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DJ Glovibes on Bears, Music and the Expansion of MEGAWOOF AMERICA

MEGAWOOF AMERICA and Bear World Magazine go way back, but we’ve never done an in-depth interview with the man that’s kept the party going since 2015 – Leonardo Abbate, better known as DJ Glovibes.

Glovibes breaks down his career for us from his early days as the world’s youngest professional DJ in Italy all the way up to becoming a hitmaking record producer and the mastermind behind MEGAWOOF AMERICA, which will celebrate its nine-year anniversary in Los Angeles this October.

He’s had a fascinating life and career and has a passion for dance music and for uplifting bears. Sit back and enjoy a bit if bear history from the man who made it.

Leonardo Abbate aka DJ Glovibes

John Hernandez (JH): Your DJ career began when you were a teenager in Italy. What led you to the clubs and dance music?

Leonardo Abbate (Glovibes): Music has always been part of my life. I remember when I was around 12 years old watching MTV (all day) and a DeLaSoul video came on. It was the first time seeing someone (the DJ) who was “scratching“ with vinyls and I said to myself – “I wanna try that”! 

In the late 80s, the Italian dance music scene was growing fast. Everything from Disco, Italo Disco, Rap and breakdancing was getting lots of attention. But above all, I gravitated to the Acid Dance Music that was coming out of the UK and the House Music coming out of the U.S. 

At the age of 14, I began throwing house parties and became popular as “the boy who changes records”.  They had never seen a DJ play music like this before.   For the next 2 years – I was the DJ that everyone wanted for their house parties and that got the attention of the local clubs. My sisters were older than me and they would sneak me into the clubs knowing that I was chasing my passion.  I would just sit behind the DJ and sponge every little thing he did.   Then, one night, after my sister snuck me into a club called “Alter Ego”, the DJ didn’t show up.   With the club owner in panic, my sister pulled me by the arm and said run home and grab your records!   After that night – everything changed. GLOVIBES was a reality!

JH: Tell us about your work in Italy and London prior to coming to Los Angeles.

Glovibes: I had just started high school – I was DJing at least 4 times a week and needless to say, my parents didn’t approve.  My grades were reflecting my lack of sleep, but they knew how passionate I was – so they agreed I could do it, as long kept up my grades up.  So, 4 nights a week – I would DJ until 3am and be back in school by 8am.  This was around the time when insomnia and I became very close friends!

After not sleeping for about year and maintaining good grades – the biggest national newspaper (at the time) published a story about me.  Next thing I know I am the youngest DJ in history to have his own national radio show (“Disco Lite”) at 17 years old. The radio show opened up so many opportunities and I started to tour, giving me the chance to see some of my favorite DJs from around the world –  in person.      

Around early 2000, a friend of mine asked me to DJ at his party in London.  I was nervous as hell, but of course, excited.   That’s when I fell in love with London. I went back home, finished law school – which made my parents very happy and then dropped my law degree to pursue music. Barely speaking English, I moved to London and got a job at the legendary record shop Vinyl Junkies in Soho as a non-paid intern! But I was surrounded by music, artists and famous DJs from around the world all of whom shopped at Vinyl Junkies. This was when I realized not only did I love Djing, but I also wanted to produce my own music.    

With all my new record store connections, I started to DJ at smaller local clubs in London – STRAIGHT CLUBS! – which got me a lot of attention actually. One day a friend asked me if I wanted to DJ at the legendary Ministry Of Sound! I could not believe it! I thought I was a joke, but it was real. – I did it..  And that one-night led to a 6-year residency at MOS and oftentimes I was a guest DJ on the Ministry of Sound radio show which was huge at time. Next thing I knew, I was DJing the biggest clubs in London like The Egg, Heaven, Fabric, Fire and soon throughout Europe, DJing in Ibiza regularly.    

JH: Tell us about how you got involved with MEGAWOOF. What exactly is your role in the organization?

Glovibes: I was very new in the LGBTQ community, and London for me was like living in fairy tale for the music and the club scene.  

I was always attracted to the bear community, but when I went to my first bear event, I got denied entry because I was “too skinny!”  Then I got featured on the cover of a London Magazine, BOYZ, as one of the hottest new DJs in London. This got the attention of the owner of MEGAWOOF Daz Saund (who was also one of my favorite DJ’s ) and he wanted to book me.  My excitement was over the moon, because not only was I about to attend a bear event but I was also Djng for it! 

Daz loved my set, so he kept booking me and eventually we became partners in the brand.  After 5 of some of the best years of my life – I moved to LA.  

JH: And what is the difference between MEGAWOOF! and MEGAWOOF AMERICA? 

Glovibes: MEGAWOOF! (MW) and MEGAWOOF AMERICA (MWA) are siblings.  When I moved to LA – Daz wanted me to start right away with MWA but, I wasn’t sure at that time. I’d been promoting events since I was teenager all around Europe but in the US, I had no experience.   I was not sure I could do it here. The US scene is very different from the European scene.  

Over time I started to make connections at my local gigs and my following began increasing so I told Daz that I was ready to start the new adventure. While I was looking for the right venue to launch, a new club was opening that I thought would be the perfect fit –  Precinct in DTLA.  

Opening night I was mess – was anyone going to show? Well, they did! My opening debut in LA was a huge success and within 3 months it tripled the revenue at the club – MEGAWOOF AMERICA was born!  The market in the US is so different than Europe and my goal was to create the same vibe.  Yes we are still very much a bear event – but in LA, everyone is welcome with open arms.  

JH: MEGAWOOF is constantly evolving and expanding. Where will we see MEGAWOOF AMERICA go next? Any plans for the east coast?

Glovibes: After our centerfold and 10 page spread in the relaunch of Attitude Magazine in 2022 (the one with The Simpsons on the cover), they gave us a huge billboard in LA. We got so many requests after that. 

Touring can be complicated since the MWA family has grown so large since 2015.  We actually did MWA at The Eagle last year in New York – it was amazing!   We do have some major new events starting in New York this October, but the venue has not been confirmed yet….

The MEGAWOOF AMERICA 2024 Summer Tour incudes, San Francisco, Puerta Vallarta, Seattle, Palm Springs. San Diego, and it is debuting in two new cities – July 6th in Chicago (at Jackhammer) and August 17th  in Atlanta. There are also Toronto dates still in the works.     

JH: Your Gogo bears are the stuff of legends and we have featured many of them in our Gogo Bear Spotlight column. How do you choose them, or maybe better put; how do you attract such talent?

Glovibes: For me, Gogos here in the US was something new.  Yes, we do have the same sort of Gogos in Europe, but it’s different.  They are more of an “on stage exhibition/performance” in Europe. The tipping engagement with the crowd was completely new to me.  So, I tried to put both things together. 

Gogos are one of the first things you see at a party, like the cover for a magazine, and they have direct contact with the people.  I wanted my crowd to identify with them.  I started to look for Gogos that were very MW but who also reflected my audience.  Some of them were already familiar with the stage and  with others we had to start from scratch. In the case of the handsome Mr. MEGAWOOF AMERICA 2022, Nick Miranda, I saw him on the dance floor at MEGAWOOF several times, and I always thought he could be good on the box, but he was super shy. After asking him for over 4 years, he finally wanted to give it a try and a year later he became Mr. MWA and now he is performing a lot.  Did I mention his day job is a Biologist? 

Or the superstar, J-MO Bear who started with us as well.  I saw his video dancing to a Justin Timberlake song, which went super viral after Justin Timberlake reposted it.  He didn’t even realize how this could be a real thing, and look at him now, one of the most popular Gogo daddy bears in the US.   

Our main goal with the Gogos is to let everyone feel involved.  Of course we do require some experience, especially for safety reasons, but our stage is a platform for dancers to embrace their confidence, a confidence that will probably be hard to find anywhere else. It is amazing to watch these guys become comfortable in their own skin on the MW stage. It’s truly an honor to watch them blossom into being proud of their bodies. 

We are constantly looking for new faces and talent from all over the planet. We bring in Gogos from Europe, Hawaii, Japan, Latin America, the UK and France, just to name a few places. Last year we brought Giuseppe in for the first time from Italy (beefyitaly). He had never danced before, and his fanbase exploded – a true natural – another star on the box was born!

Some of them are literally made for it, developing more skills besides just dancing. For example, El Valentino who started with us as a simple gogo, now has his own pole dancing and music show – with FIRE! He is our Gogos’ mentor, and he hosts our annual Gogo Bear contest, which gives anyone who wants to a chance to be a part of it.

Oh, and I can’t forget one of our showstoppers who is often touring for us. I call him “my flipping bear” – the super talented Build_a_Bear.  He defies all odds on how a bear can kill it on stage. We are also super excited about a newcomer, Kenny, who had his debut during San Diego Pride (theyoungdad) –  his energy is effortlessly sexy – he’s going to need his own security!  

Once you are in the MW family – it’s forever. Our veteran all stars to this day – still host and support our events. Omar Quiroga,  Rod Martin,  JC,  Chris Craag,  Manny Bagadonuts, BertocubSamurbi and so many more. 

JH: You’ve never stopped making music. Recently you released “Feel The Power” with Sasha Colby and Luciana. How did that collaboration come about and is this the number Sasha incorporated into her Stripped Tour?

Glovibes: I love making music, it’s like magic for me where I can express my feelings, my mood and talk about my life without talking. I have collaborated with lot of artists in the past, but I always need to feel a connection. Sasha’s team reached out to me when her Drag Race episodes were still airing. I think everyone knew she was going to go far on that show.  So, I met with Sasha and the connection was just amazing.  She told me her story I was fascinated!   She is a true artist. 

Sasha, although an undeniable and fabulous performance artist is not a trained singer.  So, after marinating on how to approach this project – it hit me.  It needs to be a duet – enter my sister from another mister –The Queen Of Electro, Luciana (who is also dubbed “the den mother of MEGAWOOF”). It was the perfect storm.  Luciana and Sasha connected immediately, and we jumped right into the studio.

We released “Feel The Power” on Beatport and it quickly climbed to number 5 on the hype charts. We also released a remix package with Nina Flowers,  Alex Ramos,  DJ Irene, GSP, and newcomers Santo. Then the next thing we know Sasha, the first queen in history to get her own US Live Nation tour, added “Feel The Power” to the show as her finale performance!   Seeing my track being performed by Sasha and Luciana on grand stages across the US is still unbelievable to me!  

JH: More recently you released “You” with Luciana and Lana Parilla. Tell us about that collaboration and your special relationship with Luciana.

Glovibes: Me and Luciana met in LA, after we both moved from London around the same time. Her father is from my same hometown in Italy – Napoli – so we clicked right away. We have been friends forever now, and have done collaborations in the past but this most recent one is with TV star, Lana Parrilla.   

Lana I also met when I first moved to LA when she was the Evil Queen on the tv show Once Upon a Time.  Besides her amazing acting career, she always wanted to do a music project with me (which made me always feel very nervous), and so just for fun we tried a little cover (“It’s Over Now”) during Covid, and she went to #1 on like 5 main charts in 3 days!   

Last summer while Luciana and I were working on the Sasha project, we came up with some other ideas for collaborations. We proposed “You” to Lana and she loved it right away and in less than a week the song was ready! We couldn’t be any happier with the final result and we topped the charts again!  

JH: What is next on the musical horizon for you? And what is next for MEGAWOOF?

Glovibes: Music has always been my main goal, the reason for me to start promoting events. Bringing something fresh, new and different to MEGAWOOF AMERICA is my goal. You know, it’s not just the same old party. I own two record labels now and I’m producing other artists, like resident MW DJs – Santo. They are a couple in real life and on the decks together and they started their DJ journey with us. We are very happy to see their career growing so fast and glad to be the first one to produce their music. I am always open to and looking for new talent to include in our shows, as long as they are in line with our concept and are original at the same time. 

JH: There’s no stopping you Glovibes! Thank you so much for sharing all this with me. What an amazing journey you’ve had! Best of luck with everything ahead and I’ll see you in New York in October!

Glovibes: Thank you!

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John Hernandez

John Hernandez is the Editor in Chief of Bear World Magazine. In addition to bear culture, he specializes in entertainment writing with a special focus on horror and genre films. He resides in New York City with his husband.

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