411 Mania "Interview with Stefan", Feb'07

by Michael Melchor

Placebo bassist and co-founder on popularity in America, the new album, and strange touring partners. 

Placebo may be finally ready to take their proper place in stardom here in the United States.

The band – consisting of Brian Molko (vocals, guitar), Stefan Olsdal (bass) and Steve Hewitt (drums) – have been a fixture in the native England and the rest of Europe (if not all over the world) for several years now. First gaining attention as Ashtray Heart, the band garnered attention with their eponymous 1996 debut under their recent name. While the UK press loves mocing lead singer Molko for gis flamboyant ways, the band has gained a powerful fan following abroad.

In The United Sytates, however, the band had a cult following. With the exception of "Pure Morning" (from Without You I'm Nothing), not much had been heard from or about the band here overseas. That has changed within the last year, as their newest album, Meds, has slowly but surely gained attention. With "Running Up The Hill" featured on television shows such as "Bones" and "The O.C." and an upcoming feature spot on the Coachella Festival lineup, Placebo may soon be a household name in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.

Recently, 411 had a chance to talk to co-founder Stefan Olsdal about the band's upcoming prominence in the United States. On the phone from Europe, Olsdal was gracious and forthcoming about the new record and breaking over here.

Michael Melchor: What led to the decision to re-release Meds? I know that the album was leaked initially before it came out on Astralwerks and a couple newer singles have been let out recently; I didn't know if that had anything to do with it, or if it was simply remastered and you'd decided to put it out there?

Stefan Olsdal: Well, there was a slight change in record company; we're still under the EMI/Virgin umbrella. Also, it was one of those things that just happened to try and give it another push, you know? Some was editing; it's going into the K-Marts and stuff like that so we have to sort of tone down on the swearing a little bit and change a couple tracks. Also, things are starting to happen in the States, so we wanted to give it a second push.

MM: That's something I was going to ask about, also – I've noticed you've been building quite an audience here in the U.S.; the song "Running Up The Hill" has been featured on a couple shows over here, you've been on tour with She Wants Revenge and not only completely sold those out, but were in demand to be the headliners for all but three shows – very well done, by the way...

SO: Oh, thank you.

MM: I was going to ask what it was like building that audience and finally getting that kind of attention over here after being around as long as you guys have now?

SO: It's cool, you know; we've had more success here in the UK in the beginning of our career and Europe had taken to us, also. We've always had kind of a cult following in the States; we'd spent a couple months touring each album [in the U.S.]. There seems to be more of a connection over there and things are starting to happen now; we're playing Coachella and we'll probably do another headlining tour. We've always done a couple shows, but now we're getting more attention. The MySpace page has gained a strong following and has had a really positive response. So we're just kind of building on that, you know, and we have a hard time saying "no" to people that want to see us play. [Laughs] It's a new place for us to go to.

MM: You touched on something else I was going to get into with this year's Coachella Festival – if there was any idea for some sort of set list yet?

SO: The set list is based around Meds right now; we figure we're playing to a huge audience of people that don't know us and many are seeing us for the first time. We'll also sprinkle some older stuff as well.

MM: Right – introduce them to where you are now and give them a taste of what came before.

SO: Exactly.

MM: Very good. How did you get involved in it – were you contacted to play or did your management reach out to someone there?

SO: Yeah, it was a conversation between the organizers who contacted our management. It's been in the cards for a while, actually. They called us about it and we'd heard a lot of good things about it but we've never been to it – we haven't been as spectators, either. Everyone who talks about it just loves it.

MM: Nice. I was going to ask about some of the style changes as far as the music goes as well. Black Market Music was more guitar-driven and raw, while Sleeping With Ghosts was more electronic and leaned more toward that style. With Meds, it sounds like you've gone back to the more guitar-driven style, although more refined, obviously. Is there a preferred style or does it come down to whatever you're feeling and maybe the mood of the music itself at the time?

SO: I think Meds was kind of a reaction to Sleeping With Ghosts; we'd pushed the mix between rock and electronics to its logical conclusion. We felt we'd done that with Sleeping With Ghosts. With Meds, we wanted a return to rock and a return to the feel of being in a room together and performing as a band together like it was 10 years ago when we did the first album. Kind of keep things fresh again and to get away from sitting behind a computer screen all day and playing with loops and samples. We wanted a return to analog; more of a guitar base and a live feel.

MM: To sit down and play and see how it feels again.

SO: Right, to become a band again; it's so easy to put an album together on computer and you can lose emotion and personality. While we've played for a long time, we haven't been good musicians [recently], so we wanted to go back to that as well. [Laughs]

MM: [Laughs] Well, you're not bad musicians at all. We know that. Is there anything you can tell us about any U.S. tour plans coming up? 

SO: Well, we'll be there around Coachella, but we're not sure what's going to happen after that; we're still working on it. But I'd say maybe around April and May, we should be [in the States].

MM: Is there anyone you'd like to tour with? I know you've played a few spot shows with The Cure; I didn't know if they'd be a possibility. Or is there someone else you'd like to go out with?

SO: I wouldn't mind being out with ABBA. [Laughs]

MM: [Laughs] Nice!

SO: In seriousness, Sonic Youth would be cool. So, yeah, those two – Sonic Youth and Placebo with ABBA headlining.

MM: Very good. Hell, I'd go. [Laughs]

SO: [Laughs]

MM: The last thing I wanted to hit on was how the band got involved in the "Global Cool" organization and in fighting global warming? 

SO: They got in touch with us and, if there's anything we can do to help, we will. We've been involved with charities and awareness groups in the past and if we can spread some kind of positive message in anyway, we'll do it.

Source: 411mania