ScenePointBlank "Placebo interview by Graham", Apr'07


Much to the delight of my parents, Placebo were the band who inspired me to steal my mothers eyeliner at the lofty age of eleven. Unfortunately, even after a career with such longevity, these overtones are still what many associate with the band. For fans and anyone else paying attention, however, the trio bring so much more than a pretty boy aesthetic. This became evident after sitting down with Stefan(bass), and Steve(drums). Promptly ignoring the no smoking by law, and killing my efforts for small talk, the two showed they weren't there to shoot the shit, and certainly gave no affirmation of the decorated exterior they are often pigeon holed into. What did I get then? I got something closer to what you typically find in their music. Two guys with more rock and roll than they should rightfully be allowed to have, and something a little more honest than I expected. Here's how it unfolded:


Scene Point Blank: It's been quite some time since you've toured North America, specifically since 2003 since you've been to Toronto. I was wondering why there's been such a long hiatus, and how the crowd reactions been on the first three gigs of the tour thus far?

Steve: I think the reason we haven't come back is because of...well I don't know. Record companies I guess?

Stefan: I think the main answer is we've been playing countries we haven't played before. We played in South America since we were here last, then there was Korea and China. We've just kind of been scoping out the world, really.

Steve: The first three shows of this American tour has been great. Montreal was crazy with a sold out show humming along...

Stefan: The last time we were here was in October with She Wants Revenge and that tour didn't hit Canada, so it's why we didn't come here then.

Scene Point Blank: Placebo are set to play the Cochella festival coming up at the end of the month. In terms of hype, I can't recall a show in recent memory that's had more than this gig. As veterans to the festival scene, how does your preparation differentiate between playing to crowds as large as those as compared to playing headlining gigs?

Stefan: Well you're playing to a bunch of people who haven't seen you before, so you've kind of got to shove it down their throats and sell yourself in a different way. When you do your own show you have much more freedom and much more control. A festival is sort of like a conveyer belt of bands really. You go on and try and do your best to win people over...

Scene Point Blank: Is there a nervousness going into that?

Stefan: There is a nervousness going into every show.

Steve: Still, yeah.

Scene Point Blank: There is a rumor going around that you'll be apart of Linkin Park's Project Revolution tour coming up toward the end of the year. Given your stances of the rap rock of the early two thousands this seems like an odd combination.

Stefan: (laughs) Well, it's a rumor.

Scene Point Blank: So is there any truth to it?

Stefan: It's a rumor. ( laughs )

Steve: We're rather diplomatic today, aren't we?

Scene Point Blank: Well moving on to my next question then: Can you tell me about the Covers album you've recently put out as an internet release?

Steve: That was something that was just released on the special edition, re release, of Sleeping With Ghosts. There was a fan demand for it, because many people couldn't get a hold of it due to a limited run. We decided to put it out on Itunes as a mini album, just because of that demand really, wasn't it? It's a nice little disc really; all the stuff we grew up with, used for soundtracks, and done for ourselves really. We just wanted to make it available for people to get because a lot of people we trying to find it.

Scene Point Blank: On numerous occasions you, as a band, have been quite vocal about your embrace of the internet as a medium. Would you mind reiterating why this stance is put forward?

Stefan: The thing is you can't stop technology. As you said, we've really embraced it through out our career. Keyboards have gotten more expensive, but we've incorporated electronics into our recording processes and writing processes. When you're on tour the internet is the most easy way to access music. We don't have much time to go to record stores anymore and having everything ready at your finger tips makes it so much less complicated. You can have your whole record collection in your little Ipod.

Scene Point Blank: A major debate in some of the circles I've been involved in recently has been how downloading music has lead to the superficial consumption of the art as a whole. Where people rather than taking albums will be taking one or two songs...

Stefan: The thing is, the album concept was invented in, what, the sixties ? Before that it was just single songs. People just have this sort of nostalgic attachment to albums. It's a concept that came, and now it's probably going.

Steve: When people buy music they buy the songs that they like, and a lot of time, I know from what we've experienced, you buy an album and you many not like all the tracks. It's more consumer orientated and gives you a choice. You're not stuck with the one format. You can do your own mix tape and compilations, and that's a positive thing. I prefer it that way.

Scene Point Blank: When taking your albums as a whole, specifically I'd say from Without you I'm Nothing forward, the records have more of a flow and theme to a concept in its entirety. When people are taking single songs do you feel this breaks up what you were trying to do?

Steve: There is a part of that, but I think again you've got to modernize what's been done before. You've got to give the costumer that much freedom. I think that's the just the way people think these days; they all think differently. You've opened up an old sort of format, haven't you? It can break something up, especially from an artists point of view. You make a record you want the whole thing there, but if you don't like the tracks you don't like the tracks. End of story.

Stefan: I think we're still part of the album generation in a way. The tracks on the album (Covers) are from various parts, some of them were written six years ago. They span a long period of time, and all inhabit their own little world. Making records, we're still doing that, so you try to make it as much a journey as possible. But what can you do about it, you know? There are going to be negative and positive sides to this whole story. The positive side of this is music is so much more readily available for everyone. Like Steve was talking about the other day, there are records we haven't thought about in years, and shit man, those are probably available now. You're just sitting at the computer and you can get it. It's probably reignited an interest in music for many people

Steve: And discovery as well. It's healthy in a way, there is a lot more back catalogue stuff being used..

Stefan: I think we should just get away from this whole nostalgia thing. Just because that's the way it was then doesn't mean it's the way it needs to be now. Technology has changed the way we listen to and consume music. First it was sheet music, then vinyl came and sheet music goes out of business. Then CD's came, and there was the golden era of CD's with record companies just rolling in it. Now the internet, it's just the next phase in the way we consume music. Of course it's going to be "no I don't like this" you know...

Steve: Music has changed.

Scene Point Blank: Moving away from that topic, you guys are doing a video for your Kate Bush cover "Running up that Hill" which involves quite a bit of fan participation. Would you mind explaining this concept for the people who don't know about it, and how this concept came about?

Stefan: It's intended to be a tribute to our fans. We left it open for them to sing the track in the close up and we'll edit it all together. It's a cover versions so it's not our track, and this is just a way to bring the fans closer to the band and have some fun moment with it, you know?

Scene Point Blank: Your contract with Virgin recently expired, and there has been a lot of buzz around whether you intend to resign with them or not...

Steve: None of your goddamn business. (laughs)

Stefan: It's too early to call at this point. We try to keep our business and private lives out of the public eye. It's safest that way.

Steve: We've been burned in the past.

Scene Point Blank: Through out your career the media's focus surrounding your band has been largely revolved around your aesthetics and sexuality. At this point it's redundant to ask those types of questions, but why do you believe this has been such a large topic when dealing with your band?

Stefan: It's just the easiest aspect to criticize and comment on. We come from a very tabloid, journalism, mentality in England and that's kind of what the world first read about Placebo. They just bought into the character, and it became a character assassination after awhile. I think it's just the superficial, celebrity obsessed, media world we live in right now. There is a shallowness that's become so much more present in the last couple of years. We don't like it, we don't want to be part of it. I think the whole issue of our sexuality and our personal lives have been written about so many times to a point where it's really fucking boring to talk about.

Steve: It's the day and age of analyzing on anybody. Whether you're famous or not, anybody who's anybody, people want to fucking tear apart. Nature of the beast, really. It's a modernist thing, isn't it? Obsessive.

Scene Point Blank: What you've said in other interviews is that the point of your music is a communication of emotion, but you've been doing this for quite along time now. What I was wondering is if the basis of this ever changes, or just evolves with you as you're maturing and growing up?

Stefan: Oh. I think by the nature of not trying to be something we're not, you can still hear in this last album Meds, though it's our fifth album, it still sounds like Placebo. There is still a red line that connects it to the first couple of albums. To be honest with you, it's not something we consciously think about when we're writing and recording. If we all hit off on the same ideas and lyrics then that's what becomes a Placebo song. We don't say not that we've done that we have to go off and do our Kid A for example, or we have to sound like the Velvets or the Stones on this one. Now it's cool to do a new wave or an electronic punk album or something, but it's much more organic when it comes to the way that we work. By the fact of not trying to be something that we're not, we're still here. It's not something that we analyze really...

Steve: We always make music in a vacuum anyway. We never listen to anything else when we're in the studio so there is a sense of purity there. If we all agree then it becomes a Placebo thing. We've never been cool or trendy, so we've never had the problem of having to find the next step. Just really on our own root. Pretty much just the same way as Radiohead, we're just doing our own thing so we never had to contend with what's hip, or worry about it. I think that's been a saving grace of the band.

Scene Point Blank: Your tour schedule has been quite extensive, and goes into September, when you're finished do you intend to head into the studio?

Stefan: We intend to sleep. (laughs) This has been the most intense tour we've ever done with about 130 shows in nine months last year, and we're going to go until September. So when we get off that I think we'll need a bit of a breather.

Steve: It's been nothing but rock and roll.

Scene Point Blank: I assuming there is no sort of premeditation regarding the next album

Steve: No. (laughs)

Stefan: That's the answer to that one.

Scene Point Blank: A pet project of mine has been getting everyone I've done interviews with to attempt to define art. So why do you guys create music and what does that do for you?

Steve: First and foremost it's about expression. That's the bottom line for me. You have many ways of doing that. From making records comes other things like videos. I've had many channels to produce art but it all stems from expressionist feeling for me.

Stefan: We're very lucky to be doing it, it's not a bad job. Art is art, and everything else is everything else.

Scene Point Blank: That's a good place to end it, thanks for your time. Any closing comment?

Stefan: It's good to be back, and hopefully it won't take as long to get back next time.