Ricky Mendoza, whose discography has been a series of his relationship with life in its various phases, releasing his latest album The New Hurt was almost like a balm to heal the world from the damage of the pandemic the year before, to say the least.
Through instruments and textures that he used to create the release, he underwent a catharsis of sorts that allowed him to process loss that he experienced in his personal life. Fresh off the release of his new single Lauve which he describes as ‘the feeling of being in love that is surreal and dark at once’, he speaks to us about death and how he believes in remaining alive long after one has passed. Read on to learn more about Mendoza's evolving relationship with death and religion.
Push up Daisies: What has your relationship with death always been like, and how do you view it now?
Ricky Mendoza: Like many children at first, the concept of death is super scary, especially growing up Catholic where one has to “earn” the right to go to heaven and the original sin and all that; but then I grew up and it evolved into something really cool. I love the fact that all the people that I’ve connected with in my lifetime are all inside of me - their energy, their smiles, their joy, sorrows, everything. I truly feel like we are all one huge entity. There’s something calming and soothing about that. Death is also a constant reminder that I need to be present. There’s so much insanity every day that I forget to be present in life and to actually be grateful for everything that I am and that I have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed so I need to care for my energy and not spend it on inane bullshit.
Push Up Daisies: Are you spiritual or religious? How do you think your ideals affect your perception of death?
Ricky Mendoza: I don’t subscribe to any organized religions but it’s undeniable to me that there’s something more; something that I cannot touch, taste or explain because I do not understand it. My perception of death has been affected more by punk rock more than anything else. As a teenager listening to a lot of Bad Religion, they planted seeds inside my mind that were beyond what anyone else was talking about in my circle of friends, family or in pop culture. They shared ideas of death from a scientific standpoint that juxtaposed with arcane religious and political beliefs. What was even cooler is that they spread their messages through music. A great example is a song called Pity the Dead. Now imagine me as a teenager, when whatever I knew about death was from the Catholic Church and then hearing this completely blew my mind. Did these punk rockers have the ‘answer’? I couldn’t get enough of them! So yeah, they were the ones that really opened my eyes to another world of thought and the journey is still ongoing.
Push Up Daisies: As a creative, how does the thought or fear of death inspire you? Does it ever drive you to create more?
Ricky Mendoza: Every single day! Death is guaranteed but tomorrow is not. Time Barry, the great folk-punk musician put it aptly - I ain’t afraid of death, I’m afraid of not living. To me, music (or any kind of art form) is the extension of the human spirit and experiences. Even when waking up I feel so grateful to not be dead and to be experiencing the majesty of everything around me - my beautiful wife breathing next to me, my curious doggies waiting to pee, the greenery, the coffee that grew in some field far away and is now brewing in my kitchen. I am so grateful to be breathing and I get to honor life and the human spirit with songs and lyrics.
Push Up Daisies: How would you like to be remembered?
Ricky Mendoza: Like my grandmothers. Both of them have passed away but when they were alive, I remember that they loved fully and gave fully with all their hearts. When they saw me or anyone else, they spread their arms as wide as they could and with a smile that would light up the night. They were incredibly and annoyingly grateful to see you. As a kid I didn’t understand this but now that I’m older, they are my true role models of how I want to be remembered not only after I die, but right now. When I see people, I want them to feel that they are loved and they are seen without judgement. The closer one is to death, the more uninhibited it makes you to love and to care about loved ones. My thing is why wait until death is close? Death can sweep you up right now.
Push Up Daisies: What are you most proud of in your life?
Ricky Mendoza: I am proud that I can be like an old lady who loves fully and be present. I’m proud that I have grown to love myself and have surrounded myself with people that love me for who I am as well.
Push Up Daisies: In what ways can it be healthy to contemplate death?
Ricky Mendoza: The way that I see it, is that before I was born, I was dead. Since I’ve already had this peaceful non-existence of not living, it was all okay. It doesn’t make it that scary anymore. Seeing life through the perspective of gratefulness is a very healthy and beautiful thing.
Push Up Daisies: Have you ever seen a film revolving around death, that left its mark on you?
Ricky Mendoza: Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg made a huge impact on me as a young man. Death was depicted differently in the movie than anything I had ever seen. To see a Nazi kill people as if they were flies and how everyone was dealing with it, to experience it from the eyes of Oskar Schindler and the way it changed his core impacted me profoundly.
Push Up Daisies: Is there something that you would be willing to die for? What would this be?
Ricky Mendoza: I’d die for some good coffee and good beer if we were in an apocalypse. I saw people fighting over toilet paper in 2020. That’s not worth fighting or dying for! Coffee and beer bring great experiences and people together. In all seriousness, the most obnoxious love songs got that one thing right, we’d all die for the people that we love.
Push Up Daisies: What are your ideal and worst ways to die?
Ricky Mendoza: The ideal way to go is for it to be as painless as possible. In the book ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell he explores the extremely high suicide rate in London in 1963 (the most notable being the poetess Sylvia Plath) and how easily accessible it was to die inside of your home oven because the town gas was composed differently than today’s standard natural gas. The process to die in your oven was simple and fast. You’d stick your head in the oven, you’d pass out and die from the lethal gas in a matter of minutes. The point is that if there was a way to die painlessly when a person is in a state of crisis, people would take that route. It’s fascinating how willing we are to escape pain by death than to live with heartache. Life is a lot of pain and hurt but it is also incredibly rewarding and full of magnificence. I guess it all depends on one’s perspective.