Neal Schon & Marco Mendoza

Marco plays in El Trio with Steve Lukather Musical Director Steve Weingart & Weingart is a big part of Marco's new CD. Luke is a musical compadre of Marco's and a huge fan. When I told Luke I was going to interview Marco for his web site here's what he had to say: "Marco is an extraordinary talent in all styles and not only kills on bass but sings his ass off too. Much respect and admiration for one of the nice guys as well as a bad ass musician."

Reggie: I read the quote from Luke about Marco and here was Marcos' reaction:

Marco: "Beautiful! Ya,baby! I want to get to play with him! Did they get back from Japan?"

Reggie: Ya they're back. They've been back for about 5 days now. I just talked to Steve Weingart for about 20 minutes.

Marco: "I've got to call Steve (Weingart) too because we've got to do some writing for the next album."

Reggie: You're now on Mascot/Provogue Records.

Marco: "We're actually negotiating to shoot a DVD at the Fillmore West (San Francisco) on the 27th with the project with Neal. Neal's people are working on it and it looks like it's going to happen. I'm singing a lot so he's happy with that. And that will help my record. You know how that works. Mascot Records approached me and said they wanted to feature my fret less bass styles on this album. We've covered Salsa, the Funk Groove, the Brazilian playing, which is my passion. They wanted to let me get out of the box style wise. R&B is what I'm singing because I'm very influenced by R&B. So I didn't have to work with certain parameters. So to cover all of those styles, I would be the cat that could accomplish that. To fit into that non denominational genre, if you will. We're having a tough time putting a label on that type of music. I would call it Urban World Music."

Reggie: Who is playing on your new record?

Marco: "Joey Heredia (d), Steve Weingart (k) and Rafael (Hoffa) Moreira on guitar. Hoffa is AMAZING! He did a great job. He's played with Paul Stanley, Pink, Christina Aguilera. He's very versatile, especially on the album. I've got to hear the master because I think we've got Renato Neto on one track. That's it man."

Reggie: Who did you write songs with?

Marco: "I had to do some of the covers that I've been playing for years because the label wanted it. "Living in the City", 'Suzie Q" & "You've got a Friend". It's kind of like what we do with The Trio with a Rock influence. We tweaked it up a little bit. We added heavy guitars There was one song I wrote with The Trio, Fabrizzio Grossi my producer got writing credits and I wrote the rest by myself. I'd like to involve myself more with the writing. We're doing some stuff with Neal too. We're throwing some ideas around. It depends on where this thing goes because he's so tied up with Journey. We can only go so far. The parameters are so small. It's all about the writing and Neal understands where I'm at. So we're talking about hooking up and writing some ideas for the next album. I'd like to hook up with him since he's the master songwriter. I've talked to Michael Ruff. He's down with it. There's a few other cats that I'd like to work with. The next album, bro, honestly is going to be at the next level writing wise. So that's what I am pursuing. Hopefully it will go that way and I will get the opportunity. But the truth is I have a three album deal so I have some leeway. I have something to shoot for. This is pretty much going to be my calling card saying this is who I am. This is what I'm doing. The name of the project is Casa Mendoza. The label decided to do that because the focus is on me. But of course the players are a big part of anything that we do, But they're letting me stretch. It's all fret less. You know you've seen The Trio. It's going to be that way with some original writing."

Reggie: What is the release date for your CD?

Marco: "They're talking about August with a tour to follow. And also the label insisted on it and I was ok with it. They decided for me to record a couple of tracks in Spanish. And do you know what man? I was really surprised! Being that my roots are all in Latino and my first language is Spanish. It felt natural. It felt right in place. It was no work at all. It's a natural process. And the label went bananas because they can tap into another huge market, the Latin American market. That market is so available. They haven't really tapped into that market. Mascot wanted to use me, being Latino and it being my roots. Ed from Mascot is on it man! The owner of the label, he really is. He knows what he's doing."

Reggie: Luke said the same thing about him.

Marco: "He's very creative. He's not greedy! He's focused on the artist and makes sure the artist gets a good deal. So we have something to work for as opposed to the other labels who we won't mention."

Reggie: Luke took the same route in regards to other labels too.

Marco: "Exactly."

Reggie: Any chance for any live shows on the release?

Marco: "Oh Ya! Europe is going to be the first market for me. I already have an audience there. Neal and I are kicking around some ideas on that project too! But I don't want to get ahead of myself and taboo the whole thing. I really want to pay attention to this project with Neal. Ed is going to make the DVD happen. With Neal, he has a great history man! We are playing some of the early Journey stuff, which is slammin'! And I love it man!. We are also playing a lot from Neal's "Piranha Blues" CD. We are doing some Soul Sirkus stuff as well as some cool covers. It's been fun. everybody has been pushing me to be featured including Neal. You saw him when came out to the Baked Potato right?"

Reggie: Sure I was there. It was a great night! That brings me to a question I had about that night. That same night that Neal was there so was Keith St. John, Fred Coury (Cinderella), Vinny Appice (Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath, Dio) and Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Beck Bogart & Appice, Rod Stewart, Ozzy, Ted Nugent, Blue Murder). That's really cool but could be intimidating with all those guys sitting five or ten feet from you! Couldn't it be?.

Marco: "Oh, not at all man! For me, those are my friends. It's a beautiful thing. When that happens I just love it. I dig it! I was jazzed! Because that's like your friends coming to check you out. They're supporting you. So for me it's a vote of confidence. When any of those cats are around it helps you play at the next level. It does for me anyway's. That night I was beat down too. That was right after the NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants) insanity. I see the cats, especially at a place like the Potato where its the norm."

Reggie: As a fan I'm looking around and seeing all these top notch musicians thinking if they're all here it must be something pretty special!

Marco: "Ya, you're right. It's very cool that many people come out to support me."

Reggie: Have you talked to Luke lately?

Marco: "No I haven't."

Reggie: He is really focused on his music now more than ever. He's on a health kick. He's running every day. He's not drinking now. I know you've been sober for quite a while now. How do you maintain that sobriety in a Rock 'n' Roll atmosphere that's not conducive to that?

Marco: "The environment creates this illusion you know. You are surrounded by people that are indulging. For me it's very clear. I'm coming up on 23 years of sobriety."

Reggie: Congratulations!

Marco: "Thank you. Neal Schon is sober now and he is a different person. He's focused. His playing somehow never suffered. He's a little more ambitious. His inspiration is coming from the playing of the music from all the cool projects. So if you're partying too much you lose the focus. I'm really glad to see that Luke and Neal are doing that. The formula is to understand that the alcoholics and drug addicts like myself are going to be out there. And that those things can sway you very easily. I try to surround myself with people that are productive and focused. As we get older we don't bounce back like we used to. For me I wouldn't see it any other way. To be honest with you if I go out and have a drink or a beer I won't come back. I see it now from a different perspective from the outside looking in. I've hung out with Steve. I worked with him years ago. He was pretty out of control. But somehow he would get up on stage and play like a frickin' god! And Neal too. The same thing. These guys are all focused now and the business is happening. It's really great!"

Reggie: How have the live shows with Neal gone so far?

Marco: "We've done three shows so far and it's gone great. It's been slammin! The hardest thing has been not being able to pick and choose the songs because Neal has so much music through the years! We have to include a Journey track,"The Time". It's one of those obscure ones. It's beautiful. We're having a blast. The musicianship is so strong."

Reggie: We'll from what I've seen so far it looks like you guys are having a blast.

Marco: "Ya and that was just sound check! Once you've got the adrenaline pumping, the P.A. cranks and the crowd gets going it goes to another level. We just go WOW!"

Reggie: How about you playing on Weingarts' CD?

Marco: "Ya, we spoke about it. I said of course. I would love to. My arms are open. I said whatever you need man. He's been so cool with me throughout the years so that's the least I could do. I want to try and reciprocate that. It sounds like his wife Renee (Jones) is doing most of the bass work and singing. They have a great vibe. Synchronicity, whatever they do together is beautiful.It's unfortunate that not a lot of people have heard his stuff. But hopefully this will be a step in the right direction."

Reggie: With The Trio you guys played at La Ve Lee forever. Now that it's closed you're playing the Baked Potato. What's that like?

Marco: "It's great man! A legendary place! Everybody and their mom has played there! Bar none, whether it's during the week or the weekend it's ALWAYS a blast! Something about having the audience right up in your face man. That kind of brings it up a few notches too. You've gotta throw down you know? I love it. I wish we were playing there more often. It's like the only venue now and everybody's playing there now. I heard they're doing an Anniversary Show."

Reggie: That was my next question. It's the 40th Anniversary Show with Luke playing with Jeff Beck's rhythm section and Steve Weingart. How about that?

Marco: "Yes, I know. I just heard. Justin (Randi) has been calling me. I wanna see what's going on there. He's probably got the bill filled. I'm sure EVERYBODY wants to play there. But I just want to play the Baked before I leave. I leave in May."

Reggie: I talked to Weingart and he said the reason you guys clicked so well was because you had the same influences? Who are those similar influences?

Marco: "Right away, (Joseph) Zawinul of Weather Report. We're big fans of him. We actually got to meet him and hang with him and of course Chick Corea. On the Rock thing it's Jack Bruce, Tim Bogart, Chris Squire and Tony Levin, the main cats. And I still hold Paul McCartney as one of the most amazing bass players, melodic and rhythm. He's amazing. He's up there in my Top Ten. And of course the big ones Jaco Pastorius some of my new friends Bunny Brunel and Gary Willis. John Patitucci, although he's doing a lot more acoustic. They all still influence me and inspire me. Of course I can't forget Stanley man, Stanley Clarke. I just met him at the NAMM Show and he was a sweetheart. I'm trying to hook up with him and do some work with him. I would love to."

Reggie: Is there anything else you have for us?

Marco: "It looks like I'll be back with Ted Nugent. They called me so it looks like that's going to happen. We have a one off date now and they're talking June and July. I have a run of clinics in Italy along with some solo shows on my new CD. Some more stuff with Neal. On my next album I really want to bring some authentic Brazilian grooves. The Funk, the Jazz and the Rock. I have half of the songs written already. We really didn't have the time or the budget on the last one. We have a lot of stuff cookin'!", March 27th 2010