Israel magazine "The Dark Knight", May'10


Translation by noamjen


Brian Molko, front man of the successful pop-rock band Placebo, is a combination of a drunken diplomat and a sharp theorist. In a special interview for the up coming gig in Israel he trash musical reality shows (“it’s should be called Karaoke Idol”), the blog world (“anonymous cowards”) and the overall grim state of today’s rock (“I’m bored”)

It’s all a question of where you’re from. Brittany Spears grew up in a small town whose only link to the high way were two bumpy asphalt roads. On the other hand, Brian Molko was born in Brussels to an French-Italian American dad and a Scottish mother, by the age of three he had already lived in courtiers such as Belgium, Liberia and Lebanon. He spent his formative year in Luxembourg, studied in an American school, got accepted at the age of 17 to Drama studies at a prestige London collage and finished a degree by the age of 20. Someone like that seems to have been burn to lead a rock band like Placebo. 

Molko, with his pale skin and Dark Knight image, has the classic popular rock idol profile. With a blood-line like his you can only become one of two options: a rock star, or a diplomat who had a few too many to drink. Molko – a heavy talker with a smooth tongue, aristocratic accent, androgynies look and a the ability to analyze the music world like a sharp theorist – is the combination of both. And so, even though Placebo is labeled as an alternative band, the best fitting definition for Molko’s art is “rock-pop”. The name of the band – who will perform as part of Pic.Nic Festival – perfectly represents in ascent. Although the musical content doesn’t reach the depth of Molko’s spiritual fathers – Lu Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop – when it comes down to it, it is just as affective as a placebo medicine. It doesn’t matter that Molko is not a brilliant guitarist – Placebo is something that work on a psychological level. 

With Thanks to the Spice Girls

To date, Placebo have released six studio albums, 6 EPs and 29 singles which have sold over 1 million copies in the UK and over 10 million copies world-wide. Molko founded Placebo in 1994 – drummers came and went but bassist Stefan Olsdal, an out-of-the-closet gay man, sticks by him till this day. Interestingly enough, compare to most established [or fixated] bands of the last decade, the sound of Placebo has managed to progress and vary a bit thought out the years. “We were very lucky cause we were signed a moment before the Internet became massive and a few years before records companies got into a big crisis” Molko explain on a phone call from his vacation in Spain, “at that point in time we had the money from the record label and our own time to experiment, evolve and make mistakes. And you know what? I love the Spice Girls, they made so much money for Virgin, they could afford to give us the money to experiment.”

“Due to the crisis in the recording industry, it’s pretty tough today for upcoming bands, cause the record companies expect immediate hits and if that doesn’t happen they through you out. The explanation is that big labels are run by accountants. That’s why when our contract with EMI ended we decided to go back to being an independent band”

Last time Placebo were an independent band they were also very unknown. The turning point was in the mid 90’s when Molko signed a record deal with mega-label Virgin records when he was just 22 years old. I get a chance to talk to the Molko of May 2010, a 37 and a half year old man, a moment before the starting of a long tour, which starting point would be Tel-Aviv. 

You once said “Placebo is music for outsiders, by outsiders and our gigs are like conventions of outcasts” but today Placebo is so very popular. What kind of effect did the success have on the music?

"None. What I am about to say might sound arrogant or selfish but it’s not really cause it’s the same with everyone: we make music first for ourselves and only then for the audience. It needs to indulge [simple translation: 'pleasure'] and challenge us and we have enough respect for our fans to think they deserve to be challenged as well instead of spoon feeding them the same things over and over just so we might sell more records. You are talking to a person whose band doesn’t play their two biggest hits live, Nancy Boy and Pure Morning. We believe our crowd is intelligent and sophisticated enough to follow the narrative we created and understand what we are trying to do.” 

I tell him that there have been rumors in Israel that extreme leftist organization from Israel has contacted and asked him to perform in Israel, due to the occupation. 

Is it true you were contacted? What is your opinion of the occupation, especially since you spent a few years in Lebanon?

"First of all let me clear something up: I lived in Lebanon when I was two years old and I don’t remember anything from there, but I also don’t remember being contacted by extreme leftists and I don’t remember being asked not to play in Israel and yes – I do have very strong opinions about the situation in Israel and the occupied territories. But, these are just my views, I never lived in Israel never even been to Israel, so I don’t want our first visit to Israel to be about politics. We’ve been wanting to play in Israel for a long time and we finally getting the chance. If we’ll get invited the second time we could talk about the situation. But right now I want our first visit to be about the music and our fans.”

American Satan [the sub-title in Hebrew is a paraphrase on the name of the Israeli version to American Idol]

A few facts about Molko, not necessarily in a chronological order: he recorded the band first single “Bruise Pristine” while completely naked, he lost his virginity at age 14 to a 16 year old French girl in Luxembourg and had his first homosexual experience two year later ; during the 1997 tour he spend 700 pounds a day on drugs even though his daily budget was 20 pounds; his son who was burn in 2005 is named Cody; He often tries to cry to practice his acting abilities, Molko’s parents wanted him to be a banker like his 10 years senior brother who takes care of his money, and according to celebhights.com he is 1.68m high (although there is a disagreement on that).

When asked about things that were written about him online, Molko peremptorily replies: "I hate blogers! I hate them with absolute passion. I think they are complete bullshit. Every dickhead with a computer can fucking open a blog and people who read it thinks it’s real. I much prefer what is known as old-school journalism, cause for something to be published it has to go through an editing process and people has to decide if it’s good enough for other people to read. Usually, the texts online have no value. The Internet provides a platform for cowards to express themselves anonymously without any responsibility. These are people who would never say anything to your face. You picked up on one of the things I hate the most – music blogs!” 

What do you like? What would you bury in a time capsule?

"I’d bury records! Lately I’ve been staring to go back to listening to records cause it just sounds better and remind me of my childhood. Something like rare records by Sonic Youth, Grateful Dead, Joy Division from the John Phill session, Janis Joplin."

Don’t you think the rock nowadays is generally too clean? I mean, where is the new Sid Bart? 

"Absolutely! I think today’s rock, and even pop, lost all their magic."

Why?

"Everyone disrespect the 80’s, and of course in the 80’s there was horrible commercial music being made, but in each and every decade horrible commercial music is being made. What I think is special about the 80’s is that – a side from the birth of indie labels, and indie music and post-punk – is that pop music was much more experimental and avant-garde than it is today.

“if you look back at the works of Kate Bush or David Bowie from the 80’s, if you listen to songs like Ashes to Ashes by Bowie or Shock The Monkey by Peter Gabriel – these are actually crazy strange avant-garde songs. What these people tried to do is re-define the boundaries of pop music. What they did was actually experimenting, Ashes To Ashes is a very weird song but it was a huge hit. “

"Today due to the glorious works of Satan, which is all the ‘pop idol’, ‘pop star’, ‘american idol’ bullshit – as far as I’m concern it should be called Karaoke Idol – the image of pop was damaged badly cause the new generations think that pop music is boy-bands and voice twirling like Mariah Carry’s, which is just one side of pop. But because the exposure to it is humongous that’s pop in the public eye and it’s real a shame. 

T"he situation with rock is pretty similar, generally I am bored with rock right now. I don’t listen to it much cause a lot of today’s rock is ‘playing it safe’"

What do you listen to?

"Oh..."(he laughs) "I listen to old and new psychedelic music, I like the new folk and I like reggae. I like world music – Spanish and African music, I like opera cause I have no idea what they are saying. For me it’s just a wonderful abstract singing, like listening to Sigur Ros. Every now and then Queen of the Stone Age release an album which make us believe in rock’n’roll again. "

Has your taste changed through out the years?

"I think that as you get older you become more aware of the fact you’re not gonna live forever and you realize there is no point in wasting time on a culture you do not actually believe in or you think is not contributing to you in anyway. You wanna fill your brain with something of value you are more conscious of your choices

"For example I stopped watching television. It also has to do with the fact I hate commercials of any shape and form so I try to limit my exposure to them. When I’m old I wanna live somewhere I will have no exposure to commercials at all. I wonder where that could be. Maybe up hills somewhere, in the mountains”