The perfect hair of Boogie Knights (Photo courtesy Boogie Knights)
I love everything about the Mammoth Rocks Festival, the food, the beer, the spandex … per usual, this year’s festival will host a slew of classic rock acts from AC/DC to Eric Clapton and of course, last year’s heavy favorite, The Wayward Sons. In addition this year, Mammoth Lakes will be treated to a heavy dose of disco.
Enter the “The Boogie Knights.” Apparently there’s a 21st century disco resurgence. To find out more, I spoke via telephone with Saoud Arikat, the front man and lead singer of Boogie Knights. But don’t be fooled, when the curtains go up, Arikat goes by Danny Gibblione (a long lost relative of the BeeGees), an Italian-American who loves perfect hair and is apparently trying to beat the world record for the most “you know what I means” in an interview. As their website states, “You wanted the best …and they couldn’t make it. Here’s the Boogie Knights.”
The Sheet: So you’re down in Los Angeles? How’s the disco scene down there?
Arikat: You know, from ‘95 through 2001 it was absolutely insane. There was a point in the late ‘90s where any club in LA or Vegas had a disco cover band in it. It’s tamed down a little bit. Now, we’re also working on an early ‘90s boy band kind of thing that’s really fun. The disco thing seems to be going strong with things like corporate events and private events. People still loving dancing to disco music.
Sheet: Well yeah, especially the old farts.
Arikat: Yeah, I’m 45 and my wife is 28 and that’s how I met her – at one of my shows. She loves the disco.
Sheet: Wow. So there must be a strong groupie scene?
Arikat: Back in the day it was crazy. We were straight up Guns ‘N Roses. But nowadays, it’s a lot different. We’re all married. But there definitely is a little bit of that. Mostly it’s just people who want to come out and dance. It’s definitely not the same as it was back when we were a bunch of whipper snappers in the ‘90s.
Sheet: So what are you doing to attract some of those younger audiences? Any Justin Bieber disco remixes?
Arikat: It’s funny you say that because actually one of my side jokes whenever we do a show where it’s all ages, I do some Taylor Swift and Bieber verses and I’ll bust ’em out as a joke between songs. Little kids go bananas. We do that just for them. But when it comes to disco, it doesn’t matter … literally everyone from the 9 year olds to 90 year olds are up and dancing, because good dance music is good dance music.
Sheet: That’s good, because people at Mammoth Rocks will dance to anything.
Arikat: Yeah, that’s awesome. We love that kind of stuff. In the ‘90s our shows tended more to the older adults, but as our audience has changed, we’ve changed. We’re definitely a little bit more toned down.
Sheet: Does that mean more or less crotch stuffing?
Arikat: I’m sorry I didn’t get that.
Sheet: I said CROTCH STUFFING.
Arikat: I’m sorry.
Sheet: CROOOTCH STUFFFFING!
Arikat: Oh. Hahah, I haven’t heard that phrase in a million years..
Sheet: You lie. You hear that phrase all the time.
Arikat: Well, if we do a show at a club and it’s all over 21 then we’ll get more risqué. We still have edge, don’t get me wrong. But we’re definitely trying not to offend any grandmas.
Sheet: Okay I‘m confused, is this interview taking place in the late 1970s? Or the present?
Arikat: Right now, it’s the present. Do you want to talk to Danny Gibblione?
Sheet: Hell yeah, put him on the phone.
Arikat switches his voice from a typical California accent to something reminiscent of Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.”
Sheet: According to Disco Stu, disco record sales were up 400 percent for year ending 1976. If this trend continues, you’ll be a wealthy man.
Gibblione: I’ll tell you what. I’m not a math guy but I’m looking at like an increase of 10 to 20,000 percent by the late ‘80s. But I don’t care about the money, it’s about the music and the fans. You know what I mean?
Sheet: Do you, perhaps, think that disco will ever die?
Gibblione: What kind of question is that? Do I think the sun ain’t gonna rise tomorrow? Disco is not gonna die. It’s just one of those things. If you don’t like disco, then I don’t care what you do. You can listen to your Purple Sabbath or your Zepplins or your Bittles, but them long hair guys … they ain’t getting the ladies.
Sheet: Yeah, Led Zeppelin will never catch on. But do you think Diet Coke will ever be popular?
Gibblione: You know, I don’t drink that stuff. I take care of myself. I need to look good. I don’t try any of that diet stuff. I WORK OUT. Have you seen that Schwarzenegger movie, “Pumping Iron?” It came out a few years back. That inspired me big time. I also do a little bit of that Jane Fonda stuff. I get that going – you know, the aerobacize … I’m still looking good. In fact, I’m hot. I burn calories just standing there. True story.
Sheet:Besides excessive amounts of chest hair, what’s the most important thing for a disco band, in terms of the look?
Gibblione: First of all, you gotta have good hair. The Boogie Knights all have good hair. That’s for one reason and one reason alone. Vinnie, our hairdresser and drummer, does all of our hair. He doesn’t just take care of his beautiful quaff, but he grooms everyone else’s. The hair on top of your head is just as important as the rest of the hair on your body. Plus, you gotta have nice clothes. You gotta have the nice angel flight and some nice platforms. You don’t want to hear music from a dirty person, you know what I mean? You want a nice clean, good looking person up there.
Sheet: Christ, it sounds like you’re eternally trapped inside a disco ball.
Gibblione: Trapped? What are you talking about pal? Trapped? I’m standing on top of the disco ball. I’ll tell you what, the disco ball is hanging down from the cosmos and I’m on top of it, dancing for all you people. Please, join me for this little party train I’m on … what’s the problem with that?
Sheet: Wait. Did you just say that you’re up in the cosmos, and there’s a giant disco ball hanging between your legs?
Gibblione: Ahh, no that’s different. I’m talking about something metaphoric.
Sheet: Switching gears, do you feel bad at all ripping off your disco heroes?
Gibblione: Whooooa! Ripping off?
Sheet: Well, what do you call it?
Gibblione: It’s a tribute, my friend.
Sheet: Have you gotten any hate letters from Rick James?
Gibblione: Not hate letters, love letters. We do his song and people go, “I love this song. Who is this?” They find out, go to the store and buy his album.
Sheet: So you’re a disco messenger?
Gibblione: Exactly. You know, the more I think of it, I’m getting a little bit angry. I’m thinking, we should be getting a little piece of this pie here since we’re helping these guys out.
Sheet: You should be getting royalties from other people’s royalties.
Gibblione: Yeah I don’t know the legalese here, but I’m thinking to myself, we’re out there doing a lot of good for the people. But like I said it’s not about the money, it’s about the music and the people. You know what I mean? I think I’m gonna let it go this time.
Sheet: Are there any up-and-coming disco artists we should know about?
Gibblione: I really like this, uh, Lipps Inc. They got a great song coming out called Funkytown. It’s gonna be a hit.
Sheet: I bet you it ends up in Roller Rinks.
Gibblione: What’s the problem with that? What the hell is wrong with the roller rink? It’s a beautiful thing. It’s where you meet all the fine ladies. I am a huge fan of the disco roller rink. I am a huge fan of anything with the word disco in it. You want a nice car, you make it a disco car. You want a good sandwich you make it a disco ham sandwich. See how it all works out?
Sheet: Soooo, what’s on a disco ham sandwich?
Gibblione: You gotta start with good ham, sliced thick. You get a little mustard, the nice brown mustard, and two pieces of bread. Maybe a good rye.
Sheet: What can we expect from a Boogie Knights show?
Gibblione: Good music, perfect hair that’s going to blow their minds. They can expect four really good looking guys, especially the lead singer. Plus, they can expect an (muddled word) extravaganza!
Sheet: A what?
Gibblione: I said they can expect an anthropy extravaganza.
Sheet: An anthropy?
Gibblione: I don’t know what that word means exactly, but it sounds good.
The Boogie Knights will be performing for free at 8 p.m. in the Village on Aug. 26. More info at www.mammothrocks.mamothlakeschamber.org