Leicester Mercury "The Placebo effect", Mar'15

March 11, 2015

Brian Molko has a morning of interviews lined up, back-to-back, writes Gemma Peplow. "My favourite part of the job," he says, dryly.

Brian isn't so much prickly as honest. Which is good. You wouldn't want tried-and-tested PR spiel from the frontman of Placebo, would you? Just for good measure, when we ask how the rest of his day might get better: "That's my business, not yours."

Moving on, then. Placebo, one of the alternative rock bands of the '90s, whose bitter, cynical lyrics soundtracked the lives of thousands, are touring the UK. After shifting millions of albums and playing bigger venues across the world, this one is kind of back to basics.

"We haven't done a regional UK tour in a long time so it feels like we're very much going back to our roots," says Brian.

"We're playing smaller venues, with a more intimate kind of energy with the audience. We do try to make an emotional connection with the audience. It's not just about playing songs."

"We want to create a collective euphoria, a synergy. We need that connection, otherwise it becomes mechanical and soulless for us."

"In a smaller venue, that energy comes quicker; the connection is a little easier to make – as long as not too many people are busy looking at their phones instead of the gig."

While Placebo's music has stood the test of time – the band are 20 years and six albums down the line from their self-titled debut – Brian is not convinced by this change in gig crowds.

"I think it's a shame because what they're documenting is inferior," he says. "They're missing the moment completely."

"Placebo play very loud – the microphone on your smart device cannot handle the volume at which we play. The sound, will be terribly distorted, because people moving around are going to be shaky. You're going to miss out on what you pay good money to see. I just don't get it."

"Every now and then some idiot shows up with an iPad and just blocks the view for about five or six people behind them."

"It's completely inconsiderate, in my opinion. It's just my point of view, really, I don't want to come across like a grumpy old man. But I want to achieve connection and I can't connect with people who aren't looking at me. It's not an ego thing. It just seems pointless. What value does that have? I think life is short, the moment is fleeting, the gig is happening."

Be warned. If you pull out filming equipment when Placebo come to Leicester later this month, Brian may well pull you up on it.

"I do, sometimes. Sometimes it's not so bad, but if I find it frustrating I will, particularly if the entire front row when you walk out is looking at a phone from the moment the first song begins. On a good day, it's distracting; on a bad day, I actually find it quite insulting."

"If I get frustrated, it's difficult. I deal with it, just as I would if a fight breaks out in the audience. I have a unique vantage point and it is incredibly disturbing to see the hatred in these people's eyes sometimes. It affects me emotionally."

It's very different to the days when the band formed.

"In the '90s, people were connected, they were jumping, moshing, crowd-surfing. They were in the moment and just there and absorbing the show and this is how I experienced concerts as a teenager and young adult."

"They were mesmeric, transcendental moments for me. I don't understand why people wouldn't want to join me in that."

Having said all that, Brian says he enjoys it more now than he did way back when the band was at the height of its success, "because now I perform without the aid of any controlled substances or intoxicants."

"We're choosing to do this tour for the fans and for ourselves. For the experience. To have fun. We want to enjoy ourselves."

It's all leading up to the band's anniversary celebrations next year.

"In 2016, there will be an anniversary tour of sorts and we may exhume some songs from the graveyard which we haven't played for a long time."

If Brian is hinting at fans' favourite Nancy Boy, which has long been dropped from the Placebo live set, he doesn't give it away.

"At any given moment when you come to see Placebo, the songs we're playing are the ones we feel emotionally connected to."

"We cannot play songs we don't enjoy playing just to make other people happy. It's a mechanical act, a soulless act. I'm not in this to not feed my soul. I'm aware that may sound selfish. But yeah, we're a bit like Radiohead… we're notorious for not playing our most successful material. But we are in discussions at the moment, long, protracted discussions. We've got the year to work it out."

You get the impression Brian isn't one for looking back. And yet, last year he released a book containing his own selection of lyrics from throughout his career at the helm of the band.

"It was offered to me by a small publishing house and it was a long, drawn-out process for me because I have a very dysfunctional relationship with a lot of what I've written. Not many people get an opportunity to publish a book, though, so that was the attraction."

"But I tell you, it was not an easy experience for me. It took about six months. I had to select what was going to be published and I was confronted with a lot of writing which I thought was either naive, amateuristic or just not very good."

It's better now, he says. "I wrote a lot of material under the influence and I think sometimes that worked out really well and sometimes it worked out really badly," he says. "I'm just very, very self-critical."

"We always set the bar higher, that's just something we do. Each new album is an almost allergic reaction to its predecessor."

Placebo play at De Montfort Hall on Monday, March 16.

Source: leicestermercury