"All the world's a stage"

The List, Dec'96

Fionna Shepherd swaps make-up tips with Brian Molko, lead singer of Placebo. Without the least trace of irony.

13 Dec 1996

"I think there's a lot of macho posturing and hiding behind irony in music today.

I think that perhaps people are starved for a certain honesty and vulnerability and a fragility; music that carries this emotional weight that's also quite personal and naked and I think our music is very human because it's so turned in on itself that it could be nothing else but very emotional."

Phew! The young man delivering this eloquent analysis of his artless art is Brian Molko who, for all his protestations of genuineness and naked truth, still opted to call his band Placebo, after the false "cure" handed out to ailing individuals to fuel their belief that they are getting better. Add to this Molko's history as a drama student in London and it does actually seem ironic that he abandoned a life of role-playing to stand on the stage and be himself.

"I decided it would be more fun to play my own part on stage," he says, before elaborating romantically, "Rock'n'Roll is a circus where all the freaks go and it gives you the freedom to be everything that you always wanted to be. The normal rules don't really apply and it gives you the freedom to take aspects of your personality which you particulary like or think are more interesting and bring them to the forefront."

Given Molko's very distinctive appearance, voice and presence, it can only be assumed that the aspects of his personality he seeks to magnify are the ones which tally most closely with Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, Family's Roger Chapman and Geddy Lee from Canadian progrockers Rush. His idiosyncratic combination of high, quavering vocals, sleek raven bob, eyeliner and black nail varnish have proved as provocative as he no doubt envisaged.

"Yeah, but the people who at the beginning of the gig are screaming "homo!" by the end of the gig are the people who are screaming for more,"

Placebo have just returned from aWeezer support tour of the US east coast and Canada where such reactions were regular occurrences. In Britain, with a well-received and fluent debut album already well under their belts, the trio are on a firmer footing.

"There's some sort of crossover quality to our music, " says Molko. "What we have is a lot of experimental dissonance and punk adrenalin and it can be quite discordant at times, but what the album is is all this noise crushed into pop structure which is probably what ends up winning people over."

Not a bad report card for a band who came into being two years ago after Molko bumped into a former acquaintance from his days at an American school in Luxembourg (Molko has American parents and an American accent but has never lived in US).

"There was a certain very tall Swedish person called Stephan at school. He was the youngest to play varsity basketball, so he was in the jock group and I was into drama club and making smuggling trips to Holland so I was more in the loser group, so we never mixed."

A chance early morning encounter in a London tube station years later revealed that the two had far more in common than in their schooldays and with drummer Robert (also Swedish) Placebo were to be formed.

"As all of us grew up in countries which weren't of our own origin and all of us moved around as kids, so we all share a certain rootlessness which means you get exposed to many cultures, but it also means that you don't deal with stupid concepts like patriotism and your national musical lineage, and all that stuff which bores the pants out of me."

With Placebo, it's more a case of charming pants off. Try them - you'll feel much better.