Melody Maker "We're Falling Apart At The Seams", Nov'99




Brian Molko tells us about Internet porn, his festival experiences and the third PLACEBO album in the Melody Maker Interview

SOME people don't change. This interview took place over three drink-and-debauchery-filled days in Melbourne - backstage karaoke, street chases, all-night drug parties, the usual. The boys were in fine form, both onstage (where they were supporting local teen idols Silverchair), and off.
Molko serenaded The Maker with an X-rated version of Queen's "We Will Rock You": "You've got cum on your face/You're a total disgrace". Drummer Steve Hewitt talked about his fondness for teacher/pupil relationships and having his teeth knocked out on sinks at school, and Stefan contented himself with waving his broken arm around at every opportunity. Looks like it's been a busy year for the globetrotting hedonists.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO RECENTLY?
"The first part of the Australian tour has been riddled with injuries and serious jet lag. Stefan fell off-stage in South Africa and broke his arm, so he's got a cast with our autographs on, and Garbage's as well. That same evening I slept in the same position for 10 hours, and woke up with a compressed vertebra in my neck. Since then I haven't been able to feel half of my head. It's the strangest sensation, especially when I shower."

HAVE YOU BEEN PUSHING YOURSELVES A BIT TOO HARD?
"Well, we desperately need to get off the road, because we're falling apart at the seams. It's been coming up to a year now. The festival season was really successful, except for the British ones. We got really slagged off in all the weeklies. The reception's been great in the rest of the world. We spent a lot of time hanging out with Hole in Germany.
"We're on tour in Australia with Silverchair now. We've gone gold in Australia with this album already, and it looks like we're going close to platinum. That's why we're here rather than in America. We weren't sure whether to play Australia or America again, but then the offer from Silverchair came in - and they're so huge. We like the fact that they play to an all-ages audience. That last tour we did here, our under-18 fans couldn't see us."

THE PROMOTER LAST NIGHT REMARKED THAT HE DIDN'T REALISE YOU WERE SO POPULAR.
"Neither did we. The first few gigs were a little slow - we were feeling very f***ed-u, cos of fatigue and jet lag. Melbourne and Adelaide have been incredible. Silverchair attracted quite a young audience, so there's been a lot of pent-up teenage sexual energy coming out. We're doing our best, considering I get twitches in my head and Stefan can't play the songs at all the same because of his cast. Steve's OK, he's just mad. All drummers are mad."

WHAT'S BEEN THE BEST PLACE YOU'VE VISITED ON TOUR?
"It's good to go to South Africa and it's good to come here. Africa was really mellow. Skunk Anansie were the last band to go there and they sang its praises to us. We were a little scared of Johannesburg because we heard so many horror stories about how dangerous it is, how you can't go anywhere by yourself. WE couldn't do everything we wanted in that town. We went to safari in Cape Town, saw rhinos, elephants, giraffes and wart-hogs."

REMIND YOU OF ANYONE YOU KNOW?
"The giraffes reminded me of Stef, the baboons reminded me a lot of our crew. Right now, touring is starting to feel too much like automatic pilot. It's getting difficult to connect with an audience unless they're gagging for it. It's been going on for so long. All we're thinking about is our third album. We've been writing at sound checks whenever we can. You have to. Otherwise you start to feel like a performing monkey."

ARE YOU GOING TO FALL INTO THE CLASSIC THIRD ALBUM TRAP?
"the songs about touring? Oh yeah (Laughs) Totally. There isn't a great lyrical bent to the band right now, a conceptual bent - it's more about the music. The lyrics come naturally. The songs are inevitably a reflection of where your head's at at the time. With the last album, we were very pensive and introspective, our post-coital depression album, because all our relationships were falling apart. Very fragile, very naked. The next album may be more optimistic, it may be a return to some of the themes on the first album. We have to repeat ourselves.
"For our second album, people expected an album full of 'Nancy Boy'. That's why 'Pure Morning' was such a good single to comeback with. It was more interested in technology and keyboard and samplers and using the studio as a reactive tool, instead of the rehearsal room. 'Pure Morning' was done in a day, around a guitar riff we sampled and put a track over. That's an aspect we find very exciting, learning how to use machines more."

WHEN I LAST MET YOU, YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO RELOCATE TO NEW YORK.
"Yeah, I always think about it. I've started having a serious relationship with someone in Paris. I've been spending a lot of time on Eurostar. To change continents right now would be self-destructive again. I should allow myself to be happy. We need a city vibe for the next record - the pollution, the noise, the gigs, bad habits, all that stuff, try to keep it going. The interesting thing about the Bath studio is that apparently it's built on negative leylines, so the people who work there are really f***ing depressed. We were having a hard time sleeping there, not 'til five or six in the morning. Maybe it's because of those leylines.
"We're not going to repeat ourselves again. 'Pure Morning' was a vindication, and a pointer. Right now, we've got the songs - but it's the texture and the atmosphere we need to discover. For the second album we noticed we were being pulled in this romantic, introspective, broken-heart direction. We just allowed ourselves to go that way, it's not necessarily the way we are, the whole atmosphere of the album will make itself known to us as we go on."

WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
"We found an Internet porn site with a live link-up to Amsterdam, where you actually type in what you want them to do. No one believed it, of course, but then you ask them to wave at you - and they do! It's hilarious! My favourite Internet porn site is this enema porn site: loads of photographs of women with tubes up their butts shooting their enemas out into pans."

IN REAL TIME?
"No, just photos. I go on Placebo sites and have a terrible time trying to convince fans it's actually me. No one ever believes it. I've spent about four hours, giving away intimate details about myself that I'd never tell a journalist, in an effort to prove that it's me."

WHAT'S THE MOST INVENTIVE SITE?
"We haven't been on for a while, but the fan sites have been generally very good. They're really exact, really large, and with so much stuff on. When we were going round on our American tour, we'd have our photos taken with fans and then weeks later find the same photos on the Internet. There's photos of my ex-girlfriends, my new girlfriend. That they get so fanatical that they print photos of who you sleep with... it's a good thing!"

ANY WEIRD INTERPRETATIONS OF YOUR LYRICS?
"Erm, mostly the sheet music. They don't understand we have alternative tunings, we don't play any song in standard tuning - and all this tablature is set up for standard tuning which doesn't make any sense whatsoever. All the lyrics are completely wrong, particularly because I made a point of writing lyrics which had continual ambiguity to what I was saying."

WAS THAT A TRANSPARENT ATTEMPT TO BE INVITED BACK ON "NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS"?
"Yes."

YOU'VE DONE A LOT OF FESTIVALS THIS YEAR. ANYTHING EXCITING HAPPEN TO YOU?
"We did a festival in Belgium with REM recently, and it was the first end of the world this year - the Nostradamus one, I think. So I'm telling Michael Stipe this and he's like, 'F***ing hell, man, that's great, it will give me a new way of introducing the song tonight.' And my heart was just glowing, because just before the final song, 'It's the End of the World as We Know It', he said, 'I was just talking to Brian from Placebo and he informed me it was due to be the end of the world, are you listening to me, Brian? Did we f***ing make it or what?"

ARE YOU GOOD MATES WITH REM NOW?
"We've seen them about quite a bit on tour, them and the Fun Lovin' Criminals, who we got totally wasted with in Greece. I had a barney with Damon Albarn in Italy. We were standing at the side of the stage watching Marilyn Manson, and he was slagging him off. I told him I didn't think he was actually that bad. SO he put his arm around me, and said very patronisingly, 'You'll learn'... and so we started this 15-minute 'F*** you!' 'F*** you!' session between us which went all the way back from the stage to the dressing-room area."

THERE'S A RUMOUR BLUR HAVE BEEN OFFERED A MILLION QUID TO PLAY TWO SHOWS IN LEEDS ON NEW YEAR'S EVE...
"Take it! Take it!"

BEEN HANGING OUT MUCH WITH MARILYN MASON?
"We were backstage at a festival in France watching Debbie Harry and Marilyn Manson speaking to each other. They were standing quite far apart, incredibly wary of each other - Marilyn blowing his cool talking to Debbie Harry, and Debbie Harry thinking, 'F***, who is this lunatic, f***ing Satan spawn species thing?'"

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE END OF THE TOUR?
" Oh yeah. I'm feeling a little tired. If it is the end of the world tonight, I'm not too worried. It means we don't have to play the gig. If it was the end of the world, I'd do as many drugs as possible, and as much shagging as possible. Everybody would be like that. If you were on a plane with somebody, and the place was going down - even if that person was a nun, you'd turn round and say, 'Would you like to go out with a bang?'"

With that, Brian announces he wants to return to his hotel and start some "serious drinking" with The Maker. Whatever the hell that means. We've been knocking back doubles throughout our chat. Fifteen hours later, I discover the answer - much to my (and my front lawn's) cost. Placebo are still around - indomitable and incorrigible as ever. And for that we should be all grateful.

PLACEBO ARE WORKING ON THEIR NEW ALBUM NOW

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Stefan Olsdal - bass
HOW DID YOU BREAK YOUR ARM?
"It happened in South Africa. Nothing as glamorous or rock'n'roll as a punch-up or sexual games. I was watching Garbage backstage and I came off the stage and the second-to-last step gave way. We were lucky we didn't have to cancel any shows. I feel a little inadequate, like a mother's boy. It's not good for my psyche. It's the hand I fondle my tool with."

WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING A SEX SYMBOL?
"It helps a lot. If you don't feel like prancing round the stage, you can just stand there and let what you look like do the work. This isn't going to last forever, we might as well take advantage of it while we're young. But you don't think about it too much. Initially, our egos blew up, but now they're back to what they were before."

DO YOU GET MANY GROUPIES?
"I get a certain amount of gay male interest, being the only gay man in the band. I like it, same as Steve likes black women."

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
"I ask myself that a lot. Especially when you're touring, you can feel a bit brain-dead. The challenge f writing music that precedes yourself and your reputation. Pushing the boundaries, trying to figure out who you are."

WHAT MESSAGE DO PLACEBO COMMUNICATE?
"The right to be outspoken."

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Steve Hewitt - drums

DO YOU GET STALKERS?
"Brian's had a stalker, and I had a psycho woman who turned up on my doorstep claiming she's been going out with me for a year. She was quite lovely, actually... but obviously mad. Shame."

WHAT'S THE LINE BETWEEN A DEDICATED FAN AND...
"... Taking the piss and being a nuisance? It's when you get the sense that they want a piece of you. The way they waltz up to you and chat to you like they're your mate. 'Get out of my face, I don't even know you!' It's just comes down to manners. You should know when to give someone some space."

WHAT DO YOU THINK PLACEBO REPRESENT TO PEOPLE?
"Freedom. The right to believe in yourself, especially sexually. We give gay people confidence to come out - we have a lot of people coming out at us. It's so political, self motivation - if you really want to be a nutter, be a nutter, as long as you don't hurt anyone else. It's all good clean dirty fun. It's good, getting young boys and girls seeing us as personalities. On the first album, it's all about the music, but after that your career takes off and it's more about the personalities. You have to accept that."

HOW OFTEN DO YOU FALL OUT WITH BRIAN?
"Brian and I have one major argument every six months, mostly along the lines of 'Who put the f***ing cheese over there, you bastard?' 'Don't know.' 'Well, it's your f***ing cheese...' It'll blow up, and be resolved in time it took to get going in the first place."

WHAT'S THE VIBE ON THE NEW SONGS?
"I don't have a f***ing clue. Sleazy. It feels underage, in a teenage wife kinda vibe, in a 'I'll get you when you're young, you slag' way. The first album was party, the second album was coming down from the party, the third one is 'I'm going out again, but don't tell anybody'. It's more emotional, more playful, a lot of melodies coming up. It feels very Swedish. A lot of nice, brittle melodies. It's got a European feel. Teacher/pupil relationships, they're sweet. I had a few crushes at school - mostly English teachers. Female English teachers, they're f***ing sexy."