La Repubblica XL "Anti-social networks", Sep'13

Translation by Glòsòli

"Every time someone follows me through the streets of London, you can bet that it's an Italian woman" chuckles Brian Molko talking about the most passionate fans of placebo. He doesn't mind to be the subject of such enthusiasm. Last year, for his fortieth birthday, fans organized a viral campaign on social media called Molko, y'know? with the aim to fill Twitter and Tumblr with the hashtag #MolkoFourOh. "I think my fans have enjoyed my birthday more than me. But I was really moved to see how much effort they put in it. It made me feel less alone, as I hope that our music has made them feel less alone . And yes, it is also a proof of the positive power of the Internet and social networks," he says a bit reluctantly. Because he is not a fan of the social networks. The new single from Placebo, that precedes the release of their new album Loud Like Love, is called Too Many Friends and is a pretty clear stance against Facebook and our obsessive collecting "friends" with whom we are not really friends. "I know I sound like a Luddite, but the truth is that I don't give a shit ."

At forty years old, twenty of which spent as an outsider and the other twenty as a star so adored as despised and nicknamed by the British press as the "drug- crazed sex dwarf", Brian Molko is certainly not afraid to express unpopular opinions . He smokes and drinks coffee in a private lounge in Soho House, one of the most exclusive hotels in Berlin while he politely welcomed us as if he invited us for tea. Dressed in jeans and a plain black shirt, his hair mysteriously thicker than a few years ago , he chose to wear just mascara and eye shadow on his eyes, as if not wanting to give up an old habit. But it is not the same Brian, the pale boy with a confused sexual identity who sang Nancy Boy with provocation in his eyes. Today he is a sensible, thoughtful and extremely gentle man, who talks in an articulated way (apart from the occasional “fuck” thrown here and there) like someone who has been educated in good schools and comes from the tradition "good family". The only difference is that today, adult and drug-free and without the urgency of youthful rebellion, he is free to show other aspects of himself. To say that he became a bourgeois or that has aged would be wrong: like I the past he continues to live in a world dominated only by its rules and still feels he doesn't have to explain to anyone why he is how he is. "I've never been one to follow trends , I have don't even own a fucking tv, I don't listen to the radio, you could say i'm completely out of the world but I'm fully satisfied with that." Not even a little 'fear of being considered a bit ' old-fashioned and moralistic for his aversion to social networks? "Put it this way: people say that Facebook is like a drug, you can become very dependent very quickly and I have a personality tending to addiction, so I keep far away from it. But I'll tell you how it went the story of Too Many Friends: when I surf on the Internet I always get advertising aimed at heterosexual men. One day - I do not remember exactly what I did, what I typed on Google or what kind of porn I watched - but suddenly my computer changed and started to identify me as gay and showed a different kind of advertising. I thought "That's odd, my computer thinks I'm gay," and then it dawned on me that it would be a really ridiculous way to start a song. At the same time some of my friends told me that they had stopped accepting new friends on Facebook because they had too many and I began to wonder if the social life on the internet is becoming more important than life in the physical world and what kind of impact these networks have on our capacity of social interaction and that's how the lyrics were born. I know that now this technology is part of the everyday life and it is not conceivable to go back... it's the individual to choose whether to adopt it or not. I choose the second option simply because I feel that it is not in my comfort zone. I make enough effort to keep in touch with friends in the real world without having to worry about the people I've ever met."

Speaking of Too Many Friends, in the days prior to our meeting with Brian Molko spread the news that the American writer Brett Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho) participated in the making of the video. How do we know? Thanks to Twitter, of course, where Ellis is super active and tweeted, "The director of the brilliant new video of Placebo asked me, ' Brett , do you want a Adderall ?" (Which is a medicinal amphetamine nda). Molko loses his composure for a moment and takes a leap on the couch while bursting into a loud laughter "Really!? Excellent ! A perfect scene in Brett Easton Ellis style! It's fantastic, I'm really excited for his participation. He is the narrator of the video that we shot in Los Angeles a few months ago. It was an idea of ​​our director Shaman Kesh, since Ellis is so committed to social media... I 've never met him in person but I hope to do it next time I'm in LA. I've read his first two books Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction when I was 18 and I was deeply touched. Of his most recent works I loved Lunar Park because it is incredibly self-ironic. It is a self-referential horror novel in which he narrates that Patrick Bateman of American Psycho comes to life and begins to haunt him..." Here we have to stop the poor Brian - and it is not easy – because full of enthusiasm he begins to tell us the whole plot of Lunar park. We ask him what else he likes to read "The first novel I was incredibly impressed about with was The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, as a teenager I had that book with me everywhere I went. The last one I adored was A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, a great American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize. A fucking masterpiece!" Maybe this whole literature has some influence in his music? "I think I became better at telling stories, Loud Like Love is the most personal album of my career, the one I feel most vulnerable about. All of these stories are taken from my personal experience that filter through the prism of storytelling, but it is not a page from my diary and repeated it as a confession in a song. Washing my dirty linen in public would not be very decent, I think. I like stories with characters and narrators, small works of fiction based on true emotions."

To distract him from his literary enthusiasms we talk about the band long career and how his so fluid sexual identity has made him a role model for so many people, but also often the subject of jokes. "At the time I did not care because I didn't think about it, I was so young, arrogant and rebellious that I liked the idea of irritating people. But today I'm no longer like that and I'm not going to challenge anyone. Probably at that time it felt like a necessity, certainly fueled by drugs and alcohol." Today, however, a man who called himself a bisexual with an androgynous look would not be such a scandal, perhaps because the same placebo helped to paved the way... "Yes now it is mainstream, and I think that we have helped significantly. But the way in which we represent ourselves and our music have always been an honest expression of who we are. I do not feel any responsibility to embody a way of life for others. What we have always done had more to do with the idea of ​​tolerance and acceptance, it was a political act, an attempt to challenge sexual and gender politics. However, when you insist on always appearing in the same way you lose relevance after a while. If we were still the same as twenty years ago it would be pretty sad... I do not want to lock myself in a box forever. I think it's significant that we were able to be a force for positive change in that sense. Certainly I don't not regret anything," Really, no regrets? "Let's say that I could have chosen better some of the outfits I've worn over the years," he chuckles, "And if I had known that Pure Morning would become a huge hit maybe I would have put more care in writing the lyrics. The music is pretty cool, but the lyrics makes me cringe because they are so immature. It's the reason why we don't play the song live, I would feel dishonest to sing it."

About regrets, we Italians still remember well your appearance at the Sanremo Festival in 2001, where you destroyed the instruments on stage, "Yeah it was a rather legendary television appearance! But I do not regret even that, if I think about it I laugh because it was so absurd. I was really pissed off about the fact that no one had told me where we were going to play. I think we were even banned from the compilation of Sanremo. For ever. It was not a premeditated thing, it was just a spontaneous expression of my disgust for that situation. Of course a certain generation of Italians will never forget us ."

Let's talk for a few minutes about the old drummer of placebo Steve Hewitt, fired from placebo and that Brian nicknamed "Darth Vader"  "Did I really called him that? Maybe I should be more cautious in my expression of opinions" - and Molko tells us that he is planning a trip to India at Christmas. He already went there, but he wants to come back with his eight years old son Cody "to live the experience through the eyes of a child." We don't know more: Brian is ready to talk of any subject, except of his personal life. He tells us that he would like to grow old like Leonard Cohen "When I see him run around the stage at age 70 with such grace and dignity he gives me hope, because I do not know what else to do in life, who would give me a job? " He jokes. We greet each other with a handshake. Before leaving, however, I ask: let us take a photo for... um... the Facebook page of XL? In response, Brian shows us two fingers overlapped to form a cross as if to say "Vade Retro!" accompanied by a nice "social networks ... boooooh!"