"Without Cosmetics"

DNMais, Oct'00

14th Oct 2000

by Nuno Galopim

The strength of Black Maket Music confirms that Placebo are one of the major things on rock today. Molko, again with Dnmais, remembers the Sudoeste, what was behind the new record and puts an end to the glam tag.

The last visit to Portugal in last August, started in a curious way, with the band getting lost on a road somewhere in Alentejo(*1)... Brian Molko at the time spoke to Dnmais but now, more than two months on, and with a new album thereâs a chance to meet again.

"In our way back we didnât get lost" starts Molko, recalling the incident in Alentejo. "We actually had to ask the festival responsible to take us back and avoid a new experience like that", he says between laughs.

Even if we got a glimpse of what Black Market Music was about in Sudoeste, now we can see in a more clear way the notorious evolution suffered by the band in expanding their musical frontiers. "I donât know if we accomplished everything we set ourselves to do, but we tried to find a way with these two last albuns. And perhaps this time the search was more successful cause we got more control over production and managed to have a good relationship with the producer. This was the only way we could record what we had in our minds", he admits. And going back to the icon and reference, Molko isnât afraid of saying: "It was a bit like when David Bowie found Tony Visconti". And trying not to be insistent about the master, adds:"..Or like U2 when they found Brian Eno. It was a very pleasant working experience of mutual understanding. Even if itâs a record that deals with some serious themes, it was recorded in a constant atmosphere of explosion. We found the ideal method to work", explains.


Is there any limit, now, to Placeboâs sound? Any invisible frontier within the group that makes you define a musical aesthetics? Or like we've seen recently with Radioheads Kid A, the limit is just one of many doors you can open and transgress?. Molko says immediately that "thereâs no rules" and confesses that he doesnât have any idea of what the typical Placebo sound is, seen as a goal. "That gives us enormous freedom and I think that with this new album we pass on a idea of confidence in ourselves and the idea of freedom and variety. We have a very emotional and instinctive approach when we are working with our music", he explains. "We were listening to hip hop records for a long time, but only now the influences started to emerge."

It is however, pretty interesting to see how much time it takes for the process of absorption to take place. Brian Molko , naturally says that itâs something you canât measure. "The songs, in most cases, are written over a large period of time. For example, Iâve written Spite And Malice while touring in Singapore but the song was finished a year later, in London. The song, of course changed a lot, thatâs why I canât measure things. The whole process is very instinctive. Nothing is planned" he says.

Heâs the voice and the body that gives a life to the songs, Brian Molko is an actor on stage. The lyrics are made of auto-biographic experiences and stories created in the third person, and then sung in the first one. Just like an actor, giving life to his character, avoiding the constant exposure of the real self. "Itâs important that our songs arenât a diary of our lives. They are an encounter between auto-biography and fiction. Itâs difficult not to write something thatâs auto-biographical but when one grows as an author the writing changes. This record for example, it's less made of introspective looks and more of the reaction to the world and to what hurts you and makes you angry. It's more political", concludes. Slave To The Wage the second single, "It's a song about not working for the masses. Itâs about being an individual and following a dream. In a sense, finding your way."

In many moments of their career Placebo made a lot of zero tolerant people uncomfortable that still live on this planet. "Music has to be uncomfortable, disappointing, it must have a sense. It has to communicate through emotions and create new ones. I have a natural inclination to like the darkest side of emotions in human beings", says Brian Molko.


When leaving the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan said that the major cause of his departure as an alternative group, is due to the fact that the music industry is living of the sub products that it created. Is it fighting against the Britney's of this world so hard? Brian Molko, after a few seconds of pause, answers the question: "Itâs harder to fight against the Oasis of this world! It's music to be heard by grannies. They are the patrons of the actual state of desolation of brit rock. The patrons for groups like Travis, Stereophonics & Coldplay"... Molko knows about the Oasis affair(*2) that took place two days after Placebo played in Sudoeste. "I don't even care!" he comments, spreading a laugh into the air.

The question raised by the Smashing Pumpkins leads to debate the need of resisting and fighting back. "Itâs important to have something to strike back at the enemy. Something that makes you react.. thatâs why some movements and reactions happen. That was the way punk happened and every time an underground goes mainstream, there has to be a new underground growing somewhere else. One day kids are going to wake up and realize that, that shallow pop isnât corresponding anymore to their expectations and they are going to want something more substantial", he reflects.

Without time to talk about Velvet Goldmine in the Sudoeste interview, it was postponed to a next chance. Molko recalls immediately the constant party ambience during the shooting of the film, of one of his favourite directors. "It was a very interesting experience, we made a lot of friends and I liked the film, but there are people that, because theyâre lazy, started to call us a glam rock band. For me, glam rock is Gary Glitter. Itâs uni-dimensional. We were always more influenced by late punk.nThat kind of punk that was getting into the art school languages. Patti Smith, Television and later the Sonic Youth", Molko explains. The tag, however, survived and it bothers Placebo. "Things have to be seen in two directions and not just one. That's the biggest difference between entertainment and art. Entertainment distracts you and asks for nothing in return. As for art, it makes you think. And to understand good art it's necessary to make an effort. If a musician takes a step forward, then, the listener should do the same." concludes Brian Molko.


Out of their universe of references, itâs understandable that Placebo won't play the brilliant version they did of 20th Centry Boy from T-Rex, that they recorded and played in Velvet Goldmine, a film by Todd Haynes. "That version wouldnât never be made by ourselves, just for the pleasure of it. It is not a song that has a special cling to us, we did the version cause it was needed for the film. We don't even own any T-Rex record. But naturally it was a song that we knew for many years..we listen to it on the radio. We have never been T-Rex fans, and we just do versions of songs that we like and from artists we are fond of. In last Benicassim(*3) I run into Johnny Marr and then, yes, it was interesting, cause we did a version of 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' from The Smiths. At the time I wanted to know his opinion, and he said it was one of the best version ever made of the song, which made me feel very good" says Molko. Out of pure malice I reminded Brian Molko that Stefan is a great Abba fan..."Yeah, but he's swedish, so thatâs in his blood", he answers. I insist.. Will we some day see Placebo doing an Abba version? "Well, we've spoken about it, thatâs true, but we are more likely to record a version of Daddy Cool by Boney M. and burst into laugh one more time. "Glam rock isnât the music of our childhood, disco sound has! And we tend to play Barry White, Boney M everytime we have this party feeling...It's good party music. We also play good funk and soul. Steve, for instance, join us because he liked Sly & the Family Stone and Public Enemy. And thatâs how we knew that we would have a certain groove in our punk. Itâs sexy!" And, as proof of that, some of the remixs and b-sides show how familiar Placebo are with dance music. "Itâs true, we always liked electronic music...Since the days of the Kraftwerk and krautrock to the most modern techno. But I like dark techno better...I like the Nine Inch Nails, for instance. They and David Bowie are our names of reference" he says. And he doesnât hide the wave of passion about the master he admires: "It was a real privilege to have worked with him. Isn't it incredible that he fallen in love with ÇWithout You Iâm NotingÈ to the point of wanting to be involved in the song? Breathing the same air as he teach us how to be a star. It also teaches how a star must be and not some insignificant twat", he confesses.

As Bowie, Placebo have developed a careful work with their official site, where the amount of information and archives is impressing. "it's very informative, and a good way to avoid the British press", he says, laughing again. Itâs an attack to an ancient enemy, which came into conversation when Placebo gave the interview in Sudoeste. Molko was at the time complaining about the shallow approach the British press has on their music, based on the cosmetic of the image and attitudes and forgetting about the music. Curiously enough, Placeboâs site includes several of these articles on their archives. "We have to give the real picture and we are not going to hide anything. Those articles are part of what people wrote about Placebo. And if in the future an biography of the band is written, it will be equally open and complete. The words and everything...I believe in being honest and it was because of that, that in the initial stage of our careers we got such a bad reputation. But, basically, what we were doing was to honestly finding out what it was like to be in a band." he ends.

(*1)-Alentejo is a region of Portugal.Placebo have been there to play in a Festival that takes place in Alentejo- the Sudoeste Festival.

(*2)-Oasis played last year (2000) in Sudoeste, but things went wrong and the band had to leave stage.

(*3) It's a festival that takes place in Spain, the country next to Portugal.