May 3rd 1997
Britain's most famous nancy boy has told us all about the number of drugs he's taken and how many people he's shagged - but now, PLACEBO's Brian Molko is shutting his gob. So Jason Arnopp will have to settle for his thoughts on big tits and "getting beaten up by c**ts"...
"I don't wanna be the f**king drug-crazed sex dwarf any more." Brian Molko lights another cigarette and laughs. Being the most charismatic and interesting frontman to emerge in years does have its downsides. Thousands have already learnt that heroin is just about the only drug Placebo's leader hasn't tried. There has been no shortage of sexual frankness.
"People reading about my numerous head-f**ks doesn't really bother me," he considers in an accent which is New York-lite, with the odd "wnaker" and "innit" thrown in. "My problem is, for somebody so small my mouth is way too big. I've always said too much and it's often got me into trouble."
As much as we'd still like stories of Mr Molko injecting crack into his eyeballs before leaping into a mud-bath with a dozen nurses and car mechanics, Brian wants to tone it down. Just a touch.
"I decided a while ago not to hide behind a rock star persona," he says, between swigs of Bud Ice. "But drugs came to be what everyone was asking about. I said things other musicians would be afraid to say (to the press), but would say to their mates.
"When I spoke about experiences, they were often written as as though they'd happened last year, but most of them were things I got out of my system at college. It got a bit out of hand. So I don't really talk about drugs any more."
He does in songs. Take a line (no pun intended) from 'Then The Clouds Will Open For Me', an acoustic track on the B-side of Placebo's forthcoming single, 'Bruise Pristine'. 'Narcotic ? Yes, please, I'll have a sample!', sings Brian.
"Sex and drugs is kind of what this music business revolves around," he says. "It does take you to a crazy edge. The fun part is to walk the fine line between sanity and believing your own myth.
"On the last tour, maybe it started to get a bit too much 'Brian Molko And His Hedonist Sideshow'. So we've calmed down. A bit."
Brian often speaks about messing with people's heads by making them think he's a woman. But really, is androgyny a big deal these days ?
"Not for people like you and me, but you'd really be surprised by the amount of conservatismthat still exists. When you're in a pub and a drunk's screaming, 'There's that f**king nancy boy over there!', you soon realise.
"People think, 'Oh my God, I've been trying to chat up this bloke! F**cking poof, let's have him!'. They direct their aggression towards you, which is strange. I've been threatened, and I was hit recently. When people start being c**ts to me, I can't help but use my intelligence against them. When they can't insult you any more, there's only one thing left."
Has your diminutive size led you to compensate with your brain ?
"Totally. It's like that, isn't it ? The small guys are the most aggressive and mouthy ones. I don't think I'm that small, but for some reason it's always been in my head that I'm short. But f**ck it. Jesus was short. Hitler was short. Look at Napoleon for f**ck's sake!""
Ever gone out clubbing in a skirt ?
"Sure. Only my voice give me away."
Brian is amused when I tell him about a recent edition of an American talk show where someone's girlfriend of two years confessed to actually being a man. The boyfriend had a secret gay lover, but was still furious.
"Excellent!" he laugs. "I mean, you can't expect him to go, 'Oh great, let's have a threesome!'. Thankfully, my love life is not as complicated at all. It's practically non-existent! The job doesn't really allow it. I've got five days off in May... Maybe I could see a couple of friends."
Any good at relationships ?
"Shite," he answers instantly. "Really bad. I think too much, and it all crumbles into this big mess in my head. I think too much about the consequences and the future, analysing every gesture, action and motivation."
Do you generally stop relationships ?
"It usually ends in a great deal of drama, rather appropriately (Brian studied drama in Luxembourg). The other person walks away."
Despite your reputation as a slut-beast, do you believe in monogamy ?
"I don't know if it's possible," he frowns. "It's a concept that I've really struggled with in the past. I think it's possible, if you're lucky enought to be completely blown over by somebody and want to immerse yourself in them. That's happened to me; quite a few years ago, but I would like it to happen again."
Your lifestyle can hardly help matters.
"True. The nature of youre livelihood makes it very difficult to keep relationships going. Regardless of whether you're shagging like a rabbit - just because you're never there.
"When you're in a band, everything's on offer and free. That creates complications. In the back of your mind there's always this thing going. 'When you're 40 years old and it's all over, you don't wanna look back and kick yourself up the ass because you didn't do all those rock 'n 'roll things you dreamt about when you were 14'."
How many journalists have asked you if you're bisexual ?
"I've lost count," he casually smiles. "And they've never got a straight answer. It's nobody's business. Most people don't meet someone and say, 'Hi. Are you straight, gay, bi or what ?'. That's not socially acceptable - it's an intrusion."
But surely, when you become an icon in a band, normal social rules don't apply ?
"Yeah. I was talking about it yesterday with a friend who's quite like me. It's strange. Bisexual people get a hard time, because gay people think they're pretending and straight people think they're putting it on to pull the girls. But a lot of what Placebo thrive on is mystery and ambiguity."
Might the gay community be insulted, if you're just dabbling with that image ?
"If the gay community has a problem with me because I don't wear a white vest, shave my head, have a moustache, and go cruising down (London's) Old Compton Street, then they can f**k off! I'm not at ease with the idea of camp, anyway.
"When I was at college, we used to go to mixed clubs and hang out with lots of drag queens. I liked the coming together of all kinds of oppurtunity.
"I don't believe in tagging people. I'd love to come out with a statement, but it depends what context and mood you get me in as to what I'll say. I'm not drunk enough for you to get any big admissions out of me right now."
So you're happy that people will assume your sexuality to resemble a pendulum ?
"I live life in a way that makes me feel good," he shrugs. "I really don't have a problem with what people assume or think. Look at yourself first, before you start f**king dissecting me."
Cut to a small room in a photo studio. Lisa the make-up girl is powdering Brian's face, before applying eye shadow. In an hour he'll look so lovely, you won't know whether to shake his hand goodbye or peck him on the cheek.
"Do you always let make-up girls do what they like?" Lisa asks.
"Only the ones with big tits," grins Brian. Lisa laughs, because she qualifies. She later tells Brian to f**k off when he says he'd like his beauty spot "just where your zit is".
Lisa and Brian are quite a double act. Although when asked if he had a drink with 'Trainspotting' star Ewan McGregor on the set of his new movie 'Velvet Goldmine' (in which Placebo have speaking roles)), Brian responds with a deadpan no. Shame.
As you might imagine, Brian receives varied fanmail.
"I get sent roses, Prozac, guitar plectrums and Kit Kats. I get silly letters that go (adopts little-girl voice), 'Oh Brian, I love you...'.
"Married women write to me sometimes, saying I've made them feel like a teenager again. Then there's ones from depressed teenagers saying, 'I feel there's a friend out there who I haven't even met'. I like those the best, because you feel like you really are communicating and helping somebody."
Naturally, there's a darker side.
"The more extreme letters say, 'When I listen to your records I don't have to cut myself too much'. I think a lot of the people who were fascinated by Richey Manic are becoming fascinated with Placebo."
You're inheriting that cult ?
"I don't know. I'm certainly a big Manics fan. I love the way they came on the scene with their manifesto and thier complete political incorrectness. But first and foremost their intelligence and dedication to meaning something. Not being mindless. Reading a f**king book, you know ?"
Would Brian's old schoolmates ever have envisaged him becoming a rock star ?
"I really don't think so," he smiles, lighting a spliff. "It sounds like a clichО, but I was the unpopular kid. The small social outcast. That's what originally got me into drama. I didn't want to do sports and I didn't have a girlfriend.
"No, people at school wouldn't have expected this," he decides. "Fuck 'em."
Do you hold grudges ?
"A few. They get smaller and smaller with time, but there are a few people on this earth I couldn't have a conversation with any more. People who hurt me and stuck the knife in a bit too deep. But I do believe in karma. If you're a c**t, people are gonna just be a c**t to you back.
"Peace, love," he laughs. "Don't talk to me about karma when I've got a joint."
Karma paid Brian Molko back in spades when Placebo's 'Nancy Boy' single reached Number Four in the UK charts. And the entrance of Manchester-born drummer Steve Hewitt (replacing Robert Schultzberg) has fired the band up no end.
"The atmosphere around Placebo Mark One was very tortured, tension-filled and quite down," reveals Brian. "Thre was a lot of aggression floating around. But now, it's like being in a gang that protects itself."
You can see this during the photo shoot, when Brian, Steve and bassist Stefan Olsdal piss themselves in between snaps.
"The first album ('Placebo') was born, for me, out of living in a ghetto, being on the dole and being very depressed," says Brian. "Once we started recording, we were already at each other's throats. But now the possibilities are endless. I want it to be more colourful and complex. Larger and lumpier. More meat."
Heavier, you mean ?
"In places fiercer and chunkier, definitely. But in other places very gentle and tender."
People will expect more neat soundbites, like 'Eyeholes in a paper bag/Greatest lay I ever had'.
"Yeah, well, they get them, you never know. On the next album one of them may be, 'Things aren't what they seem/He's a Burger Queen'! There's a new one for you."
If Placebo can "do a U2", Brian Molko will be delighted. But there will be obstacles.
"In 10 years from now, if Placebo are still going, I'll be very happy," he says. "And if we've kick-started all our crazy little side-projects, then out musical palette will be really fruitful.
"But I'm very aware the business can turn you into a c**t, and doing too many drugs is one way. It doesn't take long either. I've got to keep thinking about living in Deptford and writing the first album. Getting up every Saturday and trying to get to the Post Office to cash my giro before one o'clock."
When Brian Molko is a millionaire, what will he write about ?
"I don't know," he smiles. "How I have too much money, and how I have nothing. The penthouse apartment I bought about Manhattan, like Lou Reed. Writing crap music..."