"Outside The Line"

Hit Music, Apr'99

Hit Music (Herald Sun paper pull out section)

April 29, 1999

If there's one thing Brit. band Placebo is straight about, it's honesty.

Brian Molko, front man of British trio Placebo, passionately loves the fact that a lot of people passionately hate his band. "Indifference is the killer," says Molko. "If you inspire extreme emotions in people then that's really positive. If people despise you, you've found a raw nerve and your rubbing salt in the wounds.

And the people who understand it, become devoted and faithful."

In the past three years, Placebo have cultivated a following of "outsiders" similar to the tribes who follow the Cure. While Placebo's music has more grunt and gives a nod to glam and glamour (indeed, they starred in Velvet Goldmine), Brian Molko, like Robert Smith, has become an unlikely role model. His striking, androgynous look - "I can't help it, it's naturally part of who I am" - has been adopted by male and female Placebo fans alike.

"During the concerts the band looks at the clones in the front row and say, 'What the hell have you done, Brian?'" says Molko.

Even Madonna now sports his distinctive black bob with an axe-part in the middle and heavy makeup. "Imitation is the highest form of flattery," says Molko, "but clones kind of get it wrong because we are promoting individuality and being proud of being yourself. But at the same time its flattering because it's a form of affection. It can be strange. In London my friends get confused sometimes in bars - they think they're talking to me and it's a lookalike. But", the singer proudly adds, " The Molko Bob has died. You've got to stay one haircut ahead of your clones. Madonna can have it now. It was becoming too much an identifiable trademark. I'm on more of a Liza Minelli/ Cabaret trip right now. Every time I cut my hair I give the hairdressing business in London a big boost"

Big ego? Well the 25 year old Molko has become the biggest and brashest pop star in Britain since Morrissey.

He talks in ready-made quotes like Noel Gallagher of Oasis, but is also obsessed with style and making sure everything is right bout Placebo, from the CD artwork up. "People are ready for a reaction against the anti-star and anti-glamour thing of grunge." says Molko. "A lot of English bands like Verve and Oasis wear parkas and ripped jeans like they've fallen out of the pub and on to the stage. We believe in making an effort, that when you go to see a band it should be larger then life. You should be able to be transported to an alternative reality.

Placebo's self titled debut album gave the world Nancy Boy, a high octave guitar blast which found favor on Triple J a few years back. Their new release Without You I'm Nothing, houses the new single Every You Every Me and buzz-saw classic Pure Morning, infamous for the lyrics, 'A friend in needs a friend in deed, a friend with weed is better, a friend with breasts and all the rest."

"We felt quite subversive singing 'a friend with weed is better', on Top of the Pops," admits Molko. "We get away with it because of the catchiness of the songs. Our catchiest songs tend to be our most fucked up."

Molko puts the band's distinctive sound down to their love of everything from Sonic Youth to ABBA.

"We're great fans of experimental noise but we also have a fascination with perfect pop records. We kind of meet in the middle."

And while the band have the music to back up their headline-grabbing antics, they're not afraid to talk openly of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyles they have. Molko's well-documented taste for drugs and sex, and the infamous quote, " We left a trail of blood and spunk across England", referring to their first tour, still haunt him. "We were incredibly wild and crazy, we did everything," recalls Molko. "But it was nothing more then any young man in his 20s with money, attention and success would do. The only thing is that we would do it in public and we promised ourselves we'd never lie about it. The rumors (about us) are all true and all lies. It doesn't bother me. It kind of contributes to the creation of the rock 'n' roll myth. Rock 'n' roll should be bad behaved, it should be dirt, it should be transgressive and amoral. It was our first album, our first band, we got a lot of success. We spent a lot of the time diving into the deep end of every rock 'n' roll clichÎ, exploring them. It was a baptism of fire and we weren't going to rest until everything possible was transgressed. It's good to get that out of you system so you can grow up. We never wanted to become rock 'n' roll casualties. We've been to the brink a few times and managed to pull ourselves back.

Our thoughts now are on higher things. We want to be around for a long time, to the pleasure or displeasure of people."

Also important to the singer is sexual honesty. Molko is bisexual, Swedish bassist Stefan Olsdal is gay and drummer Steve Hewitt is straight. "There is three of us in Placebo. Exactly 50 per cent of the band is heterosexual," Molko states. "If the only representation of alternative sexuality in music and the media are people like Boy George, then there's still a lot of work to be done. Boy George ran into our dressing rooms at the Brit awards and shouted, 'Is anybody gay here?' That's the kind of behaviour that gets a reward with a slap from people no matter which way they swing. I think he's suffering from being a bit chubby and a bit of a has-been these days. There needs to be a new face of alternative sexuality. Hopefully it's an inspiration to people and other musicians who maybe aren't past of that camp, leather trousers, white vest, moustachio scene to come out and be proud of their sexuality," Molko adds. "And hopefully to people in general, teenagers, so they can be less confused and fell less alienated. We get a lot of letters from people like that. Which means we're doing good. I think the majority of people who detest us harbor a great deal of latent homophobia within them. If we're raising the middle finger to that, in a very flamboyant fashion, then that's also incredibly positive. We love winding up people. You know you're successful and famous when you get a stalker or you get death threats. We've had both, so we're doing something right."

Its no surprise that Molko counts fellow attention magnet Marilyn Manson as one of his closest friends in the business. " I have a lot of respect for him, he's an important artist and the kind of artist the world needs," Molko says. "He's taking on a moral majority of America with a big clenched fist. And you know where the fist is going."

The pair laugh about there media-created tags. "We are real human beings," says Molko. 'I am not the drug-crazed sex dwarf and he is not Satan's spawn; we're just very, very good at our jobs. We can recognize that in each other." And, like Manson, Molko also has accumulated a lot of enemies. "For somebody of my diminutive stature I have a mouth which is far to big, especially after a few drinks. I've made a lot of enemies. But if I didn't say what I thought, I would kick myself. Its important to speak your mind."

(Extra bit)

Brian Molko Speaks His Mind.

David Bowie: Placebo performed T-Rex's 20th Century Boy with David Bowie at the Brit Awards in February. "You'll be in the middle of a lead break and you look over and think 'Fuck me, I'm singing with David Bowie'. It's a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming moment. But he's a good friend."

ABBA: "We met Bjorn from ABBA backstage at the Brit. Awards. Our bassist Stefan is Swedish. When he met Bjorn it was like he died and went to heaven. He claims to have Agnetha running through his veins.

We're excited about coming to Australia because that's where ABBA: The Movie was filmed."

The Marilyn Manson rumor: The tall Manson has claimed the diminutive Molko performed a sex act on him. "Well, I do come up to his waist," says Molko, "But I have never given him (oral sex). The thing with Marilyn is that if he insults you in public that way it's an expression of approval and affection. He's got this reverse humor thing which I find hilarious."

Velvet Goldmine: Placebo play a '70's band in the much-maligned glam movie. "It had its problems, including budget, but I think it's a beautiful film. It's a fantasy. People shouldn't expect it to be a docu-drama on glam rock because it's a love story. But it's the bane of out experience, we have to defend it in every interview. If I hear the 'Are you a glam band?' question one more time I'm going to explode."

Cruel Intentions: Placebo's Every You Every Me plays over the opening credits of this sick teen flick. "I studied drama, I know the original (Dangerous Liaisons) and we watched it on the tour bus when they wanted to use out song. I said: 'If he doesn't die in the end, if it's a happy ending, we don't do it.' It's quite perverted and manipulative, so the theme of the song fits in quite well.