The Nation "Why the Tiger roars", Mar'10

March 18, 2010
by Manta Klangboonkrong

Britain's Placebo returns to Bangkok for the Tiger Translate music and art festival on Saturday

Indie spirits will get their kicks on Saturday at the third Tiger Translate, the outdoor festival where innovative arts and sovereign music clash.

The vast parking space behind the Esplanade mall will be a massive venue for artists and musicians.

Apart from graphic installations, displays and street art by local independent groups, the festival will be booming with eclectic music all night starting at 6pm.

Local delights include Moderndog, Paradox, DJ Suharit, Abuse the Youth, Flure and Lula, and among the international acts will be Ian Mutch from Australia, Clean from Denmark and British rock trio Placebo, named Best Alternative group at last year's MTV Europe Music Awards.

Placebo - singer and guitarist Brian Molko, bassist Stefan Olsdal and drummer Steve Forrest - are loved for their distinct sound, their androgyny and their painful insights on humans and emotions.

The band recently released their sixth studio album, "Battle for the Sun", featuring Forrest as drummer for the first time.

Molko found time to e-chat with us while trying to remember where he put his boarding pass. 

What's Placebo up to? 

We're about to get on a plane from Sydney to Hong Kong, then it's over to Tokyo, and we're to play four shows in Japan.

We've just finished the Soundwave Festival in Australia, where we played to 50,000 people per show.

After the Japan shows we play in Taiwan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur then we have a short break before flying to Latin America to play in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, then back to Europe to play in a few places we've never played before, like Morocco and Kosovo!

Aren't you working new drummer Steve Forrest a bit hard?

It's been interesting with Steve: He's only 22 years old so he's brought a youthful enthusiasm to the process, things that might have seemed a bit boring to me and Stefan would make Steve very excited.

I suppose he's a "breath of fresh air" in a way. He has a very positive personality and is very exuberant, to say the least!

I wouldn't say he's changed the direction of the music in any way - he brings a different dynamic to the band's live performance. I think we have a lot more fun now.

This album is taking you in a new direction, though.

I think we were all feeling very positive this time around. I guess the fact that we were all in a more upbeat mood contributed to the fact that the album sounds a lot more optimistic about life, and that we have a lot more upbeat songs - some verging on pop!

We're still only in our mid-30s, and we still have a lot to achieve. Success came early to Placebo, but we firmly believe our best work is yet to come.

Our music has evolved a lot, I suppose, although at the end of the day it's all about having a good tune and lyrics that people can relate to and identify with.

We've definitely expanded the sound in terms of instruments. When we first started I didn't envisage having strings, brass or backup singers, but we have now - maybe a Scottish pipe band on the next one!

Are your fans super-glued to you or something?

I think they're loyal because we tour constantly, so people don't get the chance to forget us!

We interact with our fans a lot. We play so many concerts to so many people and I think our original fans look forward to our visits, plus we seem to be attracting a growing legion of younger fans. We still put on a great live show, and the bottom line is we're a rock band, and that's never going to change.

Any solo projects kicking around?

We all have projects that we work on, but they're put to the side anytime Placebo is recording and touring. When you have something as successful and fulfilling as Placebo, it's difficult to say, "Let's have a three-year break." Although we have a busy schedule and it is pretty tiring at times, it is very exciting and enjoyable visiting all these countries and experiencing different cultures.

The music business working out for you, then?

I guess my main dislike is that people can get our music for free! I can never quite understand this. If I have to fly to New York, I can't just walk on the plane without buying a ticket. If I want to buy a car, I just can't walk in the show room and drive off - I have to pay for it. So how come anyone can download our music for free?

Luckily Placebo makes the bulk of the money from touring, and so far nobody has worked out a way of duplicating the ultimate live experience, and they never will!

What's the plan for Bangkok?

The festival has lots of Thai acts on the bill whom I have heard of before, due to my numerous visits to Thailand. The gig will be fantastic and it will be the last show of our Australia-Southeast Asia tour. We're very much looking forward to coming to Bangkok because we loved our last trip so much!