The Placebo Effect

Daily Record, Mar'03

The Placebo Effect; Being in the band helped troubled Brian Molko finally kick his drink and drug habit.

Mar 27, 2003

by John Dingwall

PLACEBO frontman Brian Molko's wildman image was a booze and drug- addled front for his own insecurities, the Scots-American singer has revealed.

Brian, who has a reputation for throwing tantrums and attacking autograph-hunting fans, struggled to overcome his addictions because he feared it would spell the end of the group.

He admitted: "I'm a weirdo magnet but I'm handling it better than I used to.

"I would get over-emotional and shout at fans for invading my personal space. But a lot of that was brought on by the alcohol.

"I used to fly off the handle in everyday life but I'm a little calmer now.

"My bravado and arrogance was masking a great deal of insecurity.

"I was hiding from myself through alcohol and drugs. I always enjoyed drugs, but I started to realise that I wasn't immortal, that I had to stop before it was too late.

"It was less a lifestyle and more a physical imperative. I had a responsibility to myself as well as to my fans and bandmates. I realised that, to throw it all away, would be pretty f***ing stupid."

The androgynous star - best known for the hit Nancy Boy - has become one of pop's most unlikely sex symbols.

He added: "I was the guy who didn't have a girlfriend and couldn't get a close relationship at college, so that came as a big surprise to me.

"I was the chubby schoolboy who got picked on. I was a social outcast and I suppose that was the beginning of my outsider complex.

"I was quite shy. But if you strap a guitar on anyone and throw them onstage, people will want to sleep with them. It's that simple. So I'm not special in any way."

Placebo are back this week with a new album, Sleeping With Ghosts, which has already spawned the Top 20 hit Bitter End.

They'll be showcasing the songs when they play Glasgow's Barrowland on April 7, and the Caird Hall, Dundee, two nights later for what will be a welcome homecoming for the singer.

"My mum is from Dundee and still lives in the city," Brian said. "She met my father and by the time I was born they had moved to Europe.

"But I spent a lot of time in Dundee when I was young, at my gran's house in the summers.

"I remember the Wellgate Centre and playing the arcades, where I spent a lot of my time. But there wasn't that much to do and I started smoking because I was bored. I was young and restless."

Placebo's former Boo Radleys drummer Steve Hewitt is English and the band is completed by bassist Stefan Olsdal, a Swede.

But despite being an American citizen, Brian considers himself a Scot.

He said: "I don't consider myself to be American at all, certainly not these days.

"If you'd forced me to have a nationalistic feeling, it would certainly be for Scotland.

"That's something I keep saying to my band. `Hey guys, don't call me English'. Being able to say you're Scottish and not English comes in handy in so many situations."

Brian, 30, is hoping the Glasgow and Dundee gigs will be without incident, especially after a previous T In The Park visit saw him accused of attacking a young female fan.

He said: "A downmarket English tabloid stitched me up on that occasion. I was completely framed.

"A girl had squirted a water pistol in my face and I had asked her to stop because I had put my make-up on for the show.

"I threw my beer at her. That was all but they made out that I grabbed a female fan, threw her to the ground then threw rocks at her head. It was ridiculous."

Placebo became the whipping boys of the music press after their last album, Black Market Music, failed to impress the critics and record-buying public.

But the highly-charged Sleeping With Ghosts sees a welcome return to form, just in time for their Scottish gigs.

Brian added: "Barrowland is always great. The Scottish audiences are more rumbustious and excitable in general. So we're looking forward to it."