Tone Deaf "Placebo Talk Their New Album, Searching For Purpose & Playing Soundwave", Sep'13

Written by Jack Vear
on 9 September 2013

Since releasing their debut self-titled album back in 1996, alternative rockers Placebo have maintained a remarkable following of dedicated enthusiasts.

With six critically acclaimed albums in 13 years, including Without You I’m Nothing, Black Market Music, and Sleeping With Ghosts, the anticipation for upcoming LP Loud Like Love has reaffirmed the band’s enduring popularity.

While 2009’s Battle For The Sun received a lukewarm reception in comparison to previous efforts, founding bassist Stefan Olsdal acknowledges how important it was to the creation of Loud Like Love.

“What we tend to do is make a record in reaction to the previous one, and there’s a definite coherence with the previous record,” he says. “Battle For The Sun was a celebration of the rock guitar, but this one’s more textured, varied, colourful, and vulnerable.”

Produced by Adam Noble (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Paul McCartney, dEUS) and recorded at RAK studios in London, Olsdal credits an unfamiliar recording process and the influence of modern technology to the experimentation and expansion of sound that occurs on the upcoming release.

“We tried new things on this record,” he says reflectively. “We surrounded ourselves with old gear, like our ‘70s and ‘80s guitars and amps, and combined that with modern technology like smartphones and tablets, to great effect.”

With a comprehensive blend of electronic infusions and heavier soundscapes than previously attempted, Loud Like Love is a shorter, more compact offering. Olsdal notes his approval of the brevity.

“Brian had 10 [tracks] in his head for a while in the making, and I’ve always been a fan of concise records,” he says. “We wanted to do a no-fat record, and when we got the 10 tracks together, it seemed to fit perfectly.”

While the album is a musical progression of Placebo, characteristic androgynous themes and Brian Molko’s renowned vocals ensure that it retains the band’s distinctive sound.

“The challenge is to push yourself forward with every record,” Olsdal confirms. “But it’s still very much Placebo with the trademark guitars, vocals, and ambiguous lyrics.”

Further describing the album as a “schizo and vulnerable journey”, Olsdal speaks of the disorderly process that accompanied the album – and how the band never essentially intended to release the material.

“We fell into making this record,” he admits. “We weren’t making songs for the album, we were writing singles for a potential singles collection that was supposed to come out last year.”

Having also released the B3 EP early last year in the midst of comprehensive European and Asian touring schedules, Olsdal reiterates the disjointed nature of the recording process and how the fragmented method helped shape the release.

“In a way, we approached the songs from a very different angle than we had in the past, just because of the nature of the recording process,” he says. “The writing was very un-selfconscious, and we were writing songs we necessarily wouldn’t if we were in the studio making a Placebo record.”

“Having recorded over a longer period, we got a bit more perspective to the previous songs that we’d written, and I now feel it’s the record I’ve heard in my head for Placebo to make for a very long time.”

Certainly, despite indifferent appraisals of lead singles “Too Many Friends” and “Loud Like Love”, the album is a composed assortment that borrows elements from the entire Placebo catalogue. And despite extensive backlash to the departure of former drummer Steve Hewitt in the wake of 2006’s Meds, Steve Forrest returns in a more assured and comprehensive performance.

“He was just 20 when he joined the band, so was quite wet behind the ears,” Olsdal says. “We definitely liked his drumming style, but he’s grown and matured as a person, and become a solid backbone to the outfit.”

While maintaining significance within the ruthless alternative industry has proved challenging for even the most capable bands, Olsdal highlights how Placebo maintains its relevance.

“Half of it is commitment and ambition, and not giving up,” he contends. “We realised it’s our calling and we’ll hold onto it for dear life, but also just sticking to your guns and following your own sound in your own head.”

After 20 consecutive years in the industry, Olsdal admits he struggles at times to maintain motivation, particularly in regards to the challenges of both production and touring.

“There were times last year when I thought the record would never get made,” he says soberly. “It’s that continuing search for purpose, and for meaning which gets tougher with every record.”

“The more records you make, the harder it becomes to feel that what you’re doing is worthwhile, both to yourself and to music as a whole.”

Pressed about his expectations around the anticipated response by fans, Olsdal examines the issues of accommodating everyone after such a long and distinguished career.

“It’s really hard to second guess what fans want, and to be honest, the only way we can make a record nowadays is to make something that excites us,” he confirms. “I’m sure we’ll probably alienate some fans along the way but at the same time, we’ll gain some.”

“We’ve certainly been fashionable at times throughout our career, but as soon as you start to try to please someone, you end up shooting yourself in the foot.”

With thousands of hardcore fans in Australia alone, the album appears poised to generate a lot of attention – especially with confirmation of Placebo’s forthcoming Soundwave Festival appearance. Olsdal speaks eagerly as he anticipates the tour.

“We’ve always had a good time playing in Australia and it’s a great time to go,” he says enthusiastically. “But we better put our rock socks on because we’re playing Soundwave in the middle of the day.”

“We’ll keep people on their feet, stop them from passing out, and help them get them through.”

Meanwhile, although sideshows remain unconfirmed, Olsdal anticipates several. With rumours circulating around Melbourne and Sydney performances, he implores fans to stay tuned.

“There should be a couple. We’ll have to wait and see.”