"Interview with Brian"

Melody Maker, Dec'00

How's your year been?

"It's been a roller-coaster ride. 'Black Market Music' has taken off worldwide, and that's been a surprise. It's been our first Number One in Europe. It went straight to Number One in France! We knew that we had a record that was better than 'Without You I'm Nothing' and the first album, but we didn't expect it to go off on such as scale. You always want to better what you've done in the past - we see our albums as building a skyscraper in the end. But this has been like two towers at once - like the World Trade Center!"

The album received a mixed reception, didn't it?

"We always knew there'd be people sharpening their knives. It's like water off a duck's back, by now. You reach a point in Britain where people think it's time to knock you down, but around the rest of the world it's been very well received."

Does that mean you're about to become very rich?

"I don't think we're going to be as rich as U2 or Bowie. Comfortable, maybe. I need a house - that's number one on my list."

So will you buy a gothic-style transylvanian castle?

"No, a flat will do me fine. West London is my adopted home. I feel comfortable there - it's so multicultural."

Have you made a conscious effort to cut down the rock'n'roll hedonism?

"If we have cut down, it's been through necessity. We're not 21 anymore. In the past we've probably been guilty of putting lifestyle before music, but we've grown up a little bit. Delivering 100 percent to our fans is now more important."

So during this year's tours, you've mopped up the trail of blood and spunk that you left throughout Europe last time?

"Ha! We left a trail of breadcrumbs this time - so we could find our way back to the little house in the forest. But you need to cut loose. If you feel that you deserve to, then you do. If you feel that you don't, then you don't."

What's been your favourite binge this year?

"There was a funny time this year when we were in the studio. It was Mark (Richardson) the Skunk Anansie drummer's birthday and we partied like it was 1997. None of us made it into the studio the next day. The next day, me and Steve looked at each other and went, 'Oh shit. The party's over, isn't it? F***!' The old band habits reared their ugly heads, but we're pushing 30 now."

Does it bother you that you're getting older?

"Well, it's not too bad. I've still got a bit of a baby face, so I'll be alright."

Do you use lots of skin cream and moisturiser or do you have a picture of yourself in the attic somewhere?

"Like 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'? I wish! No, touring takes it out of you. You get touring skin. A lot of being in a band is about being a perpetual teenager, skin-wise. I drink lots of water, take vitamin pills, try not to sleep with my make-up on any more. But there's no escaping the hands of time."

Are you still working just as hard or have you cut back on that too?

"The work has taken over everything. There isn't time to do anything else. We're on this train and we've got to stay on it until the last stop."

But wasn't 'Slave to the Wage' a warning against working yourself into an early grave?

"But this is something we've chosen to do. Our parents and the people around us told us this was impossible and that we'd fall flat on our faces. But we believed in ourselves - that's the only way you can make it happen."

You've become more politicised this year, with songs like 'Spite and Malice' and 'Haemoglobin'

"I think it's natural to look around yourself more as you get into your late-20s. You start to look less inwardly for pain and realise there's a lot of pain around you. It's like when people write books - they start by being autobiographical, but as they grow as artists, the subject matter becomes more complex."

The line 'Dope, Guns, F***ing in the Street' from 'Spite and Malice' sounds cool - but does it actually mean anything to you beyond that?

"That was just a reaction to Churchill's mohican, really (from the May Day riots). I just jumped around shouting that because it's the old MC5 slogan and a friend said 'You've got a chorus there.' It was a reaction to what we were seeing on the news. It's not an insurrectionary call to arms. There are 200 million guns in circulation in the US, that's a scary thought."

Do you get involved in direct political action?

"You mean in terms of going out on to the street and protesting? Well, when we were in Spain, we came across a demonstration in front of parliament for registered partnerships of homosexuals and we tried to make our presence felt, so people would maybe recognise us and recognise that we supported that."

Do you ever have problems with the authorities or does being a successful rock star protect you?

"I've been thinking about this quite a bit and I think it depends on the size of your tourbus. We used to drive around in shitty little vans and we used to get stopped by the cops so much. We used to have border hassles, it was incredible. Now everything seems to be very smooth - it's all to do with the size of your bus - like 'How big's yours, mate?' Hahahaha!"

Do you think your fans have an accurate idea of what you're really like?

"The only people who know what I'm like are Steve (Hewitt, drummer) and Stef (Olsdal, bassist) - they have to live with me 10 months of the year. Your persona is just something people feed off."

The nearest person to you in terms of public image seems to be Billy Corgan...

"Hahaha! How do I take that? I have more hair than him - contrary to popular belief! I like bits and pieces of what they did, but I never heard 'Mellon Collie...' all the way through. The age of double albums is over with MTV-attention spans. He made some beautiful singles. I found his voice a little bit irritating and I'm sure a lot of people find my voice irritating. It's probably a love or hate thing."

Do you ever tire of being seen as this aloof, goth character - would you like to be approachable and nice like Roddy Woomble?

"It depends on your mood. Sometimes you can handle it, other days you feel shy and quiet. The way I'm portrayed isn't really down to me. I'm sure I was responsible for little bits of this media creation, but it's out of my hands now. Like Frankenstein's monster, running round killing villagers!"

Do you feel that there are any bands following in your footsteps?

"We've just been on tour with Idlewild and I've always felt that them and Six By Seven were kindred spirits. Idlewild for the way that they fuse energy with melody and Six By Seven for their monolithic aspect - the vitriol, the disgust for the human race."

What do you think of the new Marilyn Manson album?

"I've listened to it once and there's some good tracks on it, but I wonder if he's sampled 'Song 2' by Blur. One of the songs is scarily similar. Has he been listening to Blur? Can you imagine that? Marilyn Manson saying 'Let's listen to the new Blur record!' "

Do you see your fans as disposable teens?

"No, not really. Placebo is music for outsiders, by outsiders and our gigs are like conventions of outcasts, which is cool."

Has 2000 been a happy year for you?

"It's been an up and down year. I've always been fairly schizophrenic. It's a day-by-day thing."

So are you on medication?

"No! Not yet! Maybe in a few years!"