Placebo chat

BBC Radio 1, 2003

LouL: The London Astoria gig rocked - does it feel good to be back on the road?

Brian: Back on stage, yeah. Being back on the road is a different thing altogether. It involves a lot of travelling, self-control, temptation. After a while away you struggle with those things I guess. You have to be a good boy more and more these days - things like trying not to drink until after the show. You try to avoid the pitfalls you used to fall into.

Steve: You miss playing live after so long, but you do go back with fresh material, and we're eager to please.

Brian: The last gig we'd did was a cancer benefit show for Scott Piering at the Scala but apart from that it's been two years since we played in the UK.

SMS: What you would say the negative points of fame are?

Brian: There's the loss of anonymity, the idea that thousands of people you've never met have made their minds up about you as a person. You meet a lot of people who have pre-judged you, and once you have a reputation for something it's difficult to shake it. Thankfully we can still walk on the streets, and I still take the tube a lot, so it's good to be able to do that. I think people who get into the music business because they want to be famous are doomed, and quite rightly so. I understand that it's every teenage boy's dream to strap on a guitar and go on stage, but you have to have something unique or honest to say. Something to communicate to people. Or even a very, very amazingly joyful way of making people escape from their everyday lives. The shallow plus points are being able to get tables at restaurants, but it is shallow. You get respect from your peers, which means you get to meet a lot of amazing artists who you can learn from.

Dawn: Do you see The Bitter End as a natural progression from Black Market Music or is it kinda going back to the older stuff?

Steve: It's fresh but there's a line that refers back to the first album. To us it still feels like a fresh, Placebo energy.

Brian: After the thousandth interview, whenever anyone says representative it makes me feel very tense. Nothing's representative apart from where we are now. We have a history of releasing very unrepresentative singles of our new albums as the first singles, and we did that on purpose to confuse people, to not play that game. The other words that fill me with terror are 'natural progression' - I don't even know what they mean now.

Kal: So what's the theme with Sleeping With Ghosts?

Brian: There are many themes. There's never a full unity to an album we make. Sometimes one presents itself, but there are songs that stick out like a sore thumb. On a songwriting level, I think we've gone back to what we do best which is writing twisted love stories. They have a certain darkness to them, an acid lullaby, which is important otherwise they become insipid and disposable.

Debbie Mc: A review of the album described Placebo as 'Brian Molko and his pervy mates'. Does this annoy you?

Steve: It doesn't bother us.

Brian: It would be better if they just went 'The pervy Placebo'.

Blackvelvetrose: How did you get on with Westlife at CD:UK last Saturday? Did you have anything interesting to talk about?

Brian: Didn't see them! Never set eyes on Westlife. I met a few of Gareth Gates' dancers though. They were quite nice.

Steve: You do cross paths with bands or groups in different situations.

Brian: We were accosted by Ronan Keating once on Top of the Pops. He told us he likes Pure Morning, and I really didn't know what to say.

Karla C: Are you going to be doing any festivals? If you decided to do Glastonbury maybe you could do a duet with Dolly Parton!

Brian: Reading is booked. Perhaps we could do 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton?

Stefan: 5 to 9!

Brian: This is very possible. Tammy Wynette and the KLF, Dolly Parton and Placebo. Free tickets to Dollywood!

Summer Rain: You're being dubbed 'The Kings of Cover Versions'. How do you feel about that, and is there any song which you’d refuse to cover for fear of not doing it justice?

Brian: We're not gonna cover any Gareth Gates songs. Has he written any yet? We've covered T-Rex, Nick Drake, Robert Palmer - that was inspired, Kate Bush. I really wanna cover Total Eclipse of the Heart. I'll probably make it my life's work actually! If all three of us want to work on something, if it makes us laugh, then it works. If a cover version becomes too much like hard work you just have to give up.

Feebz Mitchell: You've come back more powerful than ever with a more adult image. Were you sick of being treated like attention seeking teens?

Brian: We haven't been teenagers for a long time, so I suppose it's gonna **** any adult off being a teenager. What did anger us for a while was that we were dismissed as a punky boy band or people who couldn't play their own instruments. You wanna be taken seriously.

Kim: In past interviews you've had a go at a few bands - is there anyone that's particularly annoying you at the moment?

Steve: The usual suspects. Not really. It'll all change when we get on tour, do festivals. If anything it's a better time now for music.

Brian: That Junior Senior record winds me up. It reminds me of Bis.

Iggy: Why do you wear so much leather clothes?

Brian: We're wearing a lot of blue today. And wearing some grey. I dunno. It's difficult to live your life in leather in general. It can be quite restricting and it's really hot, you know? You can't spent a lot of time in bright lights. So clothes have to be functional as well. It's a particularly British thing, as soon as the first spring time sun comes out you see people walking around on a Friday night in shirts and shorts. Leather has to be functional too.

Rachel: Will you play Top of the Pops this time round?

Brian: Yeah. You can see us this Friday on TOTP. We had a disagreement with them. They edited our song down, really badly, and if they'd asked us if it was okay we'd have helped them. It annoyed us that they didn't ask us. It's all water under the bridge now. We'll be playing live on Friday.

Lewis: Stefan what was Brian like at 12?

Stefan: I don't know what he was like at 12. We met when we were 14 or 15. It was about five or six years after we went to school we got to know each other.

Brian: How we meet is our most hated question! We had different social circles so we never hung out, not until we had a conversation and found out we had a lot in common.

Heidi Baby: Hi guys, why don't you ever appear on your CD covers?

Brian: It's just a bit too boy bandy. It's very old school, reeks of marketing. I think your album cover should represent something else as well as who you are as people. It's important to make your album cover a work of art, not just a masturbation shot. This time we worked with a huge and well-respected artist, John Baptiste Mondino, who's done stuff for Prince and Bjork. He also did Madonna's Justify My Love video. So you want his interpretation of your album. You work quite closely but you want to set them free to do what they do best. And it's working out very well. There's only so far you can take that ghostlike motif which we're playing with at the moment. Eventually you have to subvert that a little bit. It's really lazy to just stick your face on the cover.

Pengiun14UK: What Is Rocking Your CD player at the moment?

Steve: Brian's got an album by DJ Muggs.

Brian: The new Ladytron album as well.

Simon: Do you still describe yourselves as ‘cocks in frocks’?

Brian: I wear a lot less dresses these days than I used to. I think I understand androgyny a lot more now. It's not about transvestism, it's about a frame of mind, the way you carry yourself, an attitude. I think I've been guilty of many fashion crimes in the past, but that's okay. You live and learn! I had my hair cut on vacation and I wanted something very low maintenance. It took a long time to get my hair ready every day, and I'm a bit lazy. You have to stay a haircut ahead of your fans.

Sal: Will you be doing more cameo roles such as Malcolm in Velvet Goldmine?

Steve: Was Brian definitely called Malcolm?

Brian: Malcolm Molko! No films agreed as yet. We did turn down that rock star movie with Jennifer Aniston and Mark Whalberg. I occasionally get asked to play vampires but I'm not very interested in that. There's no cameos on the horizon as yet, but I'm open to offers!

Steve: The Velvet Goldmine thing was a great opportunity.

Brian: A joyful film making experience.

Jimmy: How do you feel about fans downloading Sleeping With Ghosts off the internet?

Brian: As long as you buy it that's okay, that's fine. I understand the feeling of urgency. The people we have a problem are the people on fan sites who make it available. That's an issue. I don't want to sound like a money grabbing idiot, but if you want your favourite band to survive you have to buy their records. We have children to support, and responsibilities to continue to make music and for you to enjoy it. If that ceases to be the case, your favourite bands won't be able to make music anymore because they won't be able to live from that.

Steve: Downloading from the internet is good for rarities and things like that I guess.

Cam O: From Which one of you guys would win a fight?

Steve: Which of us guys would win a fight? Probably me beacause these guys never fight.

Quench is a nice word. Can you think of any nice words?

Brian: Simulacrum. I like that one.

Steve: Beer.

Virgin: Are any of you religious?

Brian. No, but I had a serious religious upbringing. No real ties to Jesus at present.

leni1979_ben: Is it true Brian that you want to produce a band?

Brian: Yeah, I'd love to produce a band. I've got my eye on a couple of people but time is always an issue. It would be a case of finding somebody who really had an opportunity, who had something really special to offer. Maybe not even someone from this country. Someone who needs a break but may not get the opportunity because they don't live in London, whatever. We did a lot of production on Black Market Music, but production is a very abstract idea.

Stefan: Production is basically saying 'make it sound like that'.

Bingo: Tell us about trashing hotel bedroom - what’s the biggest hotel bill you’ve run up?

Brian: Which one?! The first, second, third, fourth, fifth we didn't get stung for it at all. A TV set once cost me £1200 though in the south of France. I think it was 'we're gonna make you pay' money.

Steve: Pay one, they get three free.

Brian: I think when the police are standing around, you pay. People treat you like a piece of...beacuse you dress differently. I think it's something we carry with us from our teenage years, this feeling of being an outsider, where people treat you like scum but are willing to take your money. Some guy in a three piece suit, (which is worth less than what you are wearing), in the hotel treats you like scum.

Steve: I think things just generally erupt out of frustration cos of life on the road. Those pressures will push someone that far, just to break stuff. Crazy.

Sim: What was Bowie's 50th Birthday party like?

Brian: It was insane. We were the opening band.

Steve: It was like a common room at university full of all of your heroes.

Brian: Sonic Youth, Pixies, Robert Smith... the B52s!

Steve: Lou Reed.

Brian: The most nerve wracking thing was getting up in front of 200 or 300 people - it was very intimate, you could see the whites of their eyes. You can't be sloppy because they're right there in your face.

Feebz Mitchell: If you were to be a famous girl who would you like to be?

Brian: Betty Boop. I've always adored her. She's fantastic. Uma Thurman maybe because she has amazing elegance and poise. Maybe Anne Widdecombe for a day.

Ellie: What is your comfort favourite food?

Brian: Sausage and mash. A burger.

Stefan: Cheese.

heartspark: If you had to change the name of the band, what would you change it to?

Steve: Spandex Luxury.

Brian: Yoo-hoo!

Stefan: We tried a few out beforehand, they were all taken.

Brian: Ashtray Heart, Peepshow.

Stefan: I preferred Placebo actually.

Brian: But Ashtray Girl on the new album has no connection. That's about an old legend about James Dean. Ashtray Heart came from an old Captain Beefheart song.

Roger: Tell us a secret...

Steve: No!

Brian: No I can't. You'd never be able to cope.

Cranky: What's the weirdest thing a fan has sent you or said to you?

Steve: I was in a gig in LA just before the doors opened, and a couple of fans asked 'is that your real hair?'

Brian: I came across a fan who had my face tattooed on her back. That was shocking. God bless her! And you don't wanna know the weirdest thing I've had to sign.

Danny Cragg: I've always thought you have immaculate dress sense Brian, do you have a stylist? Where do you get these fabulous clothes from?

Brian: We have one we work with on an on and off basis, but we buy a lot of things ourselves. We have relationships with a lot of designers that we've built up over the past year. You have a bond over the music and you take it that one step further I guess. It's kind of like 'we're doing this one thing for an album, would you like to get involved?'

Tess M: What has been the best advice you’ve ever been given and what is your advice to others?

Brian: David Bowie told us never to lose our spontaneity and to read as much as possible on tour. I'm reading a book by Michael Faber called Under the Skin, about a civilisation of mutant dogs who kidnap humans and vivisect them. It's pretty funky.

Steve: I'm reading a book called Dear Boy by Keith Moon. It's huge - it doesn't seem to end.

Stefan: I'm reading a book by a Japanese author about someone reminiscing about his past love, past relationships and how they changed throughout his life.

Brian: I think everyone's queueing up to read Stupid White Men by Michael Moore.

Stefan: It's kind of hard cos your attention span goes out of the window when you go on tour.

Steve: You might get an hour a day.

Pen: Where's the funniest place you've ever been struck by inspiration?

Brian: I was thinking you'd say struck by lightning!

Steve: Struck by a fan?

Brian: On the toilet. Some of your good ideas come while you're on the loo. Sometimes you gotta finish quickly so you can go out and write it down. The music always comes first before the lyrics.

Steve: We're out on the road, so ideas come from stages and venues around the world.

Brian: We wrote this album over a period of three years. Some songs which didn't make it onto Black Market Music. We wrote a mass of material, a lot of it instrumental, then we had a six month break. It's kind of a constant process. A lot of songs stick around for a while, and you become attached to them but realise you're not quite in the right place to finish them, so you wait.

Steve: Some stuff takes a long time. It's bizarre.

Karla C: Who would you like to cover a Placebo track?

Brian: Gareth Gates! Without a doubt.

Steve: He fancies him. One of the best covers was a Johnny Cash one of a Depeche Mode song. Perhaps he'd be good. Or Captain Beefheart.

Brian: I'd love to see Gareth Gates do Nancy Boy.

Chloe: What underwear are you guys wearing?

Steve: Mine's golden.

Brian: Mine's from Marks & Sparks.

Stefan: Mine's black leather.

r1host That's all we have time for. Here's Placebo with a final word...

Steve: Thanks for logging on.

Brian: Thanks for making us No.12 with the single. See you very soon - the circus is coming to town!