Today Online "Still the cure for teenage angst", Mar'10


Placebo frontman Brian Molko says he can't bear to watch himself on stage - but we can't wait. 

ALL rock stars look the same today, tsk-ed an ageing-hipster friend of mine recently, not unlike how my mother pooh-poohs the off-key wannabes on American Idol ("Kids today have no star power. Elvis - now that's a star!")

I'd like to add another sweeping statement to the biased pot: All the music journalists look the same today - no matter where in the world you are. 

Crumpled grungy plaid shirt or old-school metal tee over a pair of skinny jeans, worn with Converse sneakers and a general disdain for the world (piercings represent rebellion!). It looked like the Ritz Carlton Jakarta had been overrun by mildly depressed, overgrown teenagers still mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, their despondent bodies littered along the carpeted corridors like bleeding-heart memorials to rock '*' roll. 

Hey, it felt like home.

The plaid brigade and I (plaid-less in a Willie Nelson T-shirt) were gathered in the Indonesian capital on Feb 16 to join together in giddy worship of alt-rock trio Placebo, whose lead singer could never be accused of looking like everyone else.

Brian Molko - an American brought up and residing in Europe - is like the illegitimate love child of Michael Stipe, David Bowie and Shirley Manson. And that's meant to be a compliment. He performs with a fierce bite, speaks with a languid intensity, and dresses with the subtle androgyny of a Ziggy Stardust in the age of Jil Sander. And the 37-year-old has been rocking the eyeliner and nail polish since Adam Lambert was clomping around in his mother's heels.

Formed in 1994, Placebo has been effective medication for a generation of disaffected youth - and then some. Songs like Nancy Boy, Teenage Angst, You Don't Care About Us, Every You Every Me and Special K continue to be cranked out from behind the bedroom doors of some complicated young people (and still-complicated not-so-young adults). 

Their new album - recorded with new drummer Steve Forrest, who replaced the old drummer Steve Hewitt - is called Battle For The Sun. Molko, Forrest and bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal are set to perform at Fort Canning on March 18.

Molko remembers us well, Singapore. Speaking exclusively to Today, he said he remembers our island to be clean, warm, and filled with beautiful people. 

Of course, the last time they performed here was at MTV's Fashionably Loud event in March 2006, where freakishly beautiful models obstructed their view of us - the greasy, sweaty, crumpled people in the audience.

I didn't correct him. It was a matter of national (in)security.

Placebo performs at Fort Canning March 18. Tickets (excluding booking fee) at $98 from Sistic; $110 on event day.

Do you remember your last gig in Singapore with the models walking up and down while you were trying to sing a song?

Brian Molko: How could I forget a gig like that? (Laughs) First of all I was distracted by all of these beautiful people walking around, and then these beautiful people kept bumping into my instruments, you know? 

But we got through it. That wasn't the first time that we'd been to Singapore. I remember walking around. I remember it being very warm. And very clean.

Thanks. We're very proud of the clean thing. Without You I'm Nothing with David Bowie is one of my favourite duets of all time. Who else would you like to collaborate with?

I'd like to sing with Bjork and I'd like to sing with Polly Harvey.

That would be so awesome.

Thank you. (Laughs) I mean, we're just very lucky to have worked with people that we kinda grew up listening to. That's often the motivation for doing these kinds of collaborations - you're asking a hero to sorta work with you. 

But for Without You I'm Nothing, it was actually David Bowie's idea. He called me up and said, 'Look, I've written this alternative vocal melody for you and I want you to sing on it.' You know, when he calls you and says he wants you to sing on a song that he's written, you don't really say no. (Laughs)

What would the process be to get that duet with you and PJ Harvey going? Is it just you picking up the phone and saying hello?

Well, no, she's one of my favourite singers so I think I would need to have the guts to ask her, you know? (Laughs)

How do you rate yourself when you watch footage of your gigs?

I don't. I don't listen to our music once it's been released and, unless we're putting a live DVD together, I try to avoid it ... You watch it for all the wrong reasons and you see all the wrong things. You see all the imperfections and it makes you very self-conscious. It's like when you hear your voice on a tape recorder - it's exactly the same thing. You understand.

I do. But sometimes I'll feel vain and read my old articles again.

Yeah, okay. A little bit of journalistic glorification?

Yes. We all need it once in a while. What are some things you know today that you didn't know when you first started?

Whoah. That's a very deep, philosophical question. I guess I know that no matter how bad it seems at the time, the world's not going to end tomorrow. You know? I've learnt that this, too, shall pass. Which is a good thing.

Did you ever think you'd have a new drummer?

I hoped! I hoped we would! (Laughs) 'Cos I wasn't ready to stop making music just yet or break up the band. It was more about finding the right person.

What's the initiation process like with the new Steve? Any teething problems?

I think it's more for Steve, really, having to get used to hanging around with people who are much older than him. And to him we're kinda old farts. (Laughs) We're not his peer group, you know? He's 23 and I'm 37. I'm a lot quieter than I used to be. You know, he wants to go clubbing and go crazy, and everything like that. And I'd rather just have a cup of tea. 

But he's been great. He's stepped up to the plate, he's got big style, and he's a very dedicated youg man.

Are there any rock star cliches that you do your best to stay away from? Or do you secretly enjoy them?

I think it's just important to treat people with respect. I hate it when I see people in my position being very disrespectful to others just because people see them on TV. That's the one that I try to avoid the most - acting like a diva. 

You threw a journalist out of the room the last time you were in Singapore.

Oh, did I? (Laughs) Well, you know, some of these rude people, you know ... It's like, I just don't wanna talk to you. One grows to be philosophical about these things.