"Glam-Grunge With Blue Mascara"

Circus, May'99

"I don't regret it, that I indulged -- or that we all indulged - in that kind of life-style, we learned from it and we got a lot of inspiration for the new album."

Placebo are Brian Molko, vocals and guitar, the androgynous frontman and glomour boy, the gigantic Swede, Stefan Olsdal bass and keyboards, who seems aloof, slightly distant and dislikes interviews immensely, and drummer Steve Hewitt, who is originally from Manchester, England a town famed mainly for being the hometown of notorious football hooligans and bands like Oasis, the Happy Mondays, and Joy Division.

Androgynous Brian, aloof Stefan and Steve the hunk, have a unique look, due in part to Brian wearing dresses on stage. But it wasn't the way they looked that let them storm the charts all over Europe with their self-titled debut release. Now their second release Without You I'm Nothing, featuring the hit single "Pure Morning" has made them a world-wide success practically overnight. If the crazed fans outside the Virgin Megastore in New York are any indication.

Placebo created a media buzz even before their album or a single was released. Somehow David Bowie got a hold of one of their demos, liked what he heard and invited the band to open for him on his 50th birthday party at Madison Square Garden and for three other gigs in North America. Then they recorded their debut, self-titled album, featuring the single "Nancy Boy", went on tour with Bush, and opened for U2 on the Popmart tour in Spain.

"We had a lot of fun", remembers Brian, "And opening for Bowie was great. We liked his stuff and we like him, but yeah, it was cool that he liked us so much. We were a bit flabbergasted, to be honest, it came as a surprise and we still don't know how he got the demos. We sent them around to record companies, shopped around, but when Bowie declared himself a fan, they started jumping on us."

Rumor has it, that while on tour with U2, they shared many a hangover with the rock legends. The guys from Placebo confirm it, with screwed faces, "Uhhh, the hangovers were lethal, but yeah, we had fun, it really was a lot of fun!"


It's definitly not an everyday occurrence, that both David Bowie and Lou Reed declare themselves fans of a band previously unheard of, and request to have their picture taken with Brian. His androgynous looks and get up have earned Brian Molko quite a reputation for being notorious. At Bowie's 50's anniversary bash Brian was the star of the scene, even outshining Bush's Gavin Rossdale.

"We were really surprised, you know, we love Bowie, he is a great musician, really amazing, and if one of you idols comes up to you and tells you that he absolutely loves your band, your music, that's really really overwhelming. We were proud that we managed to impress him with our demo, and I think we have a right to be proud of it. At the same time it didn't really change anything, you know. Well, it changed things in terms of success and making it easier for us, but it didn't change us as a band"

Brian, Stefan and Steve have started their own label, Elevator Music Ltd., to keep an eye on the business side of things. "It's weird, all the stories you hear about the music business, the life of a rock star, they're true. I always thought they're wild exaggerations, but they're true. Every stupid little detail you hear about it is true." says Brian, his big blue eyes are wide with think layers of mascara on his long lashes and a generous amount of eye liner. He daintily wipes the smudges off the corners of his eyes, with nails painted in the same shade of blue as his eye shadow. As he goes on to say, "For a while I was like WOW, this is unbelievable!" and dived right into it, everything. I'm not going into details, but yeah, it was pretty wild. I won't say that I didn't like it, it was fascinating. Part of me was disgusted and the other part of me was fascinated, it was like I was watching myself doing all that crazy stuff."

"It left me feeling so burned out. I had the wild, crazy life I always wanted and I found out that it didn't quench my thirst for creativity. It drained me and didn't give me anything back, I grew frustated and disgusted with myself, I knew that I had to get out of it. It's a lifestyle that drags you down and keeps you down."

"I was really disillusioned, especially when I realized that my desires, my wishes, everything, were not fulfilled. Quite the opposite is true, it stops you from being creative. We're not a band who's in the biz to make a lot of money, we're a band because writing songs and playing music is a need we feel. Without music, yeah, I think I'd just be really really fucked up. It's a basic need we feel, something we have to do, music is damned important for us."

"I don't regret it, that I indulged -- or that we all indulged - in that kind of life-style, we learned from it and we got a lot of inspiration for the new album. You know the first album dealt with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Crazy sex, wild sex, sex on drugs, all that. On Without You I'm Nothing we're dealing with the after effects of that. It's funny, I tried to stay away from the subject of relationships, but it didn't really work out. I had a lot of really fucked up relationships and I needed to get it out of my system, so I wrote about it. It's notpurely autobiographical, sometimes it hepls to invent a character and let that character do what you wouldn't do. Like an actor who lives out things not as himself but in a role, a character he adopted!"

Acting is certainly something Brian knows about. He graduated from Goldsmith College, one of the most renowned drama schools in England, and has a small part in the movie "Velvet Goldmine" after a personal request by executive producer Michael Stipe of REM. Somehow it seems really fitting, that his part in the movie is that of the singer of the "Flaming Creatures", a glam band who covers the T-Rex song "20th Century Boy", even if Brian confesses, that he was never really a T-Rex fan, but adores Bowie in th role of "Aladdin Sane".

"It's amazing how many people are fascinated by the whole glam era, they really do glamorize it, maybe because it's in the past. I really believe that they're seeing it though rose coloured glasses, see it as a free and crazy time, but if they would have lived during that era, they would have had the same social pressures. Maybe it's because it was the time before AIDS was around and people could act out all their sexual desires, could experiment with their sexuality. Back then there weren't real threats around, it wasn't dangerous to screw around like crazy. Basically there was nothing around that couldn't be cured, if you has the wrong lover you got a prescription, swallowed a couple of pills or got you penicillin shots, and that was it. Now one wrong lover can mean a certain and cruel death!"

It is hard to believe that Placebo are tame now, well, compared to their earlier sex, drugs and rock and roll phase. But a good deal of the so called scandals are due to the exaggeration of the media.

"We're a rock band, what do you expect? I can't stand that new trend, the new political correctnes. The healthy, holy MTV world where everything is fun and nobody takes drugs. Yeah right! It's the new trend that they treat drugs like a disease that is spread by musicians and everybody is busy pretending that they're clean, especially if they just did a stint of rehab. Pretending to be good guys and publicly confessing that they were oh so wrong, they're hypocrites!"

"In London they pop more than 150 000 pills of ecstasy every weekend and you can't tell me that all the pills are taken by musicians. I'm sitting here and drinking tea, should I make a big show out of it and claim my new choice of drug are milk and cookies? That's like Keith Richards saying booze is bad, and he has never touched drugs, just as believable!"

Shortly before their new album was released a lot of rumors concerning Placebo made the rounds, that Brian Molko was burned out, that he took an overdose, that he has a drug problem.

"The press made too much out of it! You know, all the crap about that I'm in rehab, hooked on drugs, that's bullshit. I experimented and I never made a secret out of it, but I also never propagated the use of drugs. What I do is what I do. I don't go on stage and say 'Take drugs', or 'Stop drugs', it's a decision everybody has to make for him or herself. I don't think I'm a bad example, I don't think musicians should be role models, the lifestyle is so different and especially in the music biz, drugs have always played a huge role. Look at Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Velvet Underground during their hayday, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, especially the Stones. My mistake was, that I was always honest about it. Even the old Blues and Jazz people were taking drugs, Billie Holiday for example. I decided that I simply don't want to talk about it anymore, because too often when I said something it was taken out of context and blown out of proportion. I don't want to lie about it, so I decid

Their start in thye music business was a pretty quick one, and that's something that a lot of bands can't cope with, but instead of starting to bicker and squabble, they grew even closer.

"People focused to much on me, they treated me like I was psycho, they forgot that I have feelings too. OK, it might have hepled us in a certain way, but I'm not sure if that was really good." Says Brian.

"We realized that we have to get closer together, as a band, as a unit. We're happy as a band. People see us as a bunch of miserable people, always depressed, really messed up, but that's not true, we're not a bunch of gloomy guys who never laugh. Well, we are gloomy, at least I can be gloomy when I'm on my own, but if we're together as a band, we're everything else than gloomy. We really do laugh a lot and have a lot of fun. It's great."