26 October 2013

RSI Rete Tre (Switzerland), Interview with Brian and Stefan

Translation by fewhatsername

The album

After the last record came out, we toured for two years, then you take a break. Writing, recording and mixing songs needs time, it’s a process.

I think this is a sort of common misunderstanding, that it takes all this time [four years] to make a record, when it actually takes 6-9 months. The rest of the time, you’re on tour. We came back to London in order to write songs, and in the meantime we released the B3EP, trying to give something new, new sounds, to Placebo fans.

Everything on the record I think is very, very much inspired by real events and real emotions. The characters in these songs are created by us to convey an emotion. This album might be considered as a collection of short stories with a common theme, explored in its deepest and darkest recesses, but also celebrated. We didn’t want to do something bleak or gloomy and completely hopeless, but unfortunately, without talking about broken hearts or how people manipulate or abuse each other in relationships, you’re not really giving a full picture, I think.


That would take more than an album to talk about it, really, and I don’t know if I’d like to do it! All of our songs have surely a confessional nature, in the 99% of the cases you are inspired by real emotions that you felt, but here it’s not like flipping through the pages of a diary. It’s important to count that they are stories.

The theme of the new album is love. Brian Molko underlines that it’s not self-referential.

Sometimes it’s better off to be alone!

[Stefan] There’s also the issue about how to protect yourself as well, because you’re naked, you expose yourself, you become vulnerable. It’s also an interesting concept how much you want to protect yourself and on the contrary how much you’re open to what love gives you, both pleasure and pain.

You can use love like a drug, you can use it as something to change the way that you feel, you can use it as a crutch or an anesthetic not to deal with your reality and your emotions, something to hide behind. That is a case in which love becomes progressively toxic, like an addiction, particularly if it takes over your life.

I think a lot of people use love in order to escape, and this in my opinion is never necessarily a good thing, because you're not really dealing with what's going on in the day to day.

The decision we had to make I think was whether to commit or not to that theme. The fact that it was really a non-Placebo theme attracted us because we like to confound the perception of our identity. We decided to look at love from as many angles as we can. It’s not an album particularly happy, but it’s okay because love can be brutal, violent and sometimes also nihilistic. These are interesting aspects to investigate, supposed to lead to a better understanding of the subject itself as you explore it as a human being as well as a writer.

The album

I think it’s a colorful record, there’s a lot of lightshades, it’s eclectic and partially esoteric. For me it’s quite adventurous too, there are moments of magniloquence alternated with moments of great vulnerability, and others in which the space between the notes is as significant as the notes themselves. I’m very pleased with what we’ve achieved sonically in this record.

LLL is a very Placebo album.

[Stefan] Yeah, I agree. In some parts it’s very layered, in others it’s the concrete sound of a rock band captured live in a moment of profound intimacy, with a stripped-down instrumentation. I think that this record expand the best quality of Placebo, which is switching from powerful and direct rock to the most naked acoustic piano to the mix of electronic and samplings we usually play with. In this sense it feels like a complete Placebo record.

Rob the bank

The strange thing of it is that it was not written in reaction to the financial crisis, crush or recession. It’s a song about obsessive desire, which use a criminal metaphor as the bank rob to communicate this idea of obsession of the desire, carnal obsession. It’s a list of bad things to do, like committing a crime or having prejudices or being vulgar or offending vulnerable people. The protagonist says “I don’t care about what you do and how evil you are as long as you come home and fuck me”. This is the point: you can do whatever you like, just as long as you give me what I want. That was interesting to me to explore.


I’m not particularly annoyed by the instruments themselves. I don’t use them. What annoyed me is being contacted by people who invite me to take part in their social network. I don’t understand this thing. I want to have a relationship with people, a physical one. I wonder if this great global interconnection, so much promised by the multinational corporations of this sector, isn’t on the contrary increasing the alienation between us, with a negative effect on our social skills.

That is interesting: if you go to the restaurant and see six people around a table, at least four of them will be surely checking their phones instead of talking with the people they choose to go to dinner with in the physical world. I find it socially strange, it makes me reflect. I wonder if the whole idea of friendship is changing in our society, if we are better or worse. I don’t necessarily have an answer, I’m kind of asking that question.

“I’ve got a reason to declaim the applications are to blame for all my sorrow and my pain of feeling so alone”

Perhaps that’s my point of view that comes across, to a degree, within the song if you look below the surface, but the protagonist of this song is a very, very lonely person. You cannot have hundreds of virtual friends and never go out. How many friends do you have if you never go out? Do you actually remember how to communicate with them without looking at a screen?

Artistic life

From a very young age I was very determined to do something in the arts. That was never an option, it was never a grand issue for me because by the age of eleven I decided that I was going to be doing something artistic.

I did had a summer job once! I was studying Cinema in college, I was producing a film and needed the money for it. I came back to Luxembourg and found a job as an archivist in a bank. Just before leaving London I was committing to a performance with a friend of mine, something very physical, and I broke a finger, so I went to work with plaster and crutches. It was the most tedious and soporific job I had in my entire life, and it inspired one of the singles from Black Market Music, Slave to the wage.

Filing documents in alphabetical order was so boring that I was inventing things to enjoy myself. I also had to destroy them, so I looked for the most ridiculous things to shred. Once I almost broke the shredder throwing staples in it. And to deal with the depression that work was causing to me I locked myself in the bathroom and masturbate. That was the only solace I found in the mortal boredom of working in a bank and filing documents in alphabetical order, on crutches and with a plaster on my foot.

40 years old

To be honest it didn’t really change anything for me. I’m lucky enough to be in a band, which means I can behave, to a certain point, like an eternal adolescent, for which I’m very grateful.