"Life Of Brian"
"Call yourself a photographer? Get a fucking move on."
It’s early afternoon, it’s an airy North london studio, and that metallic voice scything across the mellow background music and pine floorboards? Well it’s a pop star. Brian Molko, to be exact, singer with chart warriors Placebo and thrilling new additions to the noble ranks of the pansexual pin-up. The band’s single nancy Boy, a vorocious rampage throught the night, is at number four today and it’s time for fame, time for vindication, and time to start messing with as many peoples heads and hearts as possible. "Fuck, are you ready yet? Shall I go and make a cup of tea or something? Hey, you like it when i’m abusive, don’t you? Don’t you?
The photographer smiles- magnanimously, considering - steps down and calls it a day.Brian a glam tyrant in a shiny black suit, stalks forward opens a perfectly lipsticked mouth and sighs.
"Oh can I be nice again now? I’m tired of being naaasty."
As brian knows all too well, things are not always what they seem. As befits an ex-drama student, he’s perfectly happy hamming up some arrogant attitude on command, but in person he’s as sweet as pie and sharp as nails, nice and in the best way naaasty. The scenes before the pictures are equally hilarious - there’s clothes strewn everyway, the air thick with foundation and Brian’s fretting about his hair. "Well, whta do you want to do with it, brian?" asks a patiently obliging entourage. He shakes the black bob melodramatically and tuts wryly - "I suppose washing it might have helped." This is, after all the man who describes his beauty routine this prosaically:
"I wake up with yesterday’s make-up on. Take a bath, scrape my face until it bleeds, then just cover everything with make-up. If I can be bothered I’ll do my nails. These days, with the excesses of the rock’n’roll lifestyle, it neccitates even more foundation."
No he’s not Queen Bitch, but he might be, and he’s not so vain, but he might be, and he’s not a girl, but huh, he might be, and he’s not gay - is he? But you know... As he says about the band - "the fragility of our states of mind is evident in the music and who we are as people."
From the singers film-star beuaty - three way crush between Marilyn, Courtney, and Louise Brooks - to the twisted, addictive art-punk of their music, Placebo are at odds with a pop world currently dominated by anoraks and beer. The opprotunity for subversion is ripe. Never mind the fact the lyrics to nancy Boy actually got on to the notoriously draconian Top of the Pops untouched - Brian is particularly proud of singing ‘what a beautiful ass’ on air - Placebo have a singer who is about to set all parents and The Daily Mail a-quiver with prurient outrage. Raised in Luxombourg, with a banker father and born-again Christian mother, this is a propect he seems to relish.
"I’d like to be more of a bad influence than a role model. I’m getting lots of boys to wear eye liner again which is good. But i’m not ment to talk about my experiences with drugs or things that are essentially dangerous? Brian Harvey is a star - he’s gone so far up in my estimation. I don’t think he did it on purpose to be a star - he was just a bit stupied, but a star by default.
"I think that if if there are a lot of boys out there who have me on their wall insteadof Eric Cantona or Liam Gallagher, then we,re really getting somewhere. Maybe they won’t all grow up to be shitheads. I’d like to take a big fucking drill to liams head. The thing that irritates me about Oasis is theres no insecuritiy involved, it’s just ‘we are the greatest’, constantly. To me that’s the sign of an even greater insecurity."
Who were your first posters, your first star crushes,then?
"The first one would be the girl out of Buck Rogers, then Presilla Presley in Dallas. I was really into Kim Deal - she was a tomboy. I remember seeing the Pixies and she had such a high squeaky voice and this appealing tomboyish quality."
It’s no coincidence they’re all female...
"I’m tired of being around men all the time. I’m going to start a band called Skirt with three girls and I’ll play the guitar and sing backing vocals in drag. I went window shopping when I was in new York, saw a lot of amazing dresses."
It’s much easier for men to be sartorially outrageous than woman,isn’t it? All they need is an eye-lashing of mascara and everyone’s agog.
2There’s a really strong thing inside me that really, really wishes I was a girl. I really do. I think that if I had the personality I had now and was a girl I would be even more powerful. I could have been the ultimate rock chick."
Still could, Brian.
While he’s a blessedly frank and articulate interviewee, he’s still smarting at one of thje music weeklies tagging him "a young hetrosexual" and the other printing a scurrilous story about him - which it would not be polite to repeat here, but you can guess- in the gossip column. "Of course it’s not true!" he snorts. "Maybe my reputation just precedes me. You know, Brian - Superslag."
So where exactly do you stand on all that then, you "young hetrosexual", you?
"Right...OK...OK, lets put it this way - I like girls who look like boys and boys who look like girls. When I see photos of kate Moss, I kind of... crumble, and when I see photos of Richey Manic it has the same effect on me. I was disappointented to be called that, but that’s because the journalist in question knows I recently split up with my girlfriend and is just assuming."
Just assuming? How about the accusation that affecting bisexuality is merely a sly ploy for, well pulling birds?
He throws his hands up in horrified mock surrender. "Well, you just see right through me." The sarcasm abates. "Are you wondering if it works? Well , it does, but I wouldn’t be placing myself in this position if it wasn’t true. It’s a serious thing to say about yourself if it’s not. That’s a little of what nancy Boy is about - how people superficailly imagine it to be fashionable without feeling any real desire within."
How old were you when you realised you were attracted to boys and girls?
"Attracted or attractive?"
Cor. There aren’t many people who could get away with that question, who would even assume that there was a possiblity you could mean the latter. The subtext is that people ask him all the time what it’s like to be universally desirable. Which of course, they probably do. Fair enough...
"Attracted - around the age of sixteen. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. Attractive - when the band started happening really, seeing the looks on peoples faces."
Strange how it suddenly becomes even harder to make eye contact.
"A kid who was interviewing me for some fanzine admitted to me that when he first saw me he thought I was a girl and he really fancied me, but he didn’t anymore because he knoew I was a bloke. I told him that was bullshit and he was suppressing his desires. I told him to his face, ‘Actually you do fancy me and you do want to sleep with me.’ That’s something I quite like to blow apart because all that represents repression."
So, to end - if you had a fairy godmother what would you wish for?
"To turn me into a girl. If I was a girl I’d still swing both ways anyway."
From the "Jee-zus!" reaction of the bunch of blokes you sailed past on the way here, wrapped in a velvet coat and nuclear charisma, you must get a lot of hassle for looking the way you look already.
"I’ll give you an example. Last time I went for a drink in Camden, I went to use the gents’ and there were these two guys in the corner who started whistling at me and shouting ‘it’s the other one love’ I said, ‘I think you guys need glasses’, went in took a pisws, and when I came out they were pissed off, they were really pissed off. Saying ‘Come over here, cunt, I want a word with you.’ I believe in saying things when I mean them so I said ‘ I’ m not your fucking pet so don’t whistle at me.’ I had to get my bag an leave because they were getting aggresive. It was because they made a mistake, they thought I was a girl and I told them to fuck off. That’s fairly representative of the reaction you get out of blokes in that situation." he suddenly gives a wicked smile.
"They probably thoought I was cute, too."