"BEE GEES STAYIN' ALIVE"
(Robin Gibb interviewed by Jane Stevenson for Toronto Sun, 2001)

Robin Gibb speaks candidly about current pop sounds
and the Bee Gees' return to their roots on new album

That ain't no Jive Talkin' from Bee Gees brother Robin Gibb.

Gibb, 51, is refreshingly outspoken as he compares today's music scene to the late '60s when the Australian-raised Bee Gees first broke through with their beautiful high harmonies and lush orchestral pop sound.

"It is boring to me because every record sounds the same, it sounds like a conveyer belt," he says during an exclusive Canadian newspaper phone interview from the Bee Gees' Middle Ear Studios in Miami. He is talking up the band's 28th studio album, This Is Where I Came In, being released today, and the Bee Gees' Live By Request program on Friday night (A&E, 9-11 p.m.).

"The same groove's being used, melodies are non-existent, and there are a lot of singers who are singing for the sake of singing -- and they're just singing all over the place. You can't hear where the chorus begins and the verse ends."

He dislikes the 'See what I can do' mentality, which doesn't address the song. "They're actually in there competing with each other," he says. " 'See how high I can go! See how I can phrase this!' At the end of the song, you don't know what you've just heard."

Gibb does say he is a fan of some contemporary bands, including R&B girl trio Destiny's Child, whose version of the Bee Gees' Emotion is on their new album, Survivor, in stores one week from today.

"The vocals are fantastic," he reports, before going back to his entertaining 'now versus then' line of conversation.

"In the late '60s and early '70s, the rule of thumb with a lot of musicians was 'compete to be different.' The rule of thumb today between a lot of artists is compete to be the same."

Not for the Bee Gees, though.

"We've never really enjoyed the idea of copying other people. We've come from the old school, where to have a style, to have a sound, and to be unique is more important than sounding like the No. 5 record on the chart."

Thus the Brothers Gibb, the subject of a 32-page tribute in Billboard celebrating their 35 years of musicmaking, wanted to return to their earlier '60s sound, which had been overshadowed by their disco success in the '70s.

"That's why the title is This Is Where I Came In," says Gibb, "It was a source of retracing our steps back to our earlier albums, where the sound is more accessible, less production, and more live, more human."

The Bee Gees, rounded out by guitarist-vocalist Barry and bassist-keyboardist Maurice, also wrote some songs separately before penning others together. Robin, who wrote Deja Vu and Embrace on his own in London, likens the process to something Paul McCartney and John Lennon used to do for Beatles albums. (One interesting aside is the use of Lennon's guitar -- given to Maurice by Lennon years ago -- on the new Bee Gees song, She Keeps On Coming.)

"I think we were curious to see what we would do individually and how it would impact the overall Bee Gees album," he says.

After an accolades-ridden 1997, when the Bee Gees released their last studio album, Still Waters, and were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the band could be forgiven for resting on their laurels at this point.

But retirement doesn't sit well with Gibb, who says the group is planning a full-scale tour next year, including some Canadian dates.

"We're artists," he says. "It's no different from being an actor like Michael Caine or Sean Connery. They still like to make films and work on projects, and we're the same. We still see ourselves as developing and moving forward, and we like to explore while we have the ambition and the musical curiosity. I think that's important.

"I've never liked that (phrase) 'rest on your laurels.' "

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