Robin Gibb called me from Miami on April. 20, 2001, to discuss what would be the Bee Gees’ last studio album, This Is Where I Came in. Maurice died suddenly less than two years later, and Robin died in 2012 after a long battle with cancer. Here are edited highlights.
DO YOU FEEL YOURSELF GETTING INTO A NOSTALGIC MOOD AS YOU GET OLDER?
I don’t feel nostalgic, but I still know the difference between what is good and bad. I like modern music and I like modern production, but there’s still good production and there’s still bad production, and still a good song and a bad song. And you can still recognize the difference. I don’t think music is particularly dated. I think good music is forever, and I think there’s a place for all kinds of music.
DO YOU THINK THE BEE GEES ARE GETTING A NEWFOUND RESPECT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS, NOT JUST FROM THE CRITICS BUT ALSO FROM THE FANS?
Yeah, I think they definitely are.
ARE THERE STILL MISCONCEPTIONS THAT NAG AT YOU?
Not really. I think there’s misconceptions about every artist and every group, I don’t really worry about those. I’m an artist, I’m a writer, and the three of us feel the same. We just go to the studio, play our songs and write. I think that’s all you can do.
BUT DID YOU FEEL BEFORE THE LAST FIVE YEARS THAT YOU HAD RECEIVED SHORT SHRIFT?
I think so, but I think we’re not alone. There were periods in Elton John’s career where he felt that, and Rod Stewart. People who have been around a long time will go through phases of that. But definitely the last five years has been very good, and we feel kind of redeemed in that way.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE TRIED TO DRAW A COMPARISON BETWEEN YOU AND TEEN VOCAL GROUP PHENOMENON–
— They look at our harmonizing and our ballads, and things like that. But however, the difference is that we are musicians, we play instruments, and we’re a proper band more in the Beatles sense rather than the boy band sense. And of course we’re songwriters as well, where a lot of boy bands today don’t write their own songs and don’t play instruments.
IT MUST BE ANNOYING TO WORK IN THE TRENCHES FOR 40 YEARS AND HAVE PEOPLE SUM UP YOUR CAREER AS: THESE GUYS GAVE BIRTH TO ‘N SYNC AND BACKSTREET BOYS?
Yeah, that’s right. A lot of these people don’t really know exactly your history. And because it’s such a long one they can’t remember what it was like when you started. But the fact is a lot of boy bands have recorded our music, you see. So you get that as well, and we’ve got Destiny’s Child, which is not a boy band, it’s a girl band. They’re coming out with “Emotion” in a couple of months’ time. So a lot of these groups actually are cutting our music, even Wyclef cut some songs as well.
IT MUST BE GREAT FOR THE BANK BALANCE
Yes, it does have its benefits.
WHO’S MOST PROTECTIVE OF THE BEE GEES ETHOS?
I think we’re all very protective of it. We’re all very sensitive of it. We’re very proud of our music, we’re very proud of our history, and we’ve been around a long time, once again because we value it. And we don’t take it lightly. We are serious musicians and writers, and we believe in everything we do.
YOU’RE REGARDED AS THE GRUMPY GUY IN THE BAND–
— I’m not necessarily grumpy, I think I’m more of a thinker. I’m less trivial about things than probably I should be. But I do have a great sense of humor … maybe grumpy with a great sense of humor. I think I just have to know people a little bit more before I open up, but I’m not so grumpy. If I’m grumpy it’s not because I feel grumpy.
SO YOU’RE KINDA PROTECTIVE IN A WAY?
Defensive, maybe. Not defensive. I wouldn’t describe myself as being that particularly grumpy. I do like things to go right all the time, maybe that’s just too much to expect.
AND IF THEY DON’T GO RIGHT, YOU GO MENTAL?
That’s true (laughs). I think you’ve got it in one.
WERE THERE TIMES DURING THE RECORDING OF THE RECORD WHERE YOU WENT MENTAL?
Well, I think there are plenty of times during the making of a record you go mental. There used to be an old adage that you have to be insane to be sane sometimes. If you want things to go right you have to go a little bit strange sometimes.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE AND CONTRAST YOUR PERSONALITY WITH THE OTHER TWO GUYS?
Maurice is more open, gregarious. He’s more a social animal than I am, even though he’s my twin brother. He tends to be able to fall in with people very fast, where I’m a little bit more reserved. Barry’s much more shy and sensitive. He’s not exactly grumpy but he’s just more very sensitive and shy, but very, very sweet with it, very passive.
DOES HIS ARTHRITIS MEAN THAT THE GROUP’S DAYS COULD BE DRAWING TO A CLOSE?
How do you mean?
I READ ALL THESE STORIES ABOUT HOW IT’S VERY HARD FOR HIM TO MOVE AND TO WALK AND TO DO STUFF —
— No, no, no. That doesn’t mean we stop writing. It’s not that bad. We had a car crash a few years ago, which actually gave him some bad joints, but he only has those on occasional days. It has nothing to do with how the group functions or writes.
I READ SOME STORY WHERE HE WAS DESCRIBING HIS TRAVAILS, AND IT LOOKED TERRIBLE
He overdoes it sometimes.
DIDN’T YOU HAVE SOMETHING AS WELL?
No, I’m fine.
ARE YOU STILL MARRIED TO YOUR WIFE (DWINA MURPHY)?
AND SHE STILL HAS HER GIRLFRIEND AS WELL?
Oh no. She’s not in there anymore, but they’re still very good friends.
THEY BROKE UP?
No, they just sort of drifted apart and met other people.
IS THERE SOMEONE TO TAKE HER PLACE?
Not yet, no.
IS SHE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE?
Not really, but if it happens I suppose she’ll just do it, I suppose. But no one special’s come along yet.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SAY IN WHOM SHE PICKS?
No, I don’t get involved in that.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SHE PICKS SOMEONE YOU DON’T LIKE?
It’s her choice, really. I just go to the studio and make an album!
DOES SHE LOOK FOR A SPECIFIC TYPE, SOMEONE OLDER OR YOUNGER?
It’s hard to tell, because she goes for personality as well.
I INTERVIEWED YOU A FEW YEARS AGO, AND YOU SAID IT’S QUITE GOOD BECAUSE IT TAKES THE PRESSURE OFF YOU.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a very modern thinking kind of guy. We go through our lives with one person and it isn’t fair, and you depend on them emotionally and physically even. At the end of the day when something happens you’re completely totally devastated and lost, and you’ve got no one … to turn to. No one knows you like that person. That can be a very negative thing.
YOU TRY NOT TO GET TOO EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO YOUR WIFE?
I think so. I had a very bad first marriage as well, you see (to Molly Hullis). It emotionally devastated me when it broke up. And I have two great kids from it, but it emotionally devastated me. And after that I vowed I could never get that way again about someone. It’s kind of a defense mechanism.
YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOURSELF, I GUESS?
That’s right, self-preservation.
ARE YOU ALLOWED TO HAVE GIRLFRIENDS AS WELL?
Not really. Well, it’s not something I’m interested in. I’m not really thinking like that at all.
DON’T YOU MISS BEING ABLE TO HAVE THAT EMOTIONAL DEPENDENCE ON SOMEONE?
Not really, no, actually. I enjoy not having it because it kind of keeps my head focused. I don’t like to get too emotionally tied up.
YOUR KIDS DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE LOOSE ARRANGEMENT YOU HAVE WITH YOUR WIFE?
It’s not flaunted that much, either.
Copyright © 2001, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING