"A Placebo that cures"

Interview, Oct'96

by Ray Rogers

A woman fervently digs her own grave, slits her throat, punches her arm with hypodermic needles, claws, scratches, beats herself, and lets out hollow screams. This was the "silent movie", as rendered by a sign-language interpreter, accompanying a recent live show of Placebo, a loud guitar-driven London three-piece that is currently adrenalizing the British music scene. The interpreter's performance perfectly complemented the dark, imaginative songs off the group self-titled debut now out on Caroline records, and singer Brian Molko was himself a thing to be behold: with long hair dripping over his Maybelline eyes, chipped nail polish, and a high, tortured voice that he likens to that of Throwing Muse Kristen Hersh, he was indistinguishable from a she. When David Bowie, who was headlining this particular gig, took the stage later in the evening and sang "Do you like boys or girls? It's confusing these days, " he could almost have been describing his opening act.

With his slight frame and doe eyes, Molko grew up feeling alienated, an American expat in Luxemburg, a femme boy in butch world. When he left college, he says, "I was being mistaken for a girl all the time, " and he decided to toy with those perceptions within the context of the band. "If some guy comes to one of our gigs, and spends the first half thinking that I'm a girl - and a cute one at that, one that he may fancy - then halfway through the gig he may realize that I'm a guy and he has to turn in on himself. I'm not trying to give any definitive answers to what it is to be a man or a woman, I'm just trying to provoke questions."