Shame-free "The Placebo Interview", Sep'07

September 10, 2007

Ms. Rose had an opportunity to talk with Stefan of Placebo recently at Projekt Revolution in Camden. Check it.

I recently did an interview with Placebo at Projekt Revolution in Camden, NJ. Placebo, for those of you in the dark is a three piece (Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal and Steve Hewitt), British rock band that have been doing their thing internationally for a little over ten years. In 1996, their self-titled debut album brought the world a sound that was raw, untamed and uncensored honesty about sex, drugs, love and life backed by grinding guitars, heavy basslines and solid beats. Their latest album, Meds, has brought the band full circle and back to that same honesty. This summer they joined the Projekt Revolution tour and alongside bands like HIM, Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance and have sufficiently unleashed a Revolution upon the people of North America. I got to spend some time in a very hot and humid Camden, NJ talking to bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal.

Even though Placebo has been around for over 10 years, American audiences still seem to be learning about them. I’ve heard other bands claim that American audiences are tough. Placebo have toured America, but to much smaller audiences than what they see in Europe. In Europe, Placebo sells out venues like the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ where as here they would be lucky to sell out a club. I asked Stefan about this to which he explained that playing to American audiences like the ones we see at festivals is a chance for us to show them who we are and what we have to offer. He searched for a lighter and continued, “It’s definitely different but we get the chance to show people who might not have the chance otherwise.”

Their latest album, Meds, is an almost “back to basics” album for Placebo. What it offers up to listeners is a very organic and very band-based sound, according to Stefan. He stated that their work on Sleeping With Ghosts (previous album) was much more technology based, they spent a lot of time in front of computers chopping up beats and sounds and playing with keyboards, where as this one is more of a return to the sound they began with and trying to put less distance between the songs and the listener in a way not to be scared of our musicianship and songwriting skills.

Placebo has had the opportunity to work with some amazing musicians in the past including a tour with David Bowie before their first album was even finished (he also appeared on the title track to their album Without You I’m Nothing) They have also worked with Frank Black (on the DVD Soulmates Never Die – Live in Paris 2003 ) and on Meds there are guest vocals from the likes VV from The Kills (on the title track) and Michael Stipe on Broken Promise. I asked Stefan what this means to the band as artists. He explained that it was something that just happened as they encountered these other artists during their career. “It’s just a case of the more you’re around there doing it, the more you bump into these people and you kind of just strike up relationships. With Michael Stipe, he was the executive producer on a film we’d done (Velvet Goldmine), so that’s how we got to know him.” Stefan continued, “Why not ask him to see if he wants to come in and sing this track about infidelity between two men?” I think it worked out quite well.

I asked Stefan how it feels to hear other bands say they’ve been influenced by what Placebo has done. “Well, obviously it’s flattering and it’s not something we think about a lot, because you know, it would be detrimental to your ego, but I guess if you’re looking at it objectively through music history it’s a cyclical thing. We’ve been influenced by bands and now we’ve been around for over ten years so there are artists or bands who have possibly been influenced by us and the fact that we are here and we’ve had a certain amount of success.”

So how does a band that has been together as long as Placebo maintain their relationships with each other despite spending so much time together. Stefan points out the interior of the tour bus, “This has been our home now for the past five weeks, the make up chair is there, there’s no dressing room so we’re on top of each other all of the time and then with heat like this you can’t go anywhere.” He smiled as he explained, “If we didn’t get along with each other we wouldn’t be here now. And believe me we have traveled in a lot smaller and a lot shittier vehicles than this. At least here we change the bed linens every week or so.”

In the spirit of being “Shame-free” I asked what exactly Placebo is “Shame-free” about. “Shame is so 90’s.” he stated. He elaborated by explaining that since the beginning that they had been very honest about almost all aspects of their personal lives, preferences, lifestyles, influences, and inner concept of the freedom of expression. The three members of Placebo did not grow up together and come from different upbringings. Stefan considers them “three outsiders who came together.” He continued, “Just in a way we thought that by being who we are together kind of promoted a sense of --- don’t be ashamed of who you are, follow your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you what to do or what to be. I think that is still an essential foundation in the band’s psyche.” He paused for a second and then added, “We also share underwear, but they’re clean underwear.”

With just a few more PR dates left I asked what they were going to do when Projekt Revolution ended. He didn’t hesitate and replied with a tired smile, “Take a break.”

Source: shame-free