MTV Asia "Chat With Placebo: It’s all About The ’70s Porn Mustache!", Jul'13

July 19th, 2013
By Hanli Hoefer

Last week I had a phone interview with Stefan Olsdal, bassist and guitarist from the alternative rock band, Placebo. I like Placebo, I don’t have any of their full albums but I do listen to a handful of their songs. My top 3 favorites are: “Every You Every Me,” “Running Up That Hill,” and “Post Blue.” To update those of you who are less familiar with Placebo’s work let me run down some key points.

Placebo is an alternative rock band. To categorize their music some have argued that they are a glam rock band, others have said experimental rock, progressive rock, even industrial rock? Either way, their sound is very unique, and they are lyrically wonderful. The band formed in 1994 and have released 6 studio albums all of which have reached the Top 20 in the UK and have sold over 11 million records world wide. So yeah. You can say that they’re sort of a big deal.

The questions I asked him were mainly revolved around their up coming album, Loud Like Love. He described the album as the most colorful and honest album they’ve made to date. The first single, “Too Many Friends,” is based on the changing norms of society especially with the influence with social media. When talking to him about the message behind the song we touched on the topic of social media as a whole and he brought up a very thought provoking point which was that, primarily, privacy is sacred. What you share may hurt you and at the same time how do we know whether social media is actually bringing us closer or isolating us. Stefan shared with me that Brian (Molko) and himself don’t actually have a social media account of any sorts. He did have one before but then felt as if he was being invaded by all these people asking to be his friend so he shut it down because he felt like it was in a way, emotional blackmail. “There is a reason I’m not in touch with these people any more,” said Stefan. I find it a very different and interesting way to look at social media, as opposed to, “Oh I haven’t seen or heard anything from this person in ages, let me check up how they’ve been!”

One thing that I find very interesting about Placebo is that Brian and Stefan are incredibly multilingual. Stefan speaks Swedish, English, French, German and Spanish. Actually, you can find many Placebo radio interviews online that’s done completely in European languages.

And when the conversation lightened up in the end, I asked him a fun question: “What trend would you like to bring back?” He actually answered: “Mustaches. A strong porn ‘stache from the ’70s.” Very nice!

Overall, Stefan was well mannered, friendly, conversational and incredible thoughtful. I enjoyed my time speaking to him. The full interview is typed up as a transcript below so read away!

In the mean time, power to the peo- just kidding. Take care you guys!

- Hanli

Placebo Interview Transcript

You guys are coming out with your new album, Loud Like Love. What can we expect from it?

Stefan: It’s Placebo’s 7th record and probably our most colorful and honest album to date.

And memorable moments when making the album?

S: Itʼs funny how the first two songs – “Loud Like Love” and “Bosco” – are the first and last track of the album. They seem to set a bookends for the theme and for the vibe, sound and feel of the record. “Loud Like Love” is an upbeat song, and “Bosco” is exposing the dark side of relationships and love. Also music style Loud like love is up beat, whilst Bosco is introverted and a stripped down piano track.

What would you say is THE song of the album?

S: Itʼs difficult. “Too Many Friends” was the one that jumped out at me and Brian as being the first single and it also channeled our love for old ’80s epic pop tracks, like “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” So it seemed like the perfect first single. Personally I think “Bosco” is an achievement for the band for it transcends what we imagined Placebo to sound like. It’s something that sounds like we haven’t gone to that space before, vulnerable and emotional.

Talking bout “Too Many Friends,” my personal take was how privacy is sacred and technology is everywhere even when I look at my Facebook page, Iʼm wondering who half these people really are and was the message you wanted to give or something.

S: You touched on something that we relate to – privacy. Neither me or Brian are engaged in social media. I set up a Facebook account then I immediately shut it down. I felt, first of all, that I was being invaded by all these people who wanted to be my friend and there is a reason Iʼm not in touch with these people anymore. (It felt) almost like an emotional black mail, asking to be my friend. And I donʼt like to over expose myself. You put yourself in a vulnerable position. Iʼve seen a lot of people to share their lives on social media and get really hurt by it. So the song questions the nature of friendship with these new “cyber friends.” The big question is – Is it really bringing people closer together or is it isolating people? Considering the fact that people spend more time at home in front of the computer then interacting face to face.

That’s so true. And even when we are out socially we still check our screens all the time!

S: Yeah! I even find myself reaching for my phone during social events. It has led to this new compulsion and there are treatments for internet addicts. It’s a technological lifestyle change that is happening so fast I think its hard for us to say what effect its having to society and what the long terms affects may be. It’s a really interesting formula and that’s what Too many friends touches upon.

It’s really refreshing to hear such an honest song about something so common yet people have yet to note upon. Since weʼre talking about moving forward and things changing around us, I did want to talk to you about the music trends nowadays. A lot of it is leaning towards electric dance tunes, how do you think this may affect other genres in the future?

S: I mean its interesting because I think there isn’t a singular music movement at the moment. Like you say electronic dance music, that is happening in various parts of the world. I have friends from the States who are all “Hey man, have you heard this EDM?” And Iʼm all like, “What? Yeah, we had that in Europe 20 years ago!” Whats happening in Europe now is that the banjo is becoming quite popular every band has a banjo on their album. So I don’t really see it as a global trend anymore with so many different outlets for music, with internet tv and internet radio. Everything is out there and it’s much easier to listen to variety of music. For us, if you look at our history we never try to follow another sound or a band. Intrinsically, we feel that if you try to be something you are not, youʼre not going to get all the way there, you only become a copy of whatʼs out there. If you follow a trend, by the time you end your record the trend has passed and itʼs like your shooting yourself in the foot. Basically we try to do what feels right for us, and so doing weʼve carved out our own little path.

Are you excited to play for your fans in Singapore?

S: Yes, we are! That’s the part of touring we enjoy the most! We’ve performed in Singapore a few times I think the last was in 1999. There were some issues with cross dressing and it got heated politically. But yes, we do want to come back to play. We have good memories there, and we love playing in places where we have a history with and Singapore is definitely one of those places.

What are some of the bands you are listening to? What’s in your iPod?

S: Iʼve been listening to Sigur Rosʼ new album. They are this Icelandic band. I also listen to an English singer/songwriter named James Blake. It tends to not be rock music, it tends to not be loud. Something more contemplative, something to get lost in, something that does not follow the conventional pop structure with singing on it. Some instrumental piano music by modern day classical composers.

Thats honestly not what I was expecting!

S: You know, it gets tiring to listen to the type of music you make yourself.

If you could bring back a trend into action, be it a hair style or a saying what would it be?

S: The mustache! The ’70s porn mustache. Thereʼs something about it. It can look very wrong but when you have a guy that carries it off, it is a look that can be really attractive and sexy.

Very sexy! I know that you are multilingual. Can you speak any Asian languages?

S: No, I’ve not spent enough time in Asia to pick anything up.

You do speak Spanish though. What other languages?

S: Iʼm Swedish by birth so I speak Swedish. I was educated in English so I speak English. I grew up in a French and German speaking country so I speak French and German. My partner is Spanish so I learnt that.

Any words to your fans in Asia?

S: We’ll see you very soon!