In my own words
I spent the better part of my life performing and writing music and it has become integrated into pretty much everything I do. To say I love music would be an understatement; to say I lived music would be closer to the actual truth as it can best be put into words, because I had no choice, it had to happen. I started playing as a young age and immediately realized there was nothing that could compare to the thrill of the stage. Being an introvert by nature, performing live became the way for me to release energy and communicate. I felt like I was ‘at home’ and I just couldn’t get enough of it (though when the show was over I would withdraw to the comfort of my introvert shell). Back then, my musical life was so surreal that in my mind, it was the closest thing to a dream come true I would ever experience. Of course, it would later prove to actually be a dream- and a nightmare come true in some ways. I played in several bands in the early days, but it was joining the band Renegade that changed my life and taught me, sometimes the hard way, what the ‘music business’ is all about.
I was raised on a healthy diet of Rock, Pop, Soul, Motown, Classical and Big Band, with some traditional Mariachi thrown in (by my Dad). Though I liked it all, I tended to gravitate toward the rock and soul stuff, including 70’s funk music. The first album I bought was Queen News of the World. I wore the grooves out on that album, but it was the opening guitar chord on Aerosmith’s ‘Draw the line’ that grabbed me by the throat and lit my senses on fire: I was hooked on rock n roll from that day forward.
Around that same time, my mom (who has a diverse musical taste, a true lover of all good music) started teaching me how to play piano. I already loved listening to music, but to be able to actually play was super cool. I stuck with it for a while, and then I found this old Stella acoustic guitar that was my Dad’s. I had a friend that I used to hang out with that knew how to play guitar and he taught me some chords, but I got frustrated trying to learn them, so I would just try to figure out my favorite songs on one string, more like playing bass than anything else. I continued to work at it, but I wanted an electric guitar because I wanted to play rock.
After considerable persistence my parents finally got me an electric guitar for Christmas. I took it with me to the family Christmas party where my cousin Johnny Rios (who played in a band) showed me how to play barred chords, and a few songs. We played along to the radio all night and I felt like a rock star. After that, all I wanted to do was play. I played along with my records in front of the mirror as often as I could, which meant that school and pretty much everything else came second. I was a not so cool, introverted kid and I didn’t care about learning to drive or girls, I just wanted to play music.
When I was 15 I got into my first band with a guy named Dennis Hill (who would later start The Poorboys, and go onto a successful career as a songwriter working with bands like Lit, and a bunch of other cool people). We played around our local area and became close friends, eventually starting a band called Toy Fox, where I would start playing bass (upon the suggestion of friend and ‘mentor’ Jo-Jo Anthony) and writing songs (Toy Fox featured Dennis Hill on guitar, James Dillon on drums, Kelly McLeod on vocals and yours truly on bass). We started playing out around the Southern California area and gained a small local following. We recorded a 4 song demo, which we were going to press into a 45 vinyl single, and were pretty much having the time or our life. This is about the time I met a guy named Kenny Marquez, who played in a band called Renegade. Renegade was a signed act, had a record out that went gold in Japan, had several gear endorsements, and was looking for a bass player. I really wasn’t interested because I heard their album and didn’t like the music at all, but Kenny played me some of their new material, (which I liked) and introduced me to the drummer Luis Cardenas. We all got along pretty well, and I decided to audition for the band. Both the first and second auditions went well (I should have known from the first audition experience that I was in for the ride of my life, but that’s another story), and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I joined Renegade, which wasn’t easy, since I felt like I was betraying Dennis and hated to leave him and Toy Fox, but once again on the advice of Jo-Jo Anthony, I looked at it as a business move, not realizing at the time that I knew nothing about the business.
After that, life moved at 100 miles per hour, I was living in a dream, and I really had no idea what I was getting into (Note: when I joined Renegade Luis was working on a solo album (Animal Instinct), but he was still part of Renegade, as it was his band from the beginning). We still needed a front man/singer and we found a local guy named Steve Mercado. Steve was (and still is) a talented singer, songwriter, and guitar player and we all agreed that he would be a good fit for the band. With a full new line up, we hit the studio and started working on some new songs. I have to say here that I had previously worked hard and practiced a lot because I wanted to be a good player, but I never worked as hard as I did in Renegade. We rehearsed until we could play the songs in our sleep, then we would rehearse some more. But the work paid off and we started playing out and went on tour.
As happens with so many musical situations, everything went well at first, but as time went on it was obvious that Steve had his own agenda and was in the band more as a stepping stone to a solo career, rather than wanting to be in a band. Being young and still naive, I took offense to the fact that Steve was ‘using the band to get ahead’ and didn’t consider him to be a team player. Of course, looking back I understand what he was thinking, and I understand his decision, even though I may not have liked it too much at the time. Eventually, Steve would leave the band, but before he left we recorded about two albums worth of material that we were planning on releasing. There was something else that started happening around this same time; the record label ran into some financial troubles and the band started having some internal conflict. We decided it would be a good idea to change things around and position Kenny as ‘front man’, then look for another guitar player. In this fashion, if we didn’t find somebody to replace Steve, we would still be able to function as a three piece (which we didn’t want to do, but in a worst case scenario, we figured we could). We looked around for a replacement and brought in a guy named Alan Alves, a friend of mine from the old days. The cool thing about Alan was that he could play guitar and drums well, so we thought it would be cool to have him play drums and bring Luis up front to sing on occasion. We played our first show with the new line up at the L.A. County Fair, in Pomona California. Little did we know, that would be the last Renegade show, at least for a while.
As time went on, the conflict from within the band and management was too much and the members of Renegade disbanded. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I knew it was time to move on. Everybody went their separate ways, but the good news was that as I left the band, I gained a family member; Luis married my younger sister Angie (years later I ended up getting even and marrying his younger sister). I kept playing, but did not want to join a band right away. I started songwriting more and doing some home recording. Though I wrote in Renegade, most of my songs didn’t fit the band.
Yes, I loved rock, but I was really into soul, funk, and alternative music and wanted to get into a musical situation that sounded more like Prince or The Time. I started jamming with as many people as I could and landed in a band with some friends called ‘Rude Boy’, it was here that I met Marc Danzeisen (Bulletboys, Little Ceasar, Riverdogs). Mark ended up being a good friend and an inspiration to me, as we shared the same musical taste and in a way had a similar musical vision.
I continued to play in several different projects and eventually sort of burned out on the band scene and just wanted to concentrate on writing and recording. I started producing around this time too, including a project called Latter Reign, featuring Luis Cardenas. Sometime in 1999, I got a call from Kenny Marquez, who I was never on bad terms with, but we had lost touch for a while. We stated talking and he asked if I wanted to play a few acoustic shows with him, of course I said yes.
Shortly after this, we met with our former record label (Allied Artist) to talk about pitching some songs, and the subject of Renegade came up. We weren’t interested in resurrecting the band (actually, I was but didn’t think it would happen), and didn’t think Luis would be interested at all. We met and talked a few more times and eventually decided to give it another shot; this time a little slower and a little wiser. We ended up recruiting Danny Flores, who had been in the band before me back in the early days (he was on the ‘Rock n Roll Crazy’ album). Danny played guitar and keys originally, but wanted to play bass this time around, which was perfect because I wanted to play guitar. It didn’t take long to fall back into the groove of things and we were soon playing and writing new songs. We recorded a demo with Dino Maddalone, which caught the ear of legendary producer Shel Talmy. We went into the studio with Shel and Richard Dodd and recorded four new songs.
For a while, it looked like things were going strong, but personal conflict would again rear its ugly head as Danny left the band, followed by Kenny. Now, I won’t say that Renegade is finished, but I will say you never know what the future holds. After Renegade 2.0, I continued to write and produce, and even dabbled in soundtrack music/scoring. In 2006 I relocated to Nashville Tennessee with my family and the company I work for. I’ve taken the last few years off from playing out to focus on family life, and to reacquaint myself with my old love of art. In my imagination I’m working on songs for a new CD, and most recently played on Luis’s upcoming solo CD. As for Renegade…well, you just never know what might transpire from those guys.