The Daily Telegraph "On To The Next Stage", Apr'04

by Neala Johnson

Placebo is one of those bands who just can't get enough of touring here. Just eight months after their performance at Splendour in the Grass at Byron Bay, the British trio is back. 

"I'm not trying to butter you up, but Australia is one of my favourite places to go. You definitely deserve more gigs from us,'' says frontman Brian Molko. "The band seems to have come a long way -- we're playing the places that we played with Silverchair in '98. So it's a place where more and more people want to come see us, so we're not gonna be all rock starry and not show up." 

Their current album, Sleeping With Ghosts, is almost two years old. Molko says Placebo's live show in that time has become a more energetic beast and he has explored new opportunities as a frontman by simply giving his guitar playing a rest. 

"For me, one of the interesting things has been putting my guitar down more, and doing my Iggy Pop thing," he laughs. "The first time that happened to me was on the set of Velvet Goldmine. Here I was in this ridiculous '70s garb, with a top hat and glitter make-up, and all of a sudden I find myself on stage, and Ewan McGregor and Michael Stipe are the audience. I find myself without the guitar, not having done very much research into how frontmen danced in the '70s, and I absolutely shat myself. "Steve, our drummer, showed me some '70s moves and I just had to dive in."

Like most frontmen, Molko said the process of developing his on-stage persona is an on-going process. "I was trying to find my feet as a performer. You've gotta make a lot of mistakes in public,'' he says. "I was used to being on stage, having studied theatre at college, so I always felt comfortable on stage, but it's a very different thing to acting. I think a good band finds a really good equilibrium between musicianship and performance. And if you can do that with a sprinkling of cool image as well, then you're delivering the whole package." 

While Placebo have been working on new material, Molko says he is reticent to perform the works-in-progress live. 
"I think it's a real shame that bands these days can't take their new songs on the road and try them for six months -- it'll all end up on the internet," he says. "It's one thing playing those songs in an embryonic state live, but you don't want your fans to think this is the final version. That is a bummer, but you've gotta move with the times." 
But with a significant number of releases to their credit now, isn't it time for a greatest hits package? "We've got at least 15 singles, so it's about time to do a retrospective. It's not a greatest hits, it'll just be kinda like a history. It's not going to be a shameless piece of marketing -- hopefully it'll be a nice historical document that we'll put a lot of effort into, to try to take the fans on a journey," Molko explains. "In one way, it bides us a little bit of time to work on the next record. Every album you make is a bigger challenge, because hopefully the quality of your body of work that's preceded it makes it difficult." 

With four albums under their belt in 10 years, it is natural to wonder what songwriting challenges remain for Placebo. 

Watch out for new-wave disco and power ballads, he warns. "There's so much we haven't done. We haven't written a funky disco track about getting it on, yet. So that could be around the corner. Or a genuinely, achingly simple love song," Molko says. "It's all uncharted territory. We'll cross those bridges, and once we get over 'em, we'll burn 'em." 

He might be joking but the rock'n'roll myth has always been alive and well in the Placebo camp. With the band members older and wiser, one senses Molko's levels of consumption may have diminished but he's not about to burst the fans' bubble of misconception. 

"I think people always want to live vicariously through their rock stars, so they don't have to go through the trials and tribulations of the `rock'n'roll lifestyle' themselves," he says. "Regardless of the reality, people are still gonna believe what they want to believe. The reality is when you're in your 30s, you can't party like you did in your 20s -- it's a simple physical thing. But I also think it would be a shame to be the same person at the age of 30 that you were at 20, to not have learnt from the great rollercoaster. We certainly don't want to be in a position where the lifestyle gets ahead of doing our job to 110 per cent. Bands like Oasis forget that, forget that people have paid their hard-earned money to see you, and it's your responsibility to give them the best show possible."