Interview: Tragedy — The All-Metal Tribute To The Bee Gees

bill bodkin delivers one of the funniest interviews pop-break has ever done … and we’re warning you now: this gets a little raunchy …

Some people may argue that the world does not need a heavy metal tribute to The Bee Gees.

I believe these people are not only wrong, but are the same people who dislike puppies.

Robin Gibbens
Photo: @Deneka Peniston 2011

Yes, the idea of a taking the catalog of disco icons and re-imagining them in the world of heavy metal might seem a little weird, a little crazy. But give one listen to Tragedy: The All-Metal Tribute To The Bee Gees and you will be convinced that whoever came up with this idea is a genius.

What’s so amazing about this band is that, even though there’s a lot of humor woven into their DNA, they are absolutely phenomenal musicians. They were able to take a vaunted collection of international hits and seamlessly translate them into the world of vintage, late-’70s, early-’80s heavy metal. Power chords, blistering guitar solos, vocals that’ll shatter your ear drums and a thunderous percussion section — this is what Tragedy is all about. That, and a whole lot of glitter.

Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with Tragedy’s lead vocalist, lead rhythm guitarist, lead back-up vocalist and lead cowbellist Robin Gibbens about their February Friday-night residency at The Brooklyn Bowl, their new record and things disco.

Pop-Break: What was the inspiration for you guys to come together and blend the sweet disco sound of The Bee Gees with the even sweeter sound of heavy metal?

Robin Gibbens: We tried a bunch of other combinations first. The Klezmer/Tony Orlando combo was a big hit in Palm Beach during the 2005 South Florida Bat-Mitzvah Band and Compression Hoisery Convention, but we weren’t quite sure it would fly in NYC. By NYC, of course I mean lower Manhattan and western Brooklyn. We actually played two gigs as the Tony Ozmatics in Riverdale, but we’re contractually barred from speaking about that in print. When that project folded it was around the time a lot of new music venues were opening up in Brooklyn and I thought: What are the biggest kinds of music associated with that borough over the years? And I realized: ’70s=disco. ’80s=metal. ’90=hip-hop. ’00s=indie rock.

Well, none of us are boring nerds or black, which ruled out the last 22 years. So we had to go back a little further. Barry Glibb voted metal and I voted disco. So we arm wrestled to pick a genre and after 40 grueling days and nights with our wrists locked, we declared it a tie and chose to merge the two!

PB: Was it initially hard to sell clubs and concert goers alike on the concept of an all-metal tribute to The Bee Gees?

Photo: @ Deneka Peniston 2011

RG: Not at all. I make my living during daylight hours running a janitorial supply company that I inherited from my dad and our target market is nightclubs. I told all my best customers, “No Tragedy, no urinal cakes.” The gigs just came splashing in!

PB: I saw you guys tried out for America’s Got Talent a few years ago. Can you talk about your experience on the show and the reaction you got from the judges?

RG: It was amazing. We actually turned down their request to audition two years in a row. The third year, they allowed us to skip the “audition process” and had us perform live in front of the celebrity judges at a place called Hammerstein Ballroom. We were sure we had the winning formula until our drummer “Rhe Lord Gibbeth” used noted germophobe and “award-winning comedian” Howie Mandel’s private toilet during a break right before our performance. He tinkled on the toilet ring. It probably also didn’t help that Larry King’s son-in-law-six-times-removed Piers Morgan commented to us, “You’ve heard of the Bee Gees song ‘Too Much Heaven’? Your band Tragedy is more like too much hell!” Also, the day of the audition Sharon Osborne had a team of Guinness Book of World Records crew following her around to document her achievement as the “Only Woman Who’s Been Through Menopause [Twice] Yet Still Be Suffering from PMS and Menstrual Bleeding.”

PB: You’re currently performing every Friday at The Brooklyn Bowl, a residency you have a few times a year. Is it difficult to maintain a weekly show when your setlist is primarily tribute songs? Also, what is it about the venue that makes you enjoy playing there as much you?

RG: You’ve obviously never been there and had the fried chicken. Or the coat check girl.

PB: Your first record We Rock Sweet Balls And Can Do No Wrong, besides being amazing, is filled with covers of the greatest hits of The Bee Gees. You just released a new record entitled Humbled By Our Greatness. What can people expect on the new record?

RG: More of the same amazing ball-rockin’. We expanded our repertoire beyond The Bee Gees and ventured into the more broad spectrum of Disco with such hits as “Disco Inferno,” “Hot Stuff,” “Xanadu” and the Bee Gees-penned “Islands In The Stream (Of Urine).” We also totally stole the intro drum fills from Slayer’s “South Of Heaven.” Please don’t tell anybody about that part, though, as I don’t wanna arm wrestle Slayer. Slayer’s guitarist Jeff Hanneman is currently sitting siting out their tour with a case of flesh eating bacteria and I’m allergic to flesh eating bacteria (true story).

The album cover for Tragedy's Humbled By Our Greatness

PB: I’ve seen that you’ve toured the U.K. quite a number of times, including early this summer. Can you talk about the difference in reception Tragedy gets in the U.K. compared to the U.S.?

RG: The smiles in the crowd are more crooked, by far. It’s also the only country where I’ve ever signed an autograph in blood. Or been asked to sign somebody’s face. Or gotten a blowjob from a fan’s mum.

PB: What do you feel is Tragedy’s biggest accomplishment to date? You’ve sold out venues in New York, had Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden spin your music on his radio show, perform on national television and had Alice In Chains use your music to play between sets at their live shows. That’s a lot of big time achievements to chose from.

RG: Having played over 200 shows and not contracted a single venereal disease.

PB: Who was the best member of The Bee Gees in your opinion?

RG: It’s a tie between the producer Robert Stigwood and their accountant Murray “Mo’ Money” Cashenstein.

PB: Finally, if someone who’s never seen you perform wants to check you out, what can they expect from a live Tragedy show?

RG: It’s like a St Patrick’s Day Parade without the Catholic guilt. Or the homophobia. But only half the glitter.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast.┬áHe is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites