In 2014, the Dead Daisies snatched Marco Mendoza away from his Thin Lizzy-turned-Black Star Riders gig. It seems fitting that a band influenced by ’70s rock icons Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, and Bad Company would recruit a bass player whose resumé includes Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent, and Whitesnake. For Mendoza, the timing was auspicious. “When Thin Lizzy transitioned into Black Star Riders, I lost a lot of interest—it turned into something else,” he admits. “Musically it was cool, but it just wasn’t the right place for me anymore, so I started looking over the fence.” Fortunately for the 59-year-old, that’s where the Daisies were lurking. Now, Mendoza says he’s in a great place creatively. “I feel like I’m part of something that’s moving forward, as opposed to just hanging out and waiting for what’s going to happen next.”
The road to the Daisies has been a long one for Mendoza, who cut his teeth as a Los Angeles-based journeyman, bouncing back and forth between anchoring the aforementioned classic rock acts on international tours and leading jazz-fusion gigs at smaller venues, like L.A.’s Baked Potato. His ability to shift seamlessly between genres has netted him sessions with many other notable artists, as well, including Journey’s Neal Schon and Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. Whether it’s playing 4-string with a pick or fretless fingerstyle on a 5-string, Mendoza has been a hot commodity in L.A. for many years.
In 2015 he made his recorded debut with the Dead Daisies on Revolución [Spitfire Music/SPV] and has since followed that up with this year’s Make Some Noise. “It’s really raw, ’70s/early ’80s kind of music,” says Mendoza. “It’s unlike any other project I’ve ever been involved with—we’re always moving fast, and we’re very focused.”
When did you first connect with the Dead Daisies?
I was touring Australia with Thin Lizzy on the Motley Crüe/Kiss tour, and the Dead Daisies opened up. Eventually, I got approached to listen to their music. A lot of times you talk to folks and nothing comes to fruition, but [Daisies founder/guitarist] David Lowy said, “We would love for you to participate and collaborate.”
How do the Dead Daisies differ from your previous gigs?
In the other bands, it’s a couple of guys doing the writing 80 percent of the time. Here we’re all collaborating and throwing in our two cents. We all sketch ideas, so by the time we get to the studio, we have a bunch of stuff. The well is full.
As someone with jazz and fusion outlets, how do you challenge yourself in a rock band?
I look at every gig for what it’s worth, and I do my homework. But I’ve always been a rock guy. It’s easy for me to understand—I don’t even touch a 5-string or fretless. I grab the 4-string, get my picks, and I get into that zone. As a bass player in this genre, your role is to be supportive of the song and of the guitar riffs. That’s what it is.
Did you cut Make Some Noise exclusively with a pick?
I recorded some of the stuff with my fingers, but most of it was a pick. There’s a difference in the approach with down- and upstrokes. I concentrate on the riffs and I do a lot of backing vocals. It’s fun.
When performing in your fusion trio, you sing along with your bass lines. Where does that come from?
I saw Bob Magnusson in San Diego. He was mind-blowing, doing some straightahead jazz stuff. He was using a German bow and bebopping all this insane modal stuff over changes, and he would sing it—not on the mic, but he was singing along with what he was playing. He opened the door. Singing along with the note also helped with my intonation on fretless.
Any wisdom you’d care to impart?
Apply yourself. I’ve learned in this business to take my time and apply myself. I always try to keep myself as teachable as possible. The day we decide we’ve got it all is the beginning of the end. I’m always open to suggestion and input. I don’t show up pretending to know it all.
The Dead Daisies, Make Some Noise [2016, Spitfire Music/SPV]
Basses ESP LTD MM-4 Signature Series Bass
Rig Hartke LH1000 head, Hartke HX810 8x10 Hy-Drive cabinet
Strings D’Addario EXL190 long-scale nickel Picks Planet Waves white pearl celluloid (heavy)
Effects EBS WahOne, EBS MicroBass II, TC Electronic PolyTune 2