Humo "Interview with Brian", Mar'06


Your new album is called "Meds", slang for medicine. Is that a give-away? 

When I started working on this record, I only had 2 subjects to write about: love and addiction. I don't want to follow the path of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain. Or even worse: Pete Doherty. I've also always had a problem with the glorification of addicted rock stars. A junkie in the gutter is a junkie in the gutter. But I can't deny it: I had also taken that dead-end road - one day I realised there was a chance I might be the next rock casualty. 

In the single "Song to Say Goodbye" you sing: "You were mother nature's son / Someone to whom I could relate / Your needle and your damage done / Remains a twisted sort of fate". Who did you write that song for? 

For myself. It's a letter to myself, about myself. I was doing so bad then... I was in a vicious circle, I only felt sadness and anger and frustration and permanent insatisfaction. I was just never happy, never. And if there doesn't come an end to that, or if you don't even want to realise there's something seriously wrong... I had to do something to change my lifestyle, and that's why I went to India. That's where I wrote that song, it's the starting point for the record, the oldest song that's on it. Can you imagine anything worse than your best friend shouting "You are one of God's mistakes, you crying, tragic waste of skin" at you? Well, I need to tell myself that. 

When exactly were you on that intersection? 

I'm still there, at this very moment. I like to tell myself I'm getting closer and closer to the solution, but it still takes a lot of effort to find a balance. I'm full of good intentions, and one day I can stick to them, but the next day everything goes wrong again. 

Let's talk about music for a second. Placebo has existed for 10 years now, and you have become a real stadium act in that time. Could you have dared dream about that in 1996? 

God no. The music we make was very unfashionable in our early days. But then gently the tides changed and now I hear a lot of bands who have listened to us carefully. And that's only normal. We used to get a lot inspiration listening to Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Depeche Mode... So now others can steal from us as much as they like. We have never hidden the fact that we wanted to be the biggest band in the world, and we're still fiercely ambitious. I'm very grateful I still feel the drive to improve myself als a songwriter. With every record it's like we start over again, only now we realise what kind of band we are. 

You mean you have perfectioned the Placebo formula? "Meds" seems to be full of singles. 

Yes, this record does seem like a greatest hits (laughs). Look, we're not easy people, and we don't want to be either. We still try to fuck up, only it seems that the harder we try to screw things over, the better our songs get. Our music has started sounding very effortless. 

You once covered "Je t'aime... moi non plus" with Asia Argento in the part of Serge Gainsbourg, and yourself in the part of Jane Birking. The title track of "Meds" is a duet with Alison Mosshart aka VV of The Kills. Alison and Asia are 2 skinny, pale, androginous, black-haired girls. They could be your sisters. 

(laughs) Well, I've always thought that love is quite a narcistic thing. You like to see yourself reflected in your lover. Not that I was ever involved with those two, but I do think they're very beautiful women. And a duet always sounds better with someone you have the hots for. 

Asia was here just now too. 

No, really? I haven't seen her in years. I know Alison from a long time ago. I went to university with Jamie (Hince, aka Hotel, the other half of The Kills). He was the first friend I made in London, and I've stayed in touch with him for the past sixteen years. Jesus, sixteen fucking years, am I really that old? (Molko has recently turned 34). I think The Kills is one of the best bands at the moment. And Alison was very easy to work with, very straightforward - a kindred soul. And you don't meet a lot of people like that. Polly Harvey, Justin Warfield, Michael Stipe... I don't think there are more than that. 

You also sing a duet with Michael Stipe: "Broken Promise", a song about - in our opinion - deceit and adultry? 

Or more generally seen: abuse of trust. One of the worst things that can happen to you, and one of the worst things you can do to someone. For a long time, there was an aura of decadence around myself and Placebo - in the long run that's murdering. Literally: it kills you. I've had a destructive life, for myself and for others. 

Michael Stipe is well-chosen: his sexual preferences are rather vague. 

Yeah (laughs). The most obvious thing to do was sing that song with a women, and we were going to, we just didn't know with whom. But one day we ran into Michael in the lobby of this hotel, and the pieces fell together. I realised: you're the one. 

Here in France they cherish Placebo like you were a French band. 

They love us here, but it could have been worse: for all it's worth we could've been very popular in Germany. It's because of my background (Molko grew up in Luxembourg and speaks French perfectly), because we've recorded a couple of songs in French, but mostly because of our music. Our songs go in very well, all the radio and tv stations play them, but they are still dark songs. And dark romance just fits the French tradition perfectly, in literature, just think of the poèmes maudits like Beaudelaire. 

Placebo is also one of the rare English bands that acknowledge the genius of Gainsbourg, and not just because he's been dead for 15 years now. Besides "Je t'aime... moi non plus", you've also covered "La ballade de Melody Nelson" and "Reqiuem pour un con". 

Gainsbourg is one of the most amazing songwriters of all time. There's Leonard Cohen, Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel. When I hear "Ne me quitte pas", I burst into tears, every single time. And Nina Simone and Billie Holiday... Those people have made me decide at a very young age to become a musician. Serges life story can only be described as tragic, but I think we can learn from it. I think we can stop ourselves from going down that path of self destruction. 

You recently became a father: doesn't that keep you away from self destruction? 

I have a four-month-old son - not planned, but more than welcome. I know for certain: my son is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I myself have a very difficult relationship with my father, and I've certainly never dreamed of fatherhood. But it happened to me and I've never felt to happy. And never so scared either. 

Pardon us, but how must be picture the family life of a bisexual man? 

(laughs) Yes, it can get quite confusing, can't it? Well, at the moment I'm in a relationship with a woman and the child is of us both and nobody else. I'm not planning on getting married: having a child with someone is the biggest commitment you can make. People may be suprised that someone like me says things like that, but growing older I've come to the conclusion that only 1 thing matters: love. Unconditional love - unconditional, pure love.