I may even do a Lizzy track but I’ll see. I’ll do a few surprises depending on how the night goes, I’ll be feeling the room and see where the crowd are but I’ll be definitely focusing on Rock ‘n’ Roll. My main objective is for people to come and listen to the music and have a good time. I believe I was put on this planet to make a difference, but not getting too deep, I like to have a message in my music and I hope people can walk away after the show thinking about a few things. Music should stir the imagination and I hope I achieve that with my music.

What about your band, who’s coming out on the road with you?

I’m so excited to be coming to the UK as I’ve got some brilliant players with me, Pino Liberti, he’s a real cat on the drums and has all the chops, he’s a really nice guy and I consider him a very close friend. Favio Cerrone is on guitar who’s also worked with Eric Martin, he’s such a fantastic player. When you get such talented musicians wanting to play with you I love it and really thrive on that.

Will you be doing the lead vocals?

Yes, I’ll be doing lead vocals on the tour.

What singers have influenced you as a singer yourself over the years?

There are so many singers that have influenced me but Glenn Hughes has to be one of my favourites. He’s just brilliant, he’s one of those people that got blessed with such a beautiful voice. I consider him a really good friend too. David Coverdale too, I was so blessed to get the chance to work with him. I used to get goose bumps standing on stage next to Mr Coverdale. Ritchie Kotzen, who I worked with on my Live For Tomorrow album, is also very gifted. If you go back further, it’s the Motown stuff that really got me as a kid and going back further Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong but the thing that kicked the door open for me was The Beatles. I’m a big fan of theirs and I hope I can meet Paul McCartney one day.

It’s been a couple of years since your last album, Casa Mendoza, do you have plans to write and record a new one soon?

I’ve been talking to a couple of labels recently and they want me to come up with something maybe later this year. I think at the moment though I’ll just focus on what I have now. I think a lot of artists make the mistake of putting out album, after album after album and not really getting behind any album in particular with touring. When Live For Tomorrow came out I was on tour with Lizzy then I went and did two albums with Delores O’Riordan from The Cranberries and I toured all over the world then I worked with Neal Schon so I didn’t really get behind the album which was a mistake. People kept asking me when I was going on tour so the time is right now. I have enough music to go out on tour so people can now see the other side of me musically. My main focus however is still Thin Lizzy.

Speaking of Thin Lizzy, Have you thought about being your own opening act for them at some point?

We have talked about it and I think it will happen at the right time but at the moment I’m just so happy to be a part of Thin Lizzy, they are just part of Rock ‘n Roll history.

There’s been the mention of the possibility of new music from Thin Lizzy. What stages are you with that?

Ricky, Damon and myself have been writing with Scott, Brian and Darren and I think we’re up to the point where we can represent ourselves with some new music. This is something we are going to be very careful with.

We’re so ready and excited to cross that line if you will. We’ll be getting together later this month and we’ll share our ideas. We’ll take it one step at a time to see where we get to. As you can imagine it’s a very delicate step to take and we have so much respect for Phil and Gary and all the Thin Lizzy boys but I think the time is right and I think 99.9% of the fans want to hear some new material. We want to take the essence of what made Lizzy great and bring it up to date.

The big question mark was the vocals but Ricky Warwick, since he’s come in, has been absolutely fantastic. He’s such a great frontman, this is in his blood and he loves it with such a passion. He loves Phil’s music and his whole legacy and seeing as though he’s from Belfast, it’s in his DNA. Hopefully what we produce will represent things respectfully and with fire.

Having seen your sound check at Newcastle City Hall in January it’s clear that you are all really enjoying yourselves even before the show?

We’re having such a good time doing this and they are such a great bunch of guys to play with. During our sound checks we try out different songs and I can guarantee on our next shows we’ll have two or three different songs that we’ve been trying out in the set. We can’t wait to get on stage and to try out new songs. There’s such a renewed energy in the band.

If you had to pick three Lizzy songs that aren’t currently in the setlist which songs would you pick?

I love “Chinatown” but we have played that one here and there. “It’s Only Money” of course is one of the more obscure tracks but it’s very unique. I like “Do Anything You Want To”, that’s a great song that we had in the set for a while then let go. The message in those lyrics is just fantastic, you know just be who you want to be. I love “Hollywood”, “Rocker”, Opium Trail”, man don’t get me started, there’s just so many. “Renegade” too, “Holy War”, their catalogue is just so vast, there’s so much great material there to play. We’ve been talking about getting more into the set so there’ll be a few surprises next time you see us.

Previously Vivian Campbell and Richard Fortus were filling in for a while, is Damon a permanent member?

We’ve had a few guitarists come through but with Damon he’s such a fan and has so much to offer. He’s the last piece of the puzzle and he’s here for the long term. He has so much respect for the legacy and history of Lizzy. He and Ricky have got some great ideas.

As a bass player, the drummer is such an integral part of the band. Although you’ve worked with Tommy Aldridge many times over the years, how important was it that Brian Downey is back on the drum stool?

When I first got the call from Lizzy’s management and heard that Brian was coming back, that was a key factor for me. Respectfully so, with Tommy Aldridge and Michael Lee, may he rest in peace, they were both brilliant drummers and brought a lot to the table but you know, there’s only one Brian Downey and the songs were recorded with the shuffle swing that Brian does so well. The bass part was such an integral part of the way Brian played and for me it’s great to play with Brian. He’s a very unique drummer, it’s great that he’s back.

In May you’ll be special guests with Guns N’ Roses for their UK tour. Are you looking forward to those?

We had some of our own shows booked in the UK in May that have now been moved to December so that we can do the Guns ‘n’ Roses tour which I think is a wise move. It’ll be good to play for their crowd and it’ll cover more of a demographic and get us back on the radar in a bigger way. It’s going to be great for us to do that tour.

Soul Sirkus was another impressive project that you were involved in. How did that come about?

I got a call from Neal Schon’s management. I’d known Neal from years back and he wanted me to be involved in his project. Jeff Scott Soto and Deen Castronova were already involved. I met Neal at the NAMM show and had a coffee and he asked when he could see me play. It just so happened that I was due to play at the show in 15 minutes with my three-piece. It was a Latin-Fusion type of band and we played for 60 minutes. Neal called me and said that I was his guy and asked if I could be up in the studio in two weeks. I flew in on Thursday and by Friday we’d tracked six songs. Two weeks went by and we did it again and that was it. Timing and chemistry is a major thing in this industry and we worked so well and so quickly together. There were no egos and we had a real blast and captured some good stuff. So that’s how it happened, pretty much.

Why did Deen Castronova decide to leave so soon after the album came out?

As we did the album we got asked to go out on tour. Neal’s management got in touch and asked if we could do 6, 7 weeks in Europe so we did three days of rehearsals and flew out on the fourth day but Deen got sick. We had the option of cancelling the tour but we decided to call everybody we knew and Virgil Donati turned up and killed it. We moved on but it’s unfortunate that things didn’t continue like I hoped they would. Everybody got busy and there were other situations going on so we never continued with the band which is a shame.

Would you work together again?

Well, recently I did another album with Neal for a solo project. We were like a bunch of kids and we did things real quick. That will be coming out at some point and Deen is involved with that too. It’s like a trio. Deen is an amazing singer. In fact we are all going to be singing on the album. I don’t know when it’ll come out as Journey is just so busy at the moment and I’m really committed to Thin Lizzy so we’re waiting for the right time to finish it.

A few years ago you played on an album by UK Pop band Right Said Fred. How did you get involved with them and did you have to shave your head first?

Ha !! No, my hair stayed where it was. I only did some vocals on the album. I was in London playing with my band and Richard Niles, who is a producer and a friend of ours, was producing the Right Said Fred album. He came to see the show and afterwards he said that he needed some vocals done and asked if I’d do it, so I did. Later we heard it on the radio and there we were. Things like that happen all the time in this business.

When you do music, you do music when the opportunity presents itself. I have to tell you though, the Right Said Fred guys were super pro. They had some great music and they were really well organised and I dig what they do. I think deep, deep down I’m a Pop guy. I like songs with messages, I like good time songs and I like having a good time with music and Pop music does that.

It looks as though your year is already full with Thin Lizzy and also your solo tour. Will you have time to fit in anything else over the year or might you find time for a holiday?

I’ve got more music to do on my own. I think when we relax from the Thin Lizzy thing I have another project lined up but I can’t say too much about that just yet but I will, closer to the time. I think people will be pleasantly surprised with that. I always have three or four things cooking at a time. I love what I do and I just can’t get enough.

For more on Marco Mendoza visit:

You can see Marco Mendoza’s on tour in the UK in April:

19th April – The Diamond, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
20th April – Rio’s Live, Bradford, West Yorkshire
21st April – Queens Hall, Nuneaton, Warwickshire
22nd April – The Borderline, London
23rd April – Spring & Airbrake, Belfast


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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