Fasterlouder "A Conversation With Placebo's Stefan Olsdal", Oct'04

Now with four acclaimed albums under their belts (the most recent, Sleeping With Ghosts) Placebo have undertaken the release of a their singles collection,Once More With Feeling: Singles 1996 – 2004 retrospective which chronicles the rise and rise of one of the most important bands of today.

I receive a call from Stefan Olsdal Placebo’s bassist and lead guitarist. A softly-spoken gentleman, Stefan exudes the polite confidence of someone who has experienced the joy of self-fulfillment through making music.”Hi”, I venture, realising that the man pinned to my wall is now on the end of my phone line. It’s an indescribable moment. Fortunately, Stefan lives up to the reputation a litany of previous interviewers have been happy to propagate on his behalf.

But it’s been quite a journey from those early days in London. With the release of the singles collection now imminent, I ask Stefan how he sees the band to have evolved. “It’s hard you know”, says a contemplative Olsdal. “You look back on the early stuff and you think you’ve played it all just many times. As a band we try to keep moving forward all the time. The last thing you want is to get bored.”

Indeed, but I want to hear more about Placebo’s gentle transition from boa-waving glamsters to the highly-stylised, decadent, heavily French-influenced and arguably at times “gothic” performers who have graced world stages of late. “We’ve never been a Glam band”, posits Stefan rather incongruously before taking up on my unspoken train of thought. “Yes, we did make an appearance on (Todd Hayes’ 1998 rock flick) Velvet Goldmine, but that was just a film of course. We were just acting.” I’m unconvinced but it’s also easy to understand why, after nearly a decade of music making and the promise of yet more to come, Olsdal is as keen as ever to avoid isolating labels. This is after all a band which has, against all odds, succeeded in bringing their style of rock into the mainstream. Of their latest stylings, Olsdal merely notes that what fans see onstage is always just “a bigger version” of the band’s offstage personalities.

And indeed this is what audiences have always loved about Placebo: the fact that the band’s members have always sought to convey the kind of self-deprecating openness that makes their prodigious gifts for writing and performing something their followers may revere and at the same time feel a great empathy for. The singles from Placebo’s second album, the 1998 Without You I’m Nothing, are testimony to this projected isolation from Self. The eclectic and haunting lead single from the album is one which remains close to Olsdal’s heart: “On Without You I’m Nothing we were able to use David Bowie’s voice and that was just incredible. To be able to use his harmonies was amazing.”

The equally memorable if not far more vibrant Every You Every Me is the tale of the ease with which situations are abused; in which freedom becomes a force of destruction. It’s a song which, performed live, seems to acquire a velocity all of it’s own. I ask Stefan if adapting all the band’s material to the growing size of their stages (18,000 at the Paris Bercy last year) has been easy. “We just try and do the music justice in whatever setting”, says Olsdal. “We’re at the stage now where we’ve down stripped-back shows and we’ve done stadiums. We’re happy operating in lots of contexts.”

Source: fasterlouder