"Stefan Olsdal Interview", 2007

by Daniel Robert Epstein

If you've been hearing all the buzz about how amazing the English rock band Placebo is, then now is the time to pick up the re-release of their latest album, Meds. The new edition has three songs not on the original US: "Lazarus," "UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU" and a cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." I got a chance to talk with Placebo's bass guitarist, Stefan Olsdal. 

UGO: What do you think of Meds being re-released and coming out in the United States like this? 

Stephan Olsdal: It's part of what happens with bands. We're excited by the fact that things are starting to pick up a bit in the States. We've spent a long time touring and done a lot of albums, so it is starting to bubble a bit. 

UGO: Do you think there's any reason that you guys hadn't had as much success in the States as you have overseas? 

Stefan: Sometimes there's no real explanation for these things. In some countries, they've just really gone crazy for us and others haven't. I guess the ones who like us have good taste in music [laughs]. 

UGO: Why are there three songs on the US release that weren't there previously? 

Stefan: They came out overseas, but in a different format. They were just B-sides. 

UGO: Are there more tracks or will there be any more re-releases with new stuff? 

Stefan: I hope not, because we're running out of songs. 

UGO: What made you guys want to cover Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill?" 

Stefan: We cover songs that we like. For us it is something that we do for fun in B-side sessions. We've covered a variety of bands, usually from the '80s. We did a Depeche Mode cover and Robert Palmer even. We're fans of Kate Bush so, when it came to this track, we thought that the lyrics had a real depth and you can't really get that in the original because she's singing it so fast. We wanted to slow it down and it felt really good, and we're really proud of it. 

UGO: Have you heard whether or not she likes it? 

Stefan: Yes we did, actually. We met and she does like it and we're relieved by that fact because we're big fans. 

UGO: Are you guys thinking about covering anything else in the future? 

Stefan: Yes, probably Bonnie Tyler. 

UGO: How's everyone in the band getting along? 

Stefan: It's pretty good. We're still here, we're still alive and healthy. It's been ten years and a lot of bands haven't made it this far, and I'm proud of that fact. 

UGO: When you guys have discussions or arguments, what kind of stuff is it usually over? 

Stefan: Yeah, we're like a family so we're a little bit dysfunctional. There's always little niggles here and there. In a ten-year marriage you know each other so well that some things go unspoken. We solve everything before the morning. 

UGO: What was the inspiration for Meds? 

Stefan: I think it's a return to rock. When doing a sixth album, you can fall into traps. You can fall into routines and old ways of working and maybe get a little lazy, so we wanted to shake out of that. I think the way to do that was to get the three of us into a room and rely less on computers and to just play and write as a band. I think that really comes through on the album. It's a very performance based record that's more analog with more guitars and is a return to the way we did it on the first and second album. 

UGO: What made you want to rely less on computers? 

Stefan: Yeah, it's gotten a bit too easy. You can make an album just with a computer. You can just cut up the guitars and you add the loop and there's your song. We experimented with it and took it to Placebo's logical conclusion with working with keyboards and electronics and computer generated sounds and stuff. So we felt that we've done that and now we want to be a rock band again. 

UGO: Did that make for a different feel in the studio? 

Stefan: Yeah, especially that it took less time to make [laughs]. We spent less time staring at a computer screen and more time playing, so it took almost half the time to make compared to the previous record. Spending nine months in a studio can get pretty tedious. We didn't want to do that so we knocked it out quicker. 

UGO: What do you think about bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco saying good things about Placebo? 

Stefan: That's cool. I guess things go in circles. When we started out we were heavily influenced by certain bands. But I guess you become part of the musical wallpaper or something, so we've been around for ten years and now bands are saying they've been influenced by us. But it is not something to sit down with and pat our backs over. 

UGO: Are you fans of those bands? 

Stefan: Yeah, the guys in My Chemical Romance are really nice guys. We met them at a couple of festivals and we've hung out. 

UGO: How was it working with Dimitri Tokovoi as producer? 

Stefan: Well, he's a good friend. We each thought that it would be easier to work with a friend. It turned out to be harder because he didn't take any shit. He pushed us further than a stranger would. He was a big part in making us get off our bums and becoming a band again. 

UGO: Do you guys find it difficult to motivate yourself? 

Stefan: We're the same people who have done x amount of work together so there is a certain danger in falling into traps and falling into routine. We wanted someone to come and give us a little kick in the bum. 

UGO: Do you guys bring videogames or movies with you when you go on tour? 

Stefan: We used to, but we ended up getting repetitive strain injury from playing too much Tekken, so we had to stop that because we had to play. You can't f*** up your hands playing videogames. So not much with the videogames anymore, it's mostly movies. 

UGO: What movies do you guys usually bring with you? 

Stefan: Pregnant Mamas, I'm kidding, We bring all these old film noirs with us and then on our day off we end up watching some trashy action or kung fu film. Something where you don't need any mental capacity to watch. I loved X-Men 3.

Source: ugo