Denise Mercedes - Artist Endorsed By
Hagstrom Guitars Of Sweden, NAMM, CA. 2013
Interviews Mike “The Warrior” Maenza NYC’s
Top drummer - Living the dream - In the very triumphant Jessie’s Girl “Back to the 80’s Show”
Michael Maenza’s stellar reputation as a world-class drummer has made him one of the most in-demand musicians in New York City and beyond. Aside from playing regularly with many major 80’s hitmakers, Constantine Maroulis, and bona-fide pop stars, and Neil Patrick Harris -- Mike has recently opened for Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Skid Row. I had the marvelous experience of performing with this drum god on three occasions, my favorite time as being a guest guitarist playing some Motley Crue with Jessie’s Girl at the Canal Room.
I have always looked up to Jessie’s Girl as the prime example of perfect group unity and teamwork. This rare quality they possess has enabled this distinctive band to find ongoing and far reaching success: from being a former ‘local party band’ to achieving great heights doing non-original material as a fast-paced, highly entertaining, Broadway-level presentation of popular 80’s hits that fans love. They have created the perfect aesthetic approach connecting great popular music and showmanship. The total professionalism, passion and dedication to putting on the best show & party possible -- at every outing -- is what has made Mike Maenza and Jessie’s Girl the most popular and successful group in NYC for years: no easy feat!
Appearing every Saturday night at Le Poisson Rouge 158 Bleecker Street, NYC
Mike, you have achieved tremendous success with your band Jessie’s Girl. Can you please provide some info on the group itself: When was it formed? How did you come upon the idea of this 80’s music spectacular – the all-out singalong/dance party involving multiple vocalists, a changing roster of star-studded guest artists, many costume changes, and constantly changing set lists?
Well to start out thank you very much for all the kind words. Jessie’s Girl has been together for over 3 years. Eric, Drew, Sky and myself were part of another 80’s band and after a falling out of sorts we decided to form Jessie’s Girl. Then we got Jenna, Mark and Chris involved and boom we became J.G. Our super agent/producer Marcus Linial keeps us working every Saturday night in NYC @ Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker St. and we travel most Thursday & Fridays. The bands energy and chemistry together onstage is undeniable. Add in our bubble machines, confetti bombs, balloon drops, smoke machine and video show and it’s a celebration of one of the best decades of music.
The group requires serious, qualified, reliable musicians to be part of this very hardworking band with travel and constantly evolving/demanding set lists. Who are your other fantastic cast members and important personnel that make this all happen?
The core band members are…..
Eric Presti on Guitars & Technical Direction
Paul “Sky” Armento on Keys & Musical Direction
Drew Mortali on Bass
Mark Rinzel * all three on Vocals
Me on drums
We also have quite a bit of help keeping the 80’s machine rolling along.
Marc Linial is our agent/producer
Teresa Ann takes care of touring/stage requirements
Carrissa Phest makes and maintains our stage outfits
Mark Lewis our sound engineer makes us sound good
Sean Rip Boom, Nelson DeCastro, Jamie Ross & Andrei Petrovitch are the road crew
You have a weekly sold out show every Saturday night at Le Poisson Rouge, something remarkable these days for any rock band. How long have you been in residence there?
LPR on Bleecker Street in the West Village is our home base. We’ve been there for over two years. We love the place. Staff and management have been wonderful to us. It’s an amazing feeling to perform in front of 600 to 700 people every weekend. It’s a great venue with one of the best sound and light systems in NYC.
We also did a little over a year at the Canal Room on W. Broadway/Canal St. before it closed.
It is significant that a local NYC band reaches the peak and gets to play Madison Square Garden, the world-class venue of many of the greatest acts in the world! In preparation for this mega-event, JG had a big ‘live’ segment feature on Fox 5 TVs ‘Good Day New York’ with Tiffany, along a barrage of constant radio promotions leading up to that spectacular event. Can you tell readers some of the highlights of that important show?
The “I Want My 80’s Concert” at The Theater @ Madison Square Garden was an amazing success. It was a well planned out event put on by our agency Fun Music Presents and another company called Mecca Entertainment. It was a lot of work. We had 8 pop/rock stars from the actual 80’s all performing with us. A total of 30 songs were performed. Tons of rehearsal and promotion went into it. We’re hoping we get to do it all again soon for a possible tour. Keeping our fingers crossed.
What are some other outstanding shows/venues you have performed at?
We perform pretty regularly at some of the best venues in the U.S. including the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe PA, The Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas and NYC, the TLA in Philadelphia, PA, World Café Live in Philly & Wilmington, Delaware. The Howard Theater in Washington, DC and the Paramount Theater in Huntington, Long Island where we will be performing this New Years Eve.
Your band has had numerous recording stars/guest artists appearing onstage. I attended the premiere of cast member Constantine Maroulis (American Idol, Tony Nomination for Broadway’s Rock of Ages and star of Jekyll and Hyde) -- it was THROUGH THE ROOF!!! What other electrifying performers have you brought on to your show?
Yes Constantine is great! He’s like part of our crazy 80’s family. We performed with quite a few 80’s pop/rock stars including: Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Rob Base, Tone Loc, Taylor Dayne, Martin Frye of ABC, Mike Score of A Flock Of Seagulls, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Daryll DMC McDaniels of Run DMC, Howard Jones and The Sugar Hill Gang, Colin Hay from Men At Work. We’ve also rocked out with Jamie Fox, Miley Cyrus and Neil Patrick Harris for private events.
What future upcoming out of town gigs are in store for audiences? (Cruise details, etc.)
The coming year is going to another busy year for all of us in Jessie’s Girl. In addition to our weekly residency @ Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday nights we’ll be performing a ton of Corporate Events, High School Re-Unions, Birthdays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. The big one though for sure is The 80’s cruise we are doing in Feburary. We leave from Florida and then head to Turks and Caicos, San Juan, St Thomas and The Bahamas. Performing on the cruise ship with us are more 80’s artists including: Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Starship, Kool & the Gang, Was (Not Was), A Flock of Seagulls, Modern English, Naked Eyes, Tiffany, Wang Chung, Biz Markie, and the original MTV VJs, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, & Alan Hunter.
Checkout www.the80scruise.com for more info.
In addition to your weekly packed show at Le Poisson Rouge, you personally have performed this year at the world’s largest biker rally, Sturgis, South Dakota. Who did you play with -- and any details of interest to readers?
I performed this past August @ The Legendary Buffalo Chip in Sturgis. S. Dakota. I was playing drums for a NYC based original rock band called “Sweet Cyanide” (www.sweetcyanide.com) (www.facebook.com/sweetcyanidenyc)We opened for Alice Cooper, Skid Row, Def Leppard and Five finger Death Punch. It was a great week of gigs for us. Over 40,000 people! The biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of for sure. I’m working with them on new material for an upcoming release in 2016. Although you are best known as the show-stopping drummer of NYC’s top band ‘Jessie’s Girl’, please list the other bands you are currently in or connected to.
I perform live & or record with a few other original acts including:
“KINGSHIP” (featuring my Jessie’s Girl band-mate Chris Hall) (Facebook.com/KINGSHIPNYC)
“Izzy Zay & the Inmates”(www.facebook.com/Izz)
“Jonny Couch’s State of Mind” (www.facebook.com/jonny.napalm)
Plus I perform with a live rock and roll Karaoke band called Kung-Foo Karaoke. (www.facebook.com/KUNG-FOO-Karaoke-NYC)
What are some of your other professional activities in regards to session work, recording?
I’ve done sessions for a number of bands the past year, see the list above.
I’m currently collaborating in the studio on a country project with my friend Tommy Kessler of Blondie/The Fresh Kids on guitar at his studio in New Jersey.
Fb posts show that you appear to be playing drums almost every day. Are you working on new material constantly or doing this to add to your already immense chops?
I’m glad you noticed! I keep busy. I have my own studio “The Brooklyn Beat Lab” where I do a lot of rehearsing, preproduction, and just plain wood-shedding. Our set changes every week with Jessie’s Girl so I have to make sure I’m prepared. Plus with the karaoke band and original projects it can get pretty crazy. In the coming year I’ll be able to cut drum tracks for anyone via Pro-Tools/Cubase.
About how long have you been a drummer & what got you into this instrument?
I’ve been playing for over 30 years. I saw the band Cheap Trick perform live in my hometown of Rochester, NY and decided that night I wanted to be in a band. I started out on guitar then switched to drums. I still strum a bit of guitar too.
What advice do you have for fellow musicians who are perhaps starting out, or trying to get or keep a foothold in this very tough music business full of struggle and competition for the stage and recognition … the lure of rock stardom … where many are called but few are chosen …?
A few tidbits of advice that I have are: first: Play for the right reasons. I do it because I love to be on the stage. It’s not for the money, fame, endorsements, women, drugs or booze. I crave the excitement a live band can bring; and secondly: When you’re starting out take every gig you can handle. Don’t worry about the money. Just build the stage time, make friends, be on time, learn your parts, have fun and then repeat all that stuff over and over again.
Mike’s important links:
The 80’s cruise we are doing in Feburary. Performing on the cruise ship with us are more 80’s artists including: Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Starship, Kool & the Gang, Was (Not Was), A Flock of Seagulls, Modern English, Naked Eyes, Tiffany, Wang Chung, Biz Markie, and the original MTV VJs, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, & Alan Hunter.
Mike "The Worrior" Maenza
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