Tag Archives: classic rock

Marco Mendoza: ‘after the album comes out it’s going to go to the next level!’

The amazing, talented and very busy Marco Mendoza took the time to sit down with us for a quick interview this week. We talked about his upcoming UK solo tour, getting his band together and a few other projects he’s working on too. Watch/read below!

What made you want to bring back your solo stuff?

I always say there’s no regrets. I’m very happy with my career, with all the other projects I’ve been privileged to be a part of. But if I could change anything it would be to pay attention to my solo thing a little more. I love it and I dig it and the response has been absolutely over the top!

I’ve been a busy guy so eventually no matter how busy you get there’s down time. And I’m one of those guys not to wait around too long, I love what I do. So I’m always looking to put things together if there’s nothing cooking. I always had an outlet to stretch out as a bassist and as a singer, improvisational stuff and even what’s considered jazz funk, just to keep learning and challenge yourself.

That first album I did, ‘Live for Tomorrow’ came out the time I was working with Whitesnake. I’d get off the tour and go with Thin Lizzy and Ted Nugent for quite a while. And there was some time off and Frontier approached me and the chance came up so we got into the studio. To my surprise the response was good! We didn’t support it though, that was a big mistake on my behalf. But I was busy touring with all the other stuff. I did some dates to support the album, but that was like two years after.

Then the next album the same thing happened, I was juggling a bunch of projects and I had an opening so we got it together and released it and again I didn’t support it. It came out and then it disappeared.

This last album I was really busy with the Dead Daisies and thee was an opening. I went to Copenhagen and started writing with my buddy and before you know it we had the album, ‘Viva La Rock’. For some reason when it got released the writeups were really good and really encouraging and so I decided, back in ’19, I had some time. So of course when you do that the response couldn’t be better because you’re representing the album live. I got on the radar so I got invited to do a lot of stuff in Europe for ’20, and then we know what happened. So managed to do a bit in November last year but we’re pretty much picking up the pieces.

And also what else got postponed was the release of my next album which is finally going to get released this year. We’re aiming for August/September, but the first single is coming out April 13th, so I’m excited! There seemed to be a buzz out there when I announced the dates in the UK.

Marco’s Official Facebook

So, how did the line-up for the tour come about?

I got really lucky that I hooked up with Tommy Gentry who’s gig is GUN, through Kyle Hughes. So it’s just one of those things, word of mouth and then we get introduced and then they send me videos so I can check out what they’re doing. Kyle did some stuff with Bumblefoot (GNR) and I love his playing and I love his heart and who he is as a person. He’s a young lad but he plays with fire. He’s hungry, sings great and he really pays attention to what my vision is on stage. As a bass player drummers are very important to me.

And then Tommy just kills it as a guitar player and as a human being. We all get along really well. Unfortunately they’re talented folks so they get pulled away to other commitments so I’m happy and lucky to have them on the UK dates.

I’m juggling stuff right now so people can come in and out because the reality is my solo project, as much as I hate to admit it, is still in its infancy. I’m still trying to build something. I think after this year, after the album comes out and everything lines up and we do well on the live shows it’s going to go to the next level.

How do you approach a tour with your solo project in contrast to touring with the bigger bands you work with?

It feels very different! It’s a lot of responsibility. Fronting the band and being the singer and also standing behind your own music, but like I said I do it because I love it. After so many years I love the whole dynamics of writing a song and putting it out there and people digging it and people wherever you are on the planet love it and they learn the lyrics and they sing the song, there’s nothing like that.

The other thing is that I have a little more control over what happens on stage and how we deliver the shows and the message… I always insist on carrying some sort of positive message, something that’s uplifting and proactive. Something that’s very optimistic with what’s going on right now on the planet. It’s very important that you’re there for your audience and be able to escape for a few hours and get away from the everyday living. Sometimes it gets heavy.

That’s the other thing that’s very rewarding to me, I always insist on doing meet and greets and when people come round and say ‘Marco, thanks for coming here, I’ve been struggling and you put a smile on my face, I’m going to go out there and make a difference’, it’s like, WOW. Beyond all the business and all the stuff that comes along with being a musician that’s the rewarding stuff that really stays with you and it fuels you to keep going. It’s very cool.

Also the other side, when you’re part of a collaborative situation there’s always a boss and a big team so everything’s handled. I just show up, they hand me the bass and I play. While here you’re pretty much at ground level and doing anything and everything you can to put it together. A little responsibility but I’m up for it! When you love something so much you can’t stop!

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So obviously you’re mainly here to talk about your solo project, but is there anything you can tell me about another venture of yours, Iconic?

That seems to be getting a lot of buzz! That project got together originally… Joel Hoekstra and Nathan James and Michael Sweet all work for Frontier so we all had that in common. I got a call from them during the pandemic, I think, at the end of ’20, when we finally realised that the world wasnt going to open for a while. They were putting projects together because they realised there was a lot of musicians just hanging out.

So they approached me and said they’re doing this thing with these guys and would you consider being the bass player, and I said absolutely. These are all cats that are at the top of their games, great players. I knew Joel and Nathan and I’d met Michael here and there. So they called me and said the guys would love to have you but we don’t have a drummer, who would you like to call? I thought of a few cats but everyone seemed to be tied up doing other things except Tommy, who was busy but seemed very interested.

So it’s a cool bunch of cats, big profiles, big resumes, the credits are amazing. And the music is very good. We got together here in LA not too long ago to shoot some videos to release. I gotta say that the energy in the room and how we all got along is that at the end of the day it’s all about the music. And the songs are amazing.

There’s nothing more I can say other than stay tuned. Hopefully if things line up we can get a tour scheduled. It’s a great band, it’s going to go out there and kill!

What would you make of the state of the music industry right now?

I’ve seen it suffer so much. It’s such a long conversation but let’s just say that the music industry, general speaking, we took the biggest hit during the pandemic. This is how we live, it’s our livelihood. And in the bigger picture you have a lot of staff and people behind the scenes that really got hit hard. The strongest survive and come out the other side with a little bit of struggle, and it’s good to see that it’s starting to pick up. There’s a lot of hope in the air.

It’s getting better but I don’t know what’s going to happen the next couple of years. The recording side of it has come down, it got so beat up when the technology kicked in. But I’m not going to stop, as long as I have the energy to do it I will. And there’s a lot of us around that love what we do. And the fans which is another big factor, supporting the local venues and bands, it all triggers that knock on effect. We’ll see what the next couple of months bring and the end of the year and hopefully 2023 will go back to ‘as normal as we can be’. We’re getting back to working again, which is all I can say. I always say always prepare for the worse and pray for the best!

New Music Mondays: Scorpions, Bad Omens and More!

Eight more rock and metal albums graced the scene this week, from all over the world. A lot of it is from some amazing newer bands too, while a few of the older ones still holding down the fort. It’s an exciting week for new music, so let’s get right to it!

Scorpions: Rock Believer

The German hard rock/heavy metal group are the oldest band on this list by a fair stretch, and with the release of this double album it takes them up to a whopping 19. It’s long, over an hour spread across 16 tracks, but it proves the band very much still have it. The opening track, ‘Gas in the Tank’ outlines my sentiments perfectly. The album is full of highlights but standout tracks include ‘Peacemaker’, ‘Seventh Sun’ and ‘Call of the Wild’. 8/10

Bad Omens: THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND

Another band to hop on the capitalise the album title trend are American metalcore band Bad Omens. The bands third album, much like their previous two, is on the lighter end of the metalcore spectrum, clearly inspired by Sempiternal-era BMTH. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave the album with a feel of ‘this has been done before’. Not every album needs to be ground-breaking, but I was hoping to get something a little heavier when I read ‘metalcore’. What a diverse, wide-spread sub-genre it is these days. Still, tracks like the opener and ‘Like a Villain’ are definite highlights. 6.5/10

Avril Lavigne: Love Sux

While primarily pop music, Avril‘s first album or two were definitely pop-punk, and with a promise of going back to that style with this album (alongside a fairly promising lead single), I thought it was at least worth checking out. I can confirm it is at least pop-punk. Whether it’s good or not… I’m not sure. It definitely has the same energy and feel as Let Go, but the issue I have, much like some of the other older pop-punk bands’ most recent albums is exactly that. She’s going on 40 now, and writing music like you are still 18, alongside spelling things like ‘bois’ and ‘Sux’, feels cringy. Plus, both MGK and Blackbear ruin their respective tracks. But Mark Hoppus kills it on ‘All I Wanted’, it being the best track he’s done since before Blink-182’s reunion over a decade ago. Plus, after his recent health issues, it’s really heart-warming to hear him back in music again.

However, despite all of the negativity, I cannot help but enjoy the album. Avril has definitely retained the ability to write one hell of a pop-punk chorus, and I’m going to again have3 ‘Bite Me’ stuck in my head for days now. An up and down album, but I think I can settle on a solid 7.5/10

Elles Bailey: Shining in the Half Light

Blues/NWOCR forerunner Elles Bailey released her third album on Friday, and it’s really good. It’s a Dorothy, American pop-rock sound but with enough blues and country edginess and twang to add some grit and darkness to it. Heck, opening track ‘Cheats and Liars’ perfectly encapsulates the sound, I would say, and is a damn good intro to her as an artist. Honestly though, if you are into the slower blues style, this whole album is one big highlight. It’s steady, chilled and full of great vocals and lyrics. Oh, and the guitars are enough for me to geek out over so they must be good! I would happily and highly recommend this album to anyone. Give it a list, you won’t be disappointed! 9/10

Corpsegrinder: Self-Titled

The Cannibal Corpse frontman finally released his much anticipated debut album over the weekend. To put it simply, it’s about exactly what you’d expect. I have become a rather medium fan of George Fisher due to the sheer amount of awesome guest slots he’s done on awesome tracks by other bands over the last couple of years. However, this didn’t quite measure up to ‘Take Your Pick’ or ‘Parpaing’. That’s not to say it’s bad by any stretch, though. It’s death metal through and through, and damn good death metal at that. Tracks like ‘On Wings of Carnage’ and ‘Crimson Proof’ were definite highlights for me, having me headbanging along from start to finish. And, I have to add, what an album cover! 7.5/10

Black Lakes: For All We’ve Left Behind

An awesome Welsh alt metal band, we had the pleasure of reviewing this album last week before it was released. It was good. How good? Read our review of it to find out for yourself!

Blood Incarnation: Timewave Zero

What the fuck was that? Am I being pranked here? I was expecting some death metal, not 40 minutes of ambient sounds. This is Devin Townsend’s wet dream and not my sort of thing at all. 1/10, I’m sorry.

Just a Ride: Self-Titled

Another band we reviewed ahead of time (we are on FIRE this week) is the debut from NWOCR’s newest band, Just a Ride. It’s good, and if you want to find out the score, you’ll have to check out the review for yourself here.

Another fantastic week, with the smaller bands really bring it this time round! Black Lakes and Elles Bailey in particular put out fantastic albums that are up there in the running for top of the year so far. The British music scene is really thriving right now! As always stay tuned for next week’s NMM and for the big one… Stereophonics!

Battle at Garden’s Gate: Can the world’s new favourite band keep up their momentum?

Greta Van Fleet is a young classic rock band from Michigan. Formed as recently as 2012, the band burst into the mainstream scene a few years ago with their single Highway Tune; a song loved for its old-school rock feel and singer Josh Kiszka’s vocals sounding eerily similar to one Robert Plant’s. Since then, the band has released two albums (including this one) and an EP and has only grown more and more popular, being one of the leading bands of the new music scene. I have to say, while I am not the biggest fan of the band in the world, they are all top-notch musicians and have put out some fantastic songs over the last four years or so. So, I shall remain as impartial as I can, as I really do like a hell of a lot of classic rock music so for all intents and purposes I should like this too, and also promise to mention Led Zeppelin as little as possible, due to the band not liking the comparison. Join me in checking it out!

Greta Van Fleet’s Official Facebook

One of the four singles, ‘Head Above’, starts things off. It opens on 40 odd seconds of synth as a drum roll builds up louder and louder. It then explodes out into a huge, slow, 70s rock-sounding riff. It’s surprisingly uplifting for a rock song, something that you don’t hear very often anymore. The acoustic coming in for the verse sounded nice too. Instead of Plant, Josh channels his inner Geddy Lee for his vocals, them soaring high and grating on me just a tad. This may be a long review. And I’m a big fan of Rush too, but I listen to them because the instrumentation is the main focus, not the incredibly high vocals. There are also times where he almost yodels, and while he can pull it off it was making me laugh just a little bit. This, if anything, gave me more Grateful Dead vibes than anything else, it’s all very upbeat and slow and light, nowhere near as heavy as I was expecting given the songs I am a fan of by them. It’s also a very strange choice for an album opener, unless (hopefully not) the whole album is this sort of style. It’s not particularly a bad song, it would make good, chilled-out background music, just like Grateful Dead. However, it isn’t exactly something I would choose to listen to, and if this is the future of rock then count me out.

Next up is the album’s lead single and the only one I have heard before this review, ‘My Way, Soon’. It opens better than the other, with a great classic rock guitar riff. However, the drums behind it are pretty slow and light, and that carries on through the verse. It again has massive Rush vibes to it thanks to Josh’s vocals and the fact that the song focuses a little more on some of the awesome riffs in it. The vocals themselves are catchier in this one than in the last too, both in the verse and chorus. In fact, the chorus on its own is fantastic, and one of the best they have written, in my opinion. We also get a great guitar solo from Jake Kiszka; pretty simple at times but channelling lots of swagger and emotion. This was good and made the playlist, but I’m already worried it will be my favourite on the album.

Their most recent single, ‘Broken Bells’, is up next. It starts with a slow, almost Dire Straits-esque guitar riff (nearly said it but found another band instead, clever I am!). Josh’s voice comes in over the top and ruins it just a tad for me, but it’s still tolerable. However, I have to say it: I’m sorry guys but this sounds A LOT like Stairway at times. It sounds good, don’t get me wrong, and suitably epic, but it’s so hard not to make that comparison sometimes with these guys. Maybe the internet has just ruined this band for me? I would probably be able to get into this song after a few more listens, but on this first one it didn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s so far all a little slower and lighter than I remember them being. I know that they aren’t always fast-paced hard rock, but so far we haven’t heard any of that and we’re 15 MINUTES into the album. The highlight of this song by far is another fantastic solo from Jake. The effect he’s using is a little like Kirk Hammett’s and I love it. A good song, but damn did it plod along for too long at six minutes.

Time for the first non-single, ‘Built By Nations’. It opens on an awesome blues riff, slow but sleazy. It’s actually my favourite riff by quite a way on this album so far. Said riff continues through the verse, with Josh reigning in his voice a little which was nice, saving his high screeching for the choruses instead where it makes more sense. There isn’t a great deal to the song, but it’s a little rockier than the rest so far and the added focus on the guitar has helped it out a lot in my eyes. The backing vocals accenting parts of the chorus were also great, adding a nice extra layer to the song.

‘Age of Machine’ immediately sounds like something from ‘2112’ when it opens, the clean guitar tones building up slowly more and more. It takes until a minute into the track before anything changes, and even then it’s just a case of Josh singing over the top. It stays pretty slow throughout again, though in my opinion isn’t as good as Broken Bells. Again, it’s not a bad song, but having already had a plodding song on the album and we’re not even halfway through… it isn’t doing much to hold my attention. The song is nearly seven minutes long and there isn’t much more I can say about it, honestly. It’s slow, steady, and probably every 70s rock and psychedelic fan’s dream song. However, as someone who is not too into Pink Floyd or the longer, drawn-out Led Zep (sorry) stuff, it just gets boring. At least Jake’s solo is awesome again, right?

The shortest song on the album, clocking in at just under four minutes (right?) is up next: ‘Tears of Rain’. It opens on a pretty slow but beautiful guitar chord progression. Josh’s vocals come in over the top and actually fit quite nicely over the top for a change. Maybe they’re finally growing on me? That or I’m getting Stockholm Syndrome. This is slow still but pretty beautiful in its basicness, mainly comprising of the vocals with either some slow guitars or piano behind it. The very small amount of drums in the first half was also a nice touch, so much so that when they came in it added even more awesomeness and great layers. However, that high note from Josh REALLY grated on me, over and over again. Still, I preferred this to the last song, and it was almost enough to make it onto the playlist. Almost.

‘Age of Machine’ seemed to have started something as it takes nearly a minute before anything happens at the start of ‘Stardust Chords’, too. However, the guitar riff is awesome when it finally kicks in, almost reminding me of an old-school Iggy and the Stooges riff. The whole song is built around this riff, even during the chorus we just get a variant of it. Makes sense with the song title, I guess! Again, I feel like Josh’s vocals fit in over the top of it all, for the most part. It isn’t the kind of vocals I’d have personally wanted over the top of this, he really has leaned fully into the Geddy Lee style of screeching, but it’s at least tolerable and a little more reserved for the most part on this track. It feels almost redundant at this point to say that the guitar solo is the highlight of the song, but if I’m honest Jake’s playing has been the main highlight of the album so far. Another good song, but it probably won’t be one that I go back and listen to very often.

‘Light My Love’ opens on some beautiful piano… which is almost immediately overshadowed by a mass of distorted guitar and big drum sounds. It drops back down again for the verse, sounding pretty nice and steady, but the piano is completely lost in the mix. I’d have preferred it being more of a piano and vocal-based verse, but either way, it is still beautiful. Again, though, that high notes he hits EVERY LINE OF THE CHORUS is killing me; it’s honestly giving me a headache. Who told Josh that was a good idea to do over and over again? I can’t imagine there are too many people out there that want to be wailed at on that regular a basis, right? Like, until their ears are nearly bleeding. Plus, were GVF always this slow…?

‘Caravel’ at least opens on a couple of pretty cool guitar riffs, but again outside of that, there isn’t too much I can say about the song. I’m sick of Josh’s stupidly high vocals and his yodelling. I’m sick of all the songs being plodding, similarly paced slow, Led Zep-esque ballads. I’m sick of the bass and drums being given very little to do except for hold a basic beat or follow the guitar line. I want something DIFFERENT. Something INTERESTING. Please, Greta. You’re supposed to be the future of rock music, y’all are like my age for god sake, but they’re writing like a 70+-year-old Robert Plant does now, slow and emotionless. Where’s the attitude and fire? Where’s the FUN? At least the likes of Wolfmother and Kingdom Come imitated the faster, more energetic side of Led Zeppelin, it wasn’t all just the first half of ‘Dazed and Confused’. Rant over. Moving on.

I’m running out of energy with this album so for the final three songs (still a further 18 minutes of the album!) I’ll try and summarise what I like and dislike and my thoughts more succinctly. The wah-filled guitar solo at the start of ‘Barbarians’ was nice. The ending solo for ‘The Weight Of Dreams’ was also awesome, though FAR too drawn out. It’s not like I was listening to ‘Free bird’ or anything. I listened to the whole of ‘Trip The Light Fantastic’ while having a conversation with my partner and I don’t feel like I missed a single thing while I was only half paying attention. And hell no, I am not going back and listening to it again. I didn’t like the sheer length of the final song, it didn’t need to be nine minutes long when it was essentially just THE SAME SONG AGAIN. I didn’t like that all three felt like they were around the same tempo and feel and drawn-out boring dullness. Damn, for a band that wrote ‘Highway Tune’, this album was the hardest slog I have ever had to listen to review.

Overall: Damn, that was a hard listen. If you are a fan of Pink Floyd or Rush’s extensive slower back catalogue, you will most likely love this. However, if not, if you are like me and prefer something a little more upbeat or concise, this probably isn’t the album for you. The musicianship was there, they are all clearly talented young guys, but the over-indulgence and constant slow pace was their downfall for me.

Overall: 3.5/10

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