Pick Your Rock and Metal

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest interviewer Mark Ashby catches up with Marco Medoza

MARCO Mendoza, bassist in the current incarnation of Thin Lizzy and formerly a member of, among many others, Blue Murder, Whitesnake and Ted Nugent’s band (oh, and Right Said Fred!) plays his first ever solo tour of the UK this weekend, finishing right here in Belfast, at the Spring and Airbrake on Monday night.

Fellow Belfast Metalhead Mark Ashby caught up with the garrulous LA native before the Italian leg of the jaunt. Much of the rest of the content of his extensive interview, covering his views on the importance of connecting directly with fans and other topics, is published on http://www.uberrock.co.uk/ – and the first part of what follows includes some of that material, reproduced here, with the website’s permission… but, Mark also saved a few juicy titbits exclusively for us…

So without further ado, over to Mr Ashby

With Marco having been a member of Lizzy for almost 20 years now, the logical place to pick up the conversation is the recruitment of current frontman Ricky Warwick – the first Ulsterman (not counting Viv Campbell’s brief filling-in session last year) in the band’s ranks since the late, great Gary Moore. It’s a move Mendoza agrees has breathed new life into what many saw as a dying entity – and one which looks like producing the first original material from the group in just shy of 30 years… we’ll let the bassist tell it in his own style:

"He’s just perfect for the job. He’s so passionate about what he does. He so believes. He’s been a Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy fan all his life – obviously, growing up in Belfast. I tell people that Ricky knows more Thin Lizzy history than I do because, you know, he lived it: he lived the phenomenon, the success, he saw the whole thing from the beginning – he lived it… as a fan, and a big fan.

"So, he absolutely does a great job: he’s a great frontman, he’s a great singer – and, now, his writing is going to come to light. His writing is beautiful: it’s very deep and perfect for what we do for Lizzy.

"It was meant to be. Timing in life sometimes works itself out and I can’t think of another guy that would fit in there… On top of everything else, he’s a great guy: he’s a great father, he’s a great human being, he’s a great husband and a great friend. And on stage, he just kills it – he just kills it! We go out there confident, knowing he’s just going to do a kicking job – and we have to do the same…

"So, now, our next move is to start writing new songs, to represent Lizzy: that’s gonna be our next step – and it’s coming."

So, with the Irish connection in Lizzy’s very firm Irish heritage obviously very firmly reconnected, the time is obviously right to resurrect the band’s great songwriting heritage…

"Yeah. The timing is right. There’s a lot of writers in the band, obviously: there’s a lot of influences that we can bring to the table, and different styles, but in the keeping of the legacy of Lizzy – and the sound. We’re all taking that into consideration. But, I think we’re up for the job: I really think we are, as a band. As a unit, we’re really working – it’s like a well-oiled machine, starting from the management: I’ve gotta give credit to those guys, because they also believe in it and they love it with a passion, so they treat it with a lot of respect : it’s not just another band wanting to go out there and tour and make a few bucks. This is about continuing the legacy."

The Lizzy legacy, to many fans, became greatly tarnished in the decades since Lynott’s death, with many viewing the band as a ‘tribute act’ cashing in on his memory. It’s something Mendoza doesn’t shy away from – but also very much wants to put behind him as the band seek to build a credible future, especially with younger fans now discovering the beauty of the band’s material…

"Working with Brian, Scott and Darren, for me, is like coming back home because we’ve put in a lot of years, back in the Nineties. When it all fell apart, I think it happened for a reason: I think it all fell apart because this is supposed to happen today, in this form. Of course, last year we had the problem with the ‘revolving door’ of guitar players, with Vivian Campbell coming in and then leaving and then Richard Fortus doing the same: that was big question mark there… But then Damon Johnson came along and he’s another guy that fits like a glove and is willing to give it 100 per cent – he believes in Thin Lizzy: he’s been a fan for years. He’s a great guy, and also a great singer and songwriter: he’s got so much to offer and bring to the table – and he’s so happy to be part of this thing that it’s contagioius… it’s a beautiful thing… So, he was the last piece in the puzzle, to be honest… when he came in and everything started cooking and working so smoothly, it was obvious that the timing was right for us to take it to the next place.

"And, hopefully the fans will get it. And support it."

Like the rest of the current Lizzy line up, Mendoza is quick to admit that there are those who will not accept them no matter what they do… those who regard the band as dying the day their charismatic, irreplaceable leader passed on (this interviewer, as one whose early musical career the late Phil Lynott helped to shape, will admit to be one with a foot very firmly in that camp). Rightly, he respects this view but also has a challenge…

"There’s a lot of interest (in what we’re doing now). Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the fans are into it, when they come to the shows. There’s that one per cent, or fraction of a one per cent, who are really fighting it, and that’s fine, and you can have that, but those people I say: OK, open your mind, come to a show and give us your opinion – we can have a talk after the show. It’s undeniable. The shows are very strong and, obviously, the catalogue speaks for itself – the music is so powerful, lyrically, in every way… and the spirit…

"Ricky and I talk about it all the time: I had a dream the other night… and, this gives me chills – I’m not making this up – where Phil was there and he was giving us the thumbs up: he’s giving us his blessing… he’s happy (with what we’re doing)… how could he not be? (Lizzy) is a part of rock ‘n’ roll history and needs to continue for the new generations: people need to understand that… as opposed to just another wanking band out there trying to make a few bucks. All of us are deeper people than that: there’s a lot of things we could all be doing separately to continue in the music business but I believe in Thin Lizzy and I really believe in carrying the flag to the next generation.

"And it’s the same with Ricky and, of course, Scott is elated – he’s having a great time: (he believes) that the time is right and the right people are involved. And Brian? I’ve gotta tell ya, I’ve worked with Brian Downey for a few years and I’ve never seen him happier, y’know – him and Darren and Scott… so, the timing is right, the rhythm is good – the canvas is set up for us to paint the new Thin Lizzy picture, if you will… "

Of course, we’re really here to talk about Mendoza’s solo show – an experience he describes as more akin to a conversation between him and his audience… and chance for him to open up, explore a different side of himself and to communicate with people (not that he has much trouble doing that anyway: as you can probably tell, he likes to talk…). However, the bassist reveals that Belfast wasn’t on the original tour schedule, and was only added at the last minute…

"That was the thing… London is on the 22nd and then Thin Lizzy starts rehearsals in Amsterdam on the 25th, so I have to fly out the next day… So, I know it’s a Monday night, but if we didn’t do it, then… and I wanted so much to come back to Belfast and play my solo stuff. There’s a connection: I’ve been coming there for so many years, in so many situations, there’s a lot of history up there for me and I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’m really looking forward to it. But, if we didn’t get to drop by this time around, what with everything else that’s going on, God knows when the next opportunity would come along…"
One thing that came out of this interview is that Marco Mendoza is a genuinely nice guy – the Skype connection between Belfast and Rome actually died halfway through the interview, and he took the time to wait for us to get re-connected, and then picked up virtually in the middle of the same sentence!

He plays the Spring and Airbrake this coming Monday (April 23). Support comes from the brilliant Pay*ola, tickets are £12 and will be available at the door. He then returns with Thin Lizzy to play Belsonic on Saturday August 18. His album. ‘Live For Forever’, released on Frontiers, is still available, so check it out (‘cos he said to tell you to!!)

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