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Much to their annoyance, Placebo are often labeled a Britpop band. If there is one genre that American Brian Molko (vocals/guitars), Swede Stefan Olsdal (bass/keyboards) and Englishman Steve Hewitt (drums) wish to stay away from, it’s definitely Britpop. With equally as many nationalities as members, the band’s frontman Brian steals most of the attention for his appearance alone. Having perfected androgyny to a tee, Brian has the bartender, in the pub where we met for this interview, rather perplexed. He cannot decided how to address him... “Miss, ERRR, Mister, ERRR...”

Placebo do not really fit in with their contemporaries, which makes them such a pleasant surprise in today’s music scene. Far from safe or boring, Placebo are bubbling. Saucy and outspoken, Brian’s sense of humor is dark, sardonic, and without caution – as he jokes about the confusion between deciding to use the ladies’ or gentlemen’s washroom...

_NYROCK: How does it feel to be the "next big thing" in the UK and survive? Your second album received even more praise than the first.

___.BRIAN:

They make us to break us. You know they build up a band, kind of place them on a pedestal, just for the sake of pushing them down again. Sometimes it’s even funny, especially if you follow it. The same rag, the same journalist can change his point of view 180 degrees within a month. A band who just was the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel is all of a sudden terrible. They can’t play; they’re unoriginal and they’re simply shit.

_NYROCK:

Well, I guess they’re trying desperately to find a new trend...

___.BRIAN:

Everybody is trying to be so trendy. I think not being trendy should be the next trend.

___STEVE:

We don’t care about it, the whole hype and all that. Just the venues got a bit bigger and that’s it. Apart from that, nothing changed. Well, we do expect the press to turn around and lash at us. It’s about time. Too many people like us now, you know, but we’re not going to lose any sleep about it.

_NYROCK:

Brian, you look very androgynous. Do you think it has contributed to the success of the band?

___.BRIAN:

A lot of people actually do mistake me for a woman. I think that’s funny, and it’s even more funny if they’re homophobic, and it makes them think. I don’t like that whole gender issue. Who cares what we are, our sex lives and who we’re doing? I prefer to think people like our music and don’t give a damn about how we look.

_NYROCK:

But why the makeup?

___.BRIAN:

For the same reason why women use it. I think I look more attractive with it.

_NYROCK:

Without You I’m Nothing is quite different from your self-titled debut. Somehow I expected something more along the lines of "Nancy Boy"...

___.BRIAN:

I deliberately didn’t write a remake of "Nancy Boy." It would have been too easy to fall into that trap. We didn’t want to be limited, not that we wouldn’t like the song anymore, but we developed, went forward, and we didn’t want to be reduced to one hit. Too many bands do that. They take one hit and just do rewrites. That’s lacking creativity. Apart from that, it would bore me to tears.

___STEVE:

Why should we only use part of our potential? It would be pretty stupid. I think we came up with a great album.

___.BRIAN:

And it’s different.

_NYROCK:

It’s more melancholic, definitely more grown up, but in a good way, the music matured nicely...

___.BRIAN:

Thanks. I just hope I didn’t mature. Oh well, actually I think I did.

___STEVE:

Yeah, we all did. We moved closer together because we were under a lot of pressure.

_NYROCK:

Not everything gold sparkles in the music biz?

___STEVE:

Definitely not.

___.BRIAN:

I call it the morning after feeling. It’s pathetic, all the rumors you hear about that kind of lifestyle, the famous rock’n’roll lifestyle, they’re actually true. It’s weird. I remember that I was a loser, unemployed and simply a loser. Then we started the band, played gigs, and all of a sudden I was shagable. I mean I could get it however I wanted.

_NYROCK:

Judging from the lyrics of the songs, you did exactly that.

___.BRIAN:

Oh yeah, but who wouldn’t, given the possibilities?

The first album dealt with sex – sex in every possible variety, sex on drugs, sex with... you get the drift. Without You I’m Nothing deals with the consequences of sex, of relationships and all that. The big come down.

The new album is introverted, more of a post-coital depression. It deals with an ever-pervading heartbreak and loneliness that seems to be in the air. The morning after is usually more analytical than the night before, and it’s often more painful.

Most of these are love songs where I’m trying to come to grips with relationships. They’re frequently told from the point of view of ex-lovers, so at first it may seem like I’m being arrogant, but actually I’m eating humble pie. I’m cutting into a vein and letting it bleed for you.

"Pure Morning" is about that time of day when the sun is coming up and you’re coming down. Everybody else is getting ready to go to work and you’re feeling incredibly dislocated from the rest of the world.


_NYROCK:

Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, you certainly made headlines...

___.BRIAN:

The press made too much out of it. You know, all the crap about that I’m in rehab, hooked on drugs. That’s bullshit. I experimented and I never made a secret out of it, but I also never propagated the use of drugs. What I do is what I do. I don’t go on stage and say "Take drugs," or "Stop drugs." It’s a decision everybody has to make for him- or herself.

_NYROCK:

How about responsibility? Musicians as role models?

___.BRIAN:

I don’t think I’m a bad example. I don’t think musicians should be role models. The lifestyle is so different and especially in the music biz, drugs have always played such a huge role. Look at Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Velvet Underground during their heyday, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards – especially the Stones before they became businessmen. My mistake was, that I was always honest about it. Even the old blues and jazz people were taking drugs, Billie Holiday for example. We’re a rock band, what do you expect?

___STEVE:

It’s the new American thing, you know. Drugs are a disease spread by musicians. That’s bullshit. In London, they pop more than 150,000 pills of XTC every weekend and you can’t tell me that all the pills are taken by musicians. There aren’t that many musicians in London.

_NYROCK:

Brian, you played a part in the movie Velvet Goldmine and I heard that you have a drama background...

___.BRIAN:

I like acting. I really do and I wish I could do it more often – at least I’m more qualified than Courtney – but still, I don’t think I will have all that much time for it, you know, but it’s something I’ll keep in mind. I need to do something creative, that was always my motivation. At the moment it’s music, and the band has become my life, but there is always a possibility that I might go back to acting. After all, I graduated from drama school, Goldsmith College.

_NYROCK:

On a final note, are you still holding a grudge against Britpop?

___.BRIAN:

Why? How could we? Britpop is dead.

___STEVE:

They’re trying to sound alternative now, American alternative. It’s pathetic. No grudge, just pity.


To view photo of Brian Molko and mates featured on our January 1999 cover, click here.


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