The Sun "A Happy Placebo", Jun'06

Jun 16, 2006
by Jacqui Swift

THEY'VE been one of Britain's biggest rock bands of the last ten years and have sold over seven million albums.

But it was only when Placebo singer Brian Molko decided to say goodbye to the old self he was no longer comfortable with that he was able to write some of his best and most honest songs. Placebo's fifth album Meds is their most acclaimed to date but was also one of their hardest to write.

In an exclusive chat with SFTW's JACQUI SWIFT Brian revealed: "Writing Meds was a process of change for me and extremely difficult. I had to break from that person I didn't like anymore. "In a lot of interviews I talked a lot of bullshit and went out of my way to be difficult - that's why I've received so much personal criticism in the past.

"There's something very gimmicky about tracks like Nancy Boy, and the bravado and f*** you attitude I had was just to mask my low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

"As a human being, I had changed and matured a great deal and wanted my songwriting to reflect this. Being angry all the time takes great effort plus I'm more chilled now I'm a father to my son Cody."

Meds, Post Blue and new single Infra-red are blistering and dynamic songs.

"Infra-red was a weird one to write and was the most ambiguous to me. It was the first song I've ever written backwards. I didn't do it purposely; I only had the last line of the song. By the time we got to the first line I realised it was a song about revenge."

Brian says the change in musical style on Meds - stripped down songs and less-reliance on computers - came after feeling during their Greatest Hits tour that they were becoming a "karaoke band".

He says: "We needed to go back to our roots and rediscover what the elemental parts of Placebo were and we discovered it was being a tight three-piece rock band. We'd taken music on computers to a logical conclusion. It was important to find the fire again and strip it down and work in an analogue way as the album, Sleeping With Ghosts, was very digital. Now we have a very honest, classic sound in method and approach."

On Meds Brian got to record the track Broken Promise with his friend and hero Michael Stipe. "That's a song about adultery and was written as a duet with a female voice in mind. Then we bumped into REM in Paris and the lightbulb went off.

"It was very exciting to work with Michael because he was an idol to me growing up - a key influence on the development of my voice and such a huge talent. I've been very lucky to work with him and also David Bowie."

Placebo, who were one of the highlights of last week's Isle of Wight Festival, are in the middle of a European tour supporting Depeche Mode this week before playing their own festival dates. "It's been great touring with Depeche Mode because I am a fan. It has been strange going back to supporting after eight years but it's good to stop our egos becoming over-inflated.

"However, it's also meant new audiences and the most important thing is to watch your audience grow - to be aware that after ten years you are still able to capture people's hearts. That's what makes it really worthwhile."

BAND: Brian Molko (vocals & guitar), Steve Hewitt (drums), Stefan Olsdal (bass)
FORMED: 1994
ALBUMS: Placebo (1996), Without You I'm Nothing (1998), Black Market Music (2000), Sleeping With Ghosts (2003)