"Never take guitar lessons"

Alternative Press, Aug'99

An Interview with Placebo's Brian Molko

What was your first guitar setup?

The first guitar I ever owned was an ESP Telecaster. When we started the band I had a Japanese reissue Fender jaguar, and I was just playing through a crappy little Fender practice amp. Then I moved on to some Marshall combos.

What's your current guitar setup?

I've got three Fender Jaguars, one Fender Jazz master and two Gibson SG's, and they're all older than me. That's very important. The Jags are all women, and they all have names: "Bitch," "Goddess" and "Tattoo". For amps I use a Marshall stack and a Fender Twin to get a fuller, richer sound. My effects setup is simple: Boss delay and Roger Mayer Voodoo Distortion; and I use the built-in overdrive on the Marshall. Occasionally our sound guy will put a Leslie [rotary speaker] effect or a big My Bloody Valentine kind of reverb effect on my guitar.

What's your signature sound?

Strumming behind the tailpiece and playing distorted harmonics has become such a part of our sound that I'm destined to use Jaguars forever for certain songs.

How do you achieve that sound?

That was inspired by Sonic Youth--they were my favorite band for a long time. That's the reason I went out and bought Jaguars. Listening to the old Sonic Youth albums, particularly Confusion Is Sex and EVOL, I started to notice this sound that's like electronic gamelan. And that's what playing below the bridge allows you to get--this really dissonant, exotic, Oriental sort of vibe. With the added use of the whammy bar, you can get some really interesting shit.

What advice would you give a beginning guitarist?

Never take guitar lessons. What you do is develop your own style through mistakes. If you don't know what the rules are, then there are no rules in the first place. You'll find you're doing some crazy chord which, if you were taking a course, you wouldn't attempt until three years into it. I really believe that if you want to develop your own personal style, you should just make it up as you go along.