Matchbox Twenty Turn New York Into Giant Roller Disco

Video for 'Disease' tries to balance song's rock, disco sides.

Matchbox Twenty — a little bit disco, a little bit rock and roll?

For their latest video, “Disease,” Rob Thomas and the boys transform New York, and especially Times Square, into a roller disco heaven where neon signs and disco balls bounce off city lights.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to try to turn the whole city of New York into a giant roller disco,” drummer Paul Doucette said.

“So we called the mayor and said, ‘Hey, Mike. Listen, we’re going to turn the city up, bring it down, party it out,’ ” guitarist Adam Gaynor said.

Finding just the right skaters, though, wasn’t quite as easy. Sure, Central Park is practically littered with roller skaters on weekends, but Matchbox Twenty wanted to find skaters who were as acrobatic as they were graceful. One such skater, dubbed “Jose the skating cat,” got all the star solo turns, but several others appear in the group scenes.

“In Manhattan now, there’s this unbelievable underground roller disco scene,” Thomas said. “We went out and cast these kids, some of whom were from this off-Broadway show that’s a roller disco show, some of whom are just Wednesday-night-at-the-Roxy skaters, street skaters. There’s a whole other world that goes on in the middle of the city that people don’t know about.”

Director Phil Harder’s (Cornershop, Local H) casting tapes almost ended up constituting the bulk of the video, Thomas said, to show the range of ability — “the bad, the good, and the ugly, just throw it all in.”

Some of the skaters auditioning went beyond ugly, or at least good taste. “There’s this one woman who shows up, and she can’t really skate,” Gaynor said, “and she’s going and doing her thing, and all of a sudden her thing falls out of her shirt.”

“And Adam’s like, ‘She’s hired!’ ” Thomas joked.

“And I’m like, ‘No,’ actually, ‘pretty disgusting,’ ” Gaynor corrected him. “And she still can’t skate, but now she’s not tucking it back in because [she's wearing a] really weird, loose, open-sleeved thing. And everybody’s like, ‘You can turn [the music] off now. Stop, just stop.’ I can’t sleep anymore.”

“Because of this woman’s breast flopping in the wind?” Thomas asked.

“Flopping around, and she’s not touching it, she won’t put it in,” Gaynor said, shaking Doucette as if he were the woman. “Tuck it in! Tuck it in!”

Matchbox Twenty decided against the casting tape idea once they found their star skater Jose, figuring that he could embody the disco essence of “Disease,” with the band’s performance bits portraying the more rock elements.

“It was really disco when we started,” Thomas said of the song (see “Matchbox Twenty Wrestle With Deer, Mick Jagger’s Needs To Make New LP” ). “It wound up being somewhere between Studio 54 and Monsters of Rock. As far as singles go, it was the most poppy and the most rock that we had ever done.”

“It took us awhile to figure out the proper balance of the disco and the rock thing,” Doucette said. “It was really disco, and then it was really rock, and it didn’t really seem to work either way, and we kept going back and forth trying to find a middle ground, and then we finally got it, or at least we think we got it.”

“It was one step away from being, ‘Hey, baby … hey, baby … hey,’ ” Thomas sang.

“Once you put that groove on a song, it feels disco,” Doucette said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”