DATE OF INTERVIEW:
30th May 2012
Hands up all the metallers out there who love the Bee Gees. Hands up all the metallers out there who love the Bee Gees but are maybe reluctant to admit it. I predict an abundance of raised arms in response to the latter. So what better band to feed such a guilty pleasure than Tragedy who've been practising their metalized take on the Bee Gees back catalogue for the past five years. And the American musicians' recently released sophomore album, 'Humbled By Our Greatness', expands their repertoire into wider disco territory with metalled-up takes on other classic seventies anthems such as 'Grease', 'Disco Inferno', 'Hot Stuff', 'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing' and 'Xanadu'. Just a couple of days after the untimely passing of Robin Gibb, Tragedy hit the UK to embark on their sixth tour on these shores. Metal Discovery met up with Mo'Royce Peterson backstage at the Academy in Liverpool to get the lowdown on this most unlikely of tribute acts...
METAL DISCOVERY: What are your influences?!
(Mo'Royce Peterson on Tragedy's motivation for their disco/metal fusion)
"What’s the perfect lover, right? She’s gonna have beautiful breasts, and a great butt, and she’s gonna have a great mind and it’s like, if you’re just disco then maybe you just get the butt. If you’re just metal then maybe you’re just getting the tits. So we want it all..."
Mo'Royce Peterson backstage at the Academy, Liverpool, UK, 30th May 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MO’ROYCE: I would say heavy metal and disco.
MD: That wasn’t a serious question; kind of a rhetorical one I guess! So Bee Gees and metal – not the most obvious musical fusion but when, why and how did the idea first come about?
MO’ROYCE: Well, we’re lovers of all kinds of music and, when we were all younger, I was in hardcore bands and stuff like that. I’d be in hardcore bands but I’d be buying soft rock albums from the seventies and just loving that. I think that happens to musicians anyway – you may get into it as a teenager because you’re really passionate about one scene and you really identify with something and then, after a while, you just start to get interested in other things. And with metal and disco we just thought, well, these things are so opposite and they’re so awesome.
What’s the perfect lover, right? She’s gonna have beautiful breasts, and a great butt, and she’s gonna have a great mind and it’s like, if you’re just disco then maybe you just get the butt. If you’re just metal then maybe you’re just getting the tits. So we want it all but when you put it together and take it to the people and the people realise, yeah, this is the whole thing, it feels good.
MD: You make all the songs work so well as metal versions but do they transpose fairly naturally to metal arrangements or was there a lot of hard work involved in making them work?
MO’ROYCE: It depends. It depends on the song. Some of them are very, very easy and it kind of comes natural – you know, just crank up the amp and play it right and sing it hard and stuff like that. Other times, it takes a lot of manoeuvring.
MD: Do you think that shows the malleability of the Bee Gees’ songwriting or metal as a genre, or a bit of both?
MO’ROYCE: It says something about the Bee Gees. We do a lot of other disco now; we’re starting to do that and we find the more we do other artists, we appreciate the Bee Gees even more because their melodies and chords and everything, they’re just so gooey and there’s so much there. A lot of disco and a lot of dance music in general is just very basic kind of blues-based and if you try to rock that up then it sounds like…well, it just kind of sounds like a rock song. It doesn’t have magic.
MD: So have there been any songs you’ve tried to metalize that haven’t really worked?
MO’ROYCE: Nothing I’ll admit to!
MO’ROYCE: We can do no wrong!
MD: Good answer! Obviously there’s been the recent sad passing of Robin Gibb a few days ago, just before you set out on tour in fact. Has that dampened spirits at all or has it given these UK shows a greater significance in your tribute to his music?
MO’ROYCE: It’s definitely made it more special. It’s pretty cool because he’s very much on our minds when we’re performing…but then I think on everyone’s minds. Some people were asking, because what we do is…we don’t see it as desecrating the Bee Gees catalogue at all…but because of what we do, some people are like, “would it be proper to do it?” Yeah, of course, more proper than ever.
MD: Yeah, exactly, it’s a tribute in essence. As a side note, I tipped someone off about your music recently and he streamed the album on your website. He’s not a fan of metal or a fan of the Bee Gees but he loved it and ordered your CD immediately.
MO’ROYCE: It’s funny how that works. People come up to us and are like, “hey, I hate the Bee Gees but I love you guys” or “I’ve no use for metal but I love you guys”.
MD: Did you get any form of feedback from Robin when he was alive or Barry as to what you guys are doing with their songs, or have you tried to get any feedback from them?
MO’ROYCE: We’ve been in touch with Robin’s son…actually, another one of our bands did a gig with Robin’s son. He has a band based out of Austin, Texas. He’s great. He’s a great talent; a really, really cool singer. And Maurice’s daughter and her husband are fans.
MD: In terms of publishing rights, do you ever run into difficulties by releasing your versions of their songs because I know, for example, Beatallica always had difficulties with doing The Beatles and Metallica stuff and releasing it?
MO’ROYCE: We haven’t. To do cover songs, it’s an automatic royalty you pay for each download or for each album that’s printed. So yeah, there hasn’t been any resistance. Potentially, there could be some resistance because I think the legal line is if the artist feels like you’re desecrating their work then, you know…
MD: So do you think the Bee Gees were actually repressed metallers who actually wanted to rock it out a bit more?!
MO’ROYCE: [laughs] You look at those guys and it’s like they’re just a couple of studded bracelets away with the look! They’ve got the long hair and they’re singing way up high and some of that stuff rocks pretty hard. It seems like maybe they’re trying to tame it a little bit!
MD: What’s the general reaction at a Tragedy gig? Do you get moshing and dancing?
MO’ROYCE: We get everything. That’s the funny thing about this band – anybody who goes to see a concert this year…we get a cross-section of everybody who’s gone to any concert this year. We get teenagers; we get younger than teenagers with parents bringing their little kids; we get older people; we get nerdy, indie rockers; we get metal heads; we get people who love the Bee Gees. It’s like everything and then the reaction in the crowd, there’s not one…it’s not a monolithic scene. So there’ll be mosh pits that’ll break out; there’ll be people dancing and disco dancing…but a lot of people will just stand there with their mouths wide open in awe of our greatness!
MD: Do you get people turn up wearing seventies disco clothes amongst all the metal t-shirts and other stuff?
MO’ROYCE: Yeah, we get a lot of people come in costume. A lot of people try to dress like us.
MD: A lot of glitter?
MO’ROYCE: A lot of glitter, yeah; a lot of sequins. When we played in York, people showed up in fancy dress. We’ve never had a Lambanana show up but we’ve had bananas!
MD: So, apart from York, what have been some of the highlights on this tour?
MO’ROYCE: York is always fun; it’s so different. It’s such a different city anyway; it’s so pretty but it’s very small and that’s always a special treat because they have an after-party for us and stuff like that. That’s always a highlight. Every place we play is just fucking great. We don’t really tour so much in the States. We do satellite weekends here and there. Sometimes we’ll just play a couple of times a year in New York but sometimes we’ll have a residency and play once a week or something. So we come to the UK for two weeks and play every night, and that’s like the only time we really do that with this band. Every place is really fun.
What’s really funny though, since our first time here, people ask: “So, where are you playing next?” Except York and London, no matter where we say, say we’re playing in Liverpool, “where are you playing tomorrow?”… “Sheffield”… “Ooo, watch your wallet carefully, don’t get stabbed!” And then we go there and it’s like, “what are you talking about?!”
Except, what’s really funny about Liverpool, the first time we played here that’s what everyone was saying. You know, just fights and all this. And then we pull in and it’s sunny and there’s palm trees and we’re like, “this place is beautiful”. And then, after soundcheck, I’m walking to the hotel right out here and in this nice, big park I see these guys walking along and then these other guys in the park just grabbed one of the guys and started beating him. And then later that night, after the show, some of the guys are out and walk into a kebab place and there’s someone with blood all over his face. And we pull into town today and sit up and look out of the window, and the first person I see had a black eye! [laughs]
MD: Coincidences maybe, Liverpool’s a lovely place really!
MO’ROYCE: Liverpool’s my favourite place. Not for the fighting!
MO’ROYCE: But people here, man, they’re out to have a good time. Everybody all over the country will but Liverpool is especially fun for me.