The Nation "Placebo is the real thing", Aug'13

23.08.2013
By Manta Klangboonkrong


Since its conception in 1994, British rock outfit Placebo has been frequenting the music charts with its glam and punk rock, augmented by frontman Brian Molko's theatrical showmanship. With its sixth studio album due for release in the next couple of weeks, the trio is returning to Bangkok for the third time to give us a preview of what "Loud Like Love" sounds like.

Singer-guitarist Molko (Scottish-American by descent but raised in England) formed the band with Swedish bassist Stefan Olsdal. American drummer Steve Forrest joined in 2008. Together they create alternative rock music with electrifying glam flair and catchy hooks that has spanned six studio albums, all of which have reached the Top 20 in the UK, and have sold 11 million records.

Their hits include "You Don't Care about Us", "Without You I'm Nothing" (featuring David Bowie), "The Bitter End," "Running Up the Hill", "Every You and Every Me", "Battle for the Sun" and "Too Many Friends" - the first single from their latest album.

Placebo meanwhile evolved from its strictly glam-rock roots, adopting diverse elements from other genres. Along with alt-rock, they get called goth rock, industrial rock, progressive rock and even college rock and experimental. Also known for their extensive exploration of LGBT and androgynous themes, they invariably give the fans uniquely gender-bending, theatrical performances.

Placebo has been to Bangkok twice. The first time was for 2006's Bangkok 100 Rock Festival, alongside Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol, and then headlined Tiger Translate in 2010. This time around, the band will join yet another grand-scale music festival, Sonic Bang, sharing the stage with Jason Mraz, Pitbull, Ash and the Pet Shop Boys.

Bandleader Molko chatted with us via e-mail earlier this week.


WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NOW?

I'm in London watching YouTube, trying to find a support band I like. I don't listen to much rock music these days, so I'm out of touch - seriously out of touch, in fact. I don't own a TV. I don't listen to the radio and I don't read music magazines, so I have no idea what's hip!

It's an interesting place to create music from because I'm not influenced by much. I'm very happy in my media block-out. Tonight I plan to go see the Polyphonic Spree live. Last time I saw them, it was so perfect I cried.

HAVE YOU BEEN TOURING A LOT THIS YEAR?

We've done no touring this year, so Bangkok will be Gig No 3.

The first few months of 2013 were spent putting the finishing touches on our new album "Loud Like Love", which comes out on September 16. We're very proud of it and believe we've created our most honest, direct, eclectic and vulnerable album to date.

I suspect it will be available down Patpong on September 7, though I cannot guarantee the quality of the copy.

We also have collaborated with American novelist Brett Easton Ellis on our new video, for "Too Many Friends". I've been a fan of his since my teenage years, so it's thrilling to be in cahoots with him.

YOU'LL BE IN BANGKOK SOON FOR SONIC BANG FESTIVAL. HOW DOES THAT FEEL?

We have an office in Bangkok and our management lives there, so the city has become our second home in Asia over the years. I'm always happy to be in Thailand - I've travelled extensively in your country and enjoyed its many delights, from elephant riding in Chiang Mai to crabbing on Koh Lanta.

I'm not keen on the traffic or the pollution in Bangkok, but I do love the customised buses, themed and covered in bright, garish colours. I'm not a big fan of Songkran - it feels like you're walking around with a target on your head - but I do love wandering the markets, even if I don't buy anything. Some can be real feast for the eyes.

DO YOU PREFER PERFORMING AS PART OF A FESTIVAL OR ON YOUR OWN?

At our own shows we have more control and the whole audience is there to see us, so it can be more satisfying at times. However, every festival we play presents a challenge. Can we win the curious onlookers? Can we capture the imagination of those who don't know who we are or have dismissed us? Can we hold the attention of a visibly drunk crowd who have the option to walk away and watch someone else?

I believe it's important for a band to come face to face with such challenges, among others, because it forces us to exist outside our comfort zone and banish any road-weary complacency we may be feeling.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND DURING THE TOUR?

After a show I usually meditate. Then I put on some Mogwai or Miles Davis and have a long, hot bath. Camomile tea and incense are often involved.

My partying days are pretty much over. I pretty much squeezed a lifetime's worth into 10 years.

WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO WHILE IN BANGKOK THIS TIME, BESIDES THE SHOW?

I'm going to get a fish spa and, once again, try to pluck up the courage to eat some deep-fried insects!

AND ABOUT THE SHOW, WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN STORE FOR US THIS TIME?

Same same but different!

FEEL BETTER


Placebo performs tomorrow as part of the Sonic Bang festival at Impact Challenger in Muang Thong Thani. Passes cost Bt4,000 and Bt5,000.