The Drum Media "Glam Model Rock", May'99

by Murray Englebert

Placebos perfectly featured Brian Molko might well be England's last chance this century at a real rock star.

Truth be told he's probably way overqualified for the job . Not too surprisingly the fragile man childs presence hasn't gone unnoticed by his contemporaries . Marilyn Manson recognizes true limo deserving qualities when he sees them.

"We exchanged phone numbers when we met at the Kerrang! awards a couple of years ago ," says the elegantly spoken singer and guitarist accompanied by a bottle of wine late on a very cold and wet London night .. " I was a big fan of Beautiful People and he liked out first album . So at the Kerrang! Awards we got quite unreasonably drunk at the party afterwards."

In the last six months or so the now four year old Placebo have been exhibiting quite a gravitational pull with the success of the delicious drone that is the Pure Morning and their excellent second album , Without you I'm nothing. But while it all seems fitting and proper you get the sense that for Molko , a graduate of London University in Drama and Theatre Arts , Stefan Olsdal (bass , guitar and keyboards) and Steve Hewitt (drums) the dividends since the release of their self titled debut in 1996 have been exceeding even their own market projections . There was their " Glam Frock " (no not a typo) appearance in the Velvet Goldmine movie ("We went around camping it up and acting drunk a lot, ) an invitation to play Bowies 50th birthday party at Madison Square Garden alongside Frank Black , Robert Smith , Sonic Youth and Lou Reed (" a wet dream come true") , a more recent appearance with Bowie at the Brit Awards and a slot at Barcelona Olympic Stadium on the U2 pop mart tour ("one of the biggest shows on earth").

The depth , breadth and general ambience of the Without You I'm Nothing album more that justifies being in those environments and keeping such esteemed company . There's countless touch points from guilt and longing to desperation and release wrapped in a variety of sonic textures . At its heart is a union that was symbolised the night a Ziggy Stardust mode Bowie lent across a table at Max's Kansas city in New York and kissed Lou Reed . Molkos own touch points aren't quite as contently polarised . 

"The first I heard Sonic Youth was a very , very important thing for me . It was my 16th birthday and I was very stoned and Id never really herd anything like it before in my life . That was the year that I started to play guitar so that had a very , very big effect on me .. After I moved to London I heard PJ Harvey for the first time and the emotional intensity and depth of the album , Dry also had a very , very big effect on me . I guess when I went into the idea of a band I kind of wanted to Marry the kind of dissonant , atonal beauty of Sonic Youths experimentalisation with the kind of pained confessional and highly emotional quality that PJ Harvey's music has. "

That listening heritage goes some way towards explaining the highly emotive and at time otherworldy element to Without You I'm Nothing.

"A lot of the lyrics are a narrative voice . Its not really coming from me . A lot of these songs are told through the mouths of ex-lovers really and are directed towards me , I think there's a lot of guilt on the album which explains that choice of narrative form . I think there's a stream of melancholy that runs through this record . It was written at a time when our professional lives were really together but our personal lives were kind of falling apart . We felt ourselves being pulled in a very vulnerable and fragile romantic direction . The title itself is quite sentimental but its also a kind of desperate and I think that's a dichotomy that runs though a lot of the emotions on this record."
The bands Kamikaze-like personal lives were a matter of very public record around the time their debut album was released . Larger than any mortal life myths grew overnight and the band could only stand by and watch the beats increase its proportions. 

" I think what happened was that our press started getting press " Molko laughs . "Its always a downward spiral from there. In many ways in Britain we were maybe crucified a bit for being too verbose , for being too flamboyant . It was quite hypocritical . They had been craving that and mourning the lack of flamboyance in Rock.

" Sometimes one part of me says that its all fine and part of the myth making process . That's sort of me as a musician . But personally sometimes being so under the microscope and being so analytical just the idea that thousands and thousands of people have formed an opinion on what you must be like without ever having met you is a very very strange position to find yourself . It does create a certain amount of insecurity when it comes to your identity . Sometimes you ask yourself , who the fuck am I ? But that's where your friends come in I guess .."
Unfortunately death threats came with that turf . The band were disturbed but Molko wasn't exactly surprised. 

"I think we've always been a band that inspires extreme emotions in people . There doesn't seem to be a lot of indifference when it comes to Placebo . People either really love us or really hate us . For a while we where so outspoken and unapologetic about a lot of things and I think that really got up a few noses . I suspect a few of them were like stalkers that we had for a while that we'd rejected and instructed to stay out of our lives venting and venging their spleens . I also have suspicions that it was other people in the music industry as well. It hasn't happened in a while which is why I'm keeping my eyes open because we're about due for a headfuck in that department . "Its all been quite OK" he laughs . "Recently."

That might be about to change with Molko set to expand on horizons that the threesome have already dabble in.  "We've done modeling for Gucci in the past and we've been photographed by David Bailey for fashion shoots . I'm in fact just going to modeling for Calvin Klein in March. So Placebo :movies , music and modeling at your service "