MTV, interview with Placebo

MTV: I understand that "Pure Morning," the first single off of the new album "Without You I'm Nothing," was written after the record had already been completed and shipped to the label. 
BRIAN: Well, "Pure Morning"...we kind of feel it was a little bit of a gift really. We'd finished our album and we'd given it to the record company and the pressure was off. We were just relaxing and doing a B-side session, and we were working in a way that we hadn't worked before. We went into the studio with just a guitar loop in the morning and built a track on top of that as the day went on, so you don't really know where you're going and it's a more spontaneous thing. By the end of the day we had "Pure Morning," and once we took a step back, it became painstakingly obvious that it was far too good for a B-side and ended up being the first single off the album. It's different, it's a new departure for us and it's probably quite indicative for where we're going in the future. 

MTV: In contrast with the 1996 self-titled debut, there are a lot more pointed love songs on the new album. Sounds like there was a lot of emotional dredging going on, especially in tracks like "My Sweet Prince" and "Burger Queen." 
BRIAN: Well I think that "Without You I'm Nothing" is a very, very personal album on a lyrical level, and seems to be mostly relationship-themed. It's about the loss of love and heartbreak and melancholy really and the impossibility of togetherness. What was happening at the time that we were writing the album, was that our personal lives were kind of falling apart at the seams, so we were being very pensive and there was a lot of soul searching going on and it kind of came out. What you get is a lot of honesty and a lot of vulnerability. You put yourselves in an emotional firing line, but what that does is kind of makes it so personal that it becomes universal. 

MTV: The presence of new drummer Steve Hewitt has also made quite a noticeable difference in Placebo's sound. What do you think he brings to the band that wasn't there before? 
BRIAN: Steve's brought a lot. On a sonic level, he's brought a kind of a groove, a confidence, a largeness and a kind of blackness that we didn't have before. He's really trying to put groove into punk, which is really cool. 
STEVE: Funky punk, these days. 
BRIAN: Funky punk, yeah. And when he joined the band [after drummer Robert Schultzberg left shortly after the release of "Placebo"] we were so kind of emotionally twisted and torn apart, that he brought us back together, brought us back to earth and brought friendship into the band. Which is really important, so "Cheers mate." 
STEVE: I am the Minister of Love. 

MTV: One of the most vitriolic cuts on the new album is the hidden track, which seems to have a lot more in common with the bombast of the debut record. How and why did the hidden song come to be included? 
BRIAN: Well, it's a strange one. It didn't really fit into the context of the album, which is why we hid it, but it's from the same session. It's kind of the most violent thing that we've done; it's very kind of sexually violent as well. And what actually ended up on the vocals for that track are actually death threats, which I received on my own personal answer phone. So, we got sort of angry about it, and we decided to use them, you know, to make something positive about it and to piss these people off even more. So it was something that we wrote at a sound check in East Germany in Leipzig a month after Steve had been in the band. It was just something that started off as a bit of a Sonic Youth kind of tribute, but it went on and sort of got it's own life really. It's one of the most violent things we've done, and it's pretty heavy going. " 

MTV: You still get those sort of threats over your sexuality? 
BRIAN: Yeah, death threats. You know, I think there's a lot of people in the U.K. that we kind of still managed to wind up, by just being ourselves, you know. There's a lot of jealous people out there, and there's a lot of people that object to what we represent and who we are as people. But it's nothing, really. We're still alive. 

MTV: You covered T-Rex's "20th Century Boy" for the "Velvet Goldmine" soundtrack, and even scored cameo roles in the film. What was it like being involved in a rock cinema cause celebre? 
BRIAN: We came to be involved in the "Velvet Goldmine" soundtrack through myself getting a role in the film. I was cast as a singer that was in a fictitious band that played "20th Century Boy" in the film, so we suggested that we record a cover for the soundtrack. Then Steve and Stef got roles in the film as well, and it just kind of snowballed from that first phone call. I was a very, very big Todd Haynes fan anyway so when I showed up for the audition I just went, "I'll do anything just let me be in your movie," and it kind of worked out. The first time we performed "20th Century Boy," it was the first day of filming. It was the first [scene shot], and the audience was Ewan McGregor and Michael Stipe. We were kind of crapping ourselves, shall we say, but we did it well. I think it's one of the high points in the movie. 

MTV: It must have been a kick to get into costume with all that fly '70s garb. 
BRIAN: The costumes were incredible and we were very much one of the main comedy elements in the film. We're quite ridiculous in camp and over the top so yeah, that part of it was fun. But there's a lot of waiting around in shooting a movie, and it was kind of like a very long video shoot. We made some really good friends and we had a great time. Anytime you can go to the movies and see yourself, it's kind of a strange feeling.