Guitare Xtreme "Le 7ème Ciel", Jul-Aug'13

Translation by Laetitia

The 7th heaven

The three lads of Placebo are back with Loud Like Love, which is ... a Placebo album like the other ultimately. Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal and their young drummer don't reinvent their powder, but they know how to make it talk with perfection, with the innate talent for catchy verses and grabbing choruses. Small changes still, about the instrumentisations with a romantic Olsdal, who willingly abandoned the guitar for the piano. Guitar Xtreme has met the two musicians, very close, in a cozy living room in their Paris headquarters, the Hotel Costes (near Place Vendome) for a coffee / biscuits break. A good opportunity to take stock with the guys, and learn more about the why and how of this seventh album.

by Ludovic Egraz

L.E : Battle For The Sun was released four years ago. What have you done during all this time ?

S.O : Well, we have toured for two years for Battle For The Sun, and then, as you can imagine, we have a private life outside Placebo. People tend to believe that when we don't play in their country, we're doing nothing, but in fact we're working like crazy all the time. The world is vast. So after a huge tour, we have rested a bit before working on the new album. That was a year ago.

L.E : Are you still 'addicted' to touring ?

B.M : Going on stage and play and communicate with the audience, we'll never get tired of it. How to be jaded to create a state of euphoric synergy with our fans, and celebrate with them for two hours... That's the reason why we play rock. On the other hand, everything around the gig, expectations, disorientation ... all this is very tiring. But overall, it's still very satisfying.

L.E : Between the fury of a concert and the songwriting process, what do you prefer ?

S.O : Playing live is something primal. Creation, however, involves something more cerebral and emotional. We love both.

B.M : Composing is a way to discover oneself. Ditto for writing. We don't decide in advance the topics we'll discuss in a song. It's rather the themes that come to us progressively in our work. Music is an instinctive process or it comes from a research.

L.E : Is it more difficult to write songs than before ?

(together) Yes !

B.M : With all that we have created till now, we are scared of repeating ourselves. So to avoid this, we forced ourselves to increase our high standards. We are more ruthless with ourselves.

S.O : It forces us to be brutally honest with each other (laughs). This is why we strive to operate outside our comfort zone and expand our maximum field of action, whether individually or collectively. It would be so easy to always work applying the same formula.

B.M : And then the balance is delicate. We must succeed in renewing ourselves without turning our jacket, keeping the essence of the Placebo style.

L.E : Your style, it's mainly your voice which is recognizable...

B.M : Look, I'm very grateful for that. I'm very lucky, because, I've always been attracted by singers with a single voice, like Bob Dylan or Björk.

L.E : You have a rare gift. When you sing. I have the impression you're speaking to me directely...

B.M : Wow ! That's quite a compliment! If you are honest in what you say, then I have achieved my goal.

L.E : Do you try to change your attitude when you create, seeking new tunes and playing differently...

B.M : Stef is in charge of the technical and theoretical side. It's also convenient, because I suck.

S.O : In fact, my goal is to find ideas that may possibly appeal to some technicality, but especially communicate something in a more or less pop way. I listen to lots of unstructured minimalist music composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, for example. It inspires me to find simple but universal ideas. Brian texts are like that too. They have a heavenly side. Your words are simple and direct, they affect people with great honesty.

B.M : I think the universal aspect comes from vulnerability, which allows people to identify themselves with my stories.

S.O : The trap to avoid is to want to impress the others, and to forget to communicate things which are understandable for everyone.

L.E : Do you have songs which are difficult to play live ?

B.M : Yes, but instead of getting annoyed, we've got around the problem by adding musicians on stage. On the studio, we are only three to play,as we progressively added more and more layers, therefore, it was necessary to be more numerous to play on stage. Talking about it, this album was the most dificult to play on the studio, either for me for the guitar or Steve, the drummer, and then you, of course with all the piano parts you had registered . We have pushed our limits.

L.E : What does it change for you to have a younger and tattooed drummer ?

B.M : He hits harder (laughs). This is downright crazy. So, we all play harder. We almost thought about putting him into a Plexiglas cage. For the violinist who accompanied us live , Fiona, it's hard (laughs). Fortunately we play with ear monitors. We are isolated a bit of the volume of his drum kit.

L.E : Are you on the lookout for new material which comes out ?

S.O : Yes, especially things related to technology. The new tools provide opportunities that didn't exist before. We are not fans of analogical stuffs, and we use all imaginable ways to create: our smart phones, iPads ...

B.M : We have used the Kemper in the studio, a super simulator which vampirizes the sound of the amplifiers, but only for the guitars we played during the drum parts. It really works very well, or I should say, this is what works the less badly, compared to a real tube amp. For the moment, nothing can replace a real amp. Otherwise, I've bought a new Fender Jaguar 1963.

L.E : That's impressive ! Where did you find it ?

B.M : I've found it on Ebay, and as soon as I saw the picture I fell for it. It is so old and delicate that I reserve it for the recording parts. I always play on my old Fender Twin and a Vox AC30. Sometimes I also plug Stef's JCM 900 Marshall. I have a hack of Electro Harmonix and MXR pedals. The gear has to be simple. I need two distos, a phaser, a delay, a reverb, not to mention my POG.

S.O : We have both a POG. This is perhaps the most psychedelic pedal in the world. Sometimes there are three or four guitars in a song, so things tend to become science after a while (laughs). This is the most arranged album in our discography. We will have to use computers on stage to handle loops, even if everything will be triggered by someone.

L.E : You Stefan, what's new with instruments ?

S.O : I still have my 1963 Epiphone Granada, which is a kind of ... electrified Spanish guitar. I love it. Old guitars offer a lot more dynamic. Recently, I've bought a Burns 60's bass. This is the first time I use a Burns.

L.E : What are you listening theses days ?

S.O : The new Queens Of The Stone Age and Nils Frahm, a Berliner pianist who plays a rather deconstructed music.

B.M : I listen to Sigur Ros a lot, but I'm taking away a bit from guitar music, because that's what I do, I want to keep some kind of innocence.

S.O : It's also why I like to listen to abstract music. We're submerged by rock and pop. It's a good thing to explore styles that have nothing to do with ours.

L.E : Could you make an album without guitar ?

S.O : Why not ? We should first feeling like doing it. A few years ago, it would have freaked us out, but now I think we are ready to do so.

B.M : When I'm on stage, I wouldn't know what to do without a guitar. I feel like an jerk. For me, it's like a shield, it gives me confidence. I need to hold this piece of wood, and I'll have it with me on December 10 at Bercy.