"Placebo In Conversation With Sally Stratton"

Interview, Aug'98

SS: So, you've been very busy over the last few weeks. What's it like to be back on the treadmill?

Brian: It's horrible, let me go home please (laughs). I want to sleep for a week. We haven't been sleeping at all.

Steve: It's been full on. It's been mad. I mean it's been the usual run around the world on planes and doing interviews and stuff like that but you know it's good for us.

SS: It's good to be in demand...

Steve: It's definitely good to be in demand. It seems safer this time round, people want to come to us more, we're getting that kind of feeling. It's just daunting looking at your schedules every day thinking 'I'm never going to sleep again'. It's very weird.

SS: Where is home now Brian?

Brian: West London, where we are now as we speak.

SS: Is that home for good now do you think?

Brian: I don't know. Last night I wanted to get on a plane and move to New York. London's too small, it's a bit too incestuous. I don't know, you can't seem to go out with anybody without finding out they've sort of been out with a hundred people that you've been out with. It's a bit weird really. That's the music business for you, you know, it's all a bit tight.

SS: Maybe the secret is to not go out with anybody in the music business...

Steve: West London is the Utah of Britain! (laughs)

SS: Stefan, where are you based?

Stefan: West London as well, but you know for the next couple of years ahead I don't think we're going to be seeing much of it actually. We're just going to be touring now until the end of the millennium, I think so we'll see you in......

Steve: See you later! (laughter)

SS: As the native Englishman in the group Steve, can you be different and not live in west London?

Steve: Yes, I live in north London (laughter) 'cos I've got to keep north because I used to be north but now I'm south but in a north way! So I'm north London and I think west London's too poncy anyway.

SS: Where up north are you from originally?

Steve: Manchester.

SS: And how did you meet up with these guys?

Steve: I used to have a girlfriend who went to Goldsmiths College about eight and a half years ago and I used to come down from Manchester to London to see her and she knew Brian and that's how I met Brian. I met him in Burger King in Lewisham and they were knocking around together so she introduced me to him and we've been mates ever since.

SS: When did you start making music together?

Steve: I used to be in bands. He used to come down and see me play, we used to knock around in stairways and weird rooms playing bongos and guitars, just really jamming along really. Turning each other on to different records, bands, stuff like that but never actually thought about getting a band together.

SS: Stefan, you've known Brian for even longer haven't you?

Stefan: Yes we go back years, years and years to a tiny little place called Luxembourg where we attended an American international school. We were forcibly dragged there by our parents who were in banking in the eighties and we were in the same school but we never really hung out. Two completely different social circles. But about four and a half years ago we met up again in London. So yes, we have known each other for a long time, we've been in each other's presence. Me and Steve don't go back that far, it's been about two years now, although Steve played on our very first demo about five years ago, a long time ago. And basically when Steve joined the band we'd had two very brief meetings and then one and a half days of rehearsals and then we've been married ever since!

SS: Where are you from originally?

Stefan: I'm Swedish by birth

SS: So was what you1re doing now something of a rebellion against being brought up in a banking household?

Brian: I was always the black sheep of the family really, raised by a born-again Christian mother and a kind of social misfit businessman so I was always the little weird kid basically. I was always going to go against the grain really so it's not surprising that I've ended up here.

SS: What did they think of you going into this:

Brian: They hate it. They hated it you know. To them it's all sex, drugs and butt fucking so you know, that's all, they don't see beyond it, they don't see the art of it and they don't really sort of understand the basic need for creative expression like eating and breathing really which is the way that I see it. Yes, it's a generation thing definitely so I think they1re just very opposed to the concept of it really. But I've managed through sheer determination and ambition to sort of make it work. I've proved them right.

SS: Does that need to rebel somehow fuel what you're doing creatively?

Brian: I don't know if I'm rebelling against anything really, you know, just trying to find my voice and trying to find my way through life really. Trying to be happy in the best way that I see possible really. You know, it seems that rock and roll is less and less about rebelling these days you know. Maybe it shouldn't be any more.

SS: Where are you from originally?

Brian: I'm a fake American. I'm a sort of expatriate, born and brought up in Europe.

SS: Do you feel at all American?

Brian: No, not really. It just kind of... I feel very European and this band feels very European as well. You know we're not really concerned with sort of any particular country's national heritage. We're not going to put Union Jacks on our guitar like certain other people do and you know we just... we've travelled a lot and you know we feel quite cosmopolitan and very European.

We feel at home when we travel in Europe, it's good. America seems a bit of an

alien country to us.

SS: Have you done much in America so far?

Stefan: No, we ended up with the wrong record company for the first album who didn't put in the hours and we haven't really put in the touring hours over there either. I mean it's such a huge place that it's going to require a lot of touring basically. Us sort of in essence moving over there for a couple of months just to tour the vast amounts of areas.

SS: I notice you laugh a lot together...

Brian: We laugh all the time you know. I think people think that we're really quite miserable and that we're very tortured and maybe when we're on our own maybe we are a bit like that but you know together it's really a lot of fun you know. I guess that we've been laughing together for about two years now so our laughs have sort of become synchronised kind of thing. There's a lot of laughing. Going on Top of the Pops and saying 'A Friend With Weed is Better' is a laugh. You know that's quite a coup being able to subvert that set-up in that way you know. It means that we're never going to compromise ourselves lyrically you know in order to have a hit, we don't need to.

SS: So they didn't try and take out the subversive bits when it was edited for radio...

Brian: The radio edit's only about... it's about 10 seconds shorter, it just kind of cuts out a bit of the intro but that line is still there.

SS: Anybody who can get "weed" and "breasts" and "dressed in leather" into one chorus is definitely challenging the world out there...

Brian: We did it once before you know when 'Nancy Boy' went to number four we were on Top of the Pops and we did it twice and I managed to get 'What a gas, what a beautiful arse' on national TV. So it seems to be the Placebo tradition you know.

SS: Several songs on this album have got words in them that would probably make the powers that be shiver...

Brian: Such as?

SS: In 'My Sweet Prince' you've got fuck, you're singing about masturbation in another song...

Brian: Yes, I'm very proud of 'My Sweet Prince' because I managed to get... I've never used the word baby in a song before and I managed to get fuck and baby in the same verse and I'm very, very proud of that. You know, it's kind of funny you know we can sort of like follow a song called 'Pure Morning' on our album with 'Brick Shithouse' you know so it seems to me it's not a desire to shock, it's a desire to get a point across basically you know, and to not mince words really, you know.

SS: Inevitably though you are going to get censored because of that. How do you feel about being censored?

Steve: That's red tape isn't it, corporate bullshit really. I mean it's always been a fight, always will be I suppose so you just keep fighting it really so keep knocking out, keep swearing!

Brian: People have really skewed ideas when they start to censor things, like for the video of 'Nancy Boy' we have all these people in a bath of milk and at one point there's this massive splash and you see this huge kind of like come-shot sort of fly across the screen into somebody's mouth. And the Americans didn't even notice that, what they wanted, they wanted somebody's plastic bum taken out, you know what I mean, it's like they seem to miss the whole point and I think that's one of the beauties of Placebo, you know, it's that we manage to get these things across without people seeing them, without people noticing them. And sometimes the melodies are just too infectious you know, like 'Pure Morning'.

SS: What's 'Pure Morning' all about and who are the people who inspired it?

Brian: The people who inspired it are a couple of friends of mine, you know it's kind of like a celebration of a friendship with women. It's also a song about coming down, ending the day, as everybody else's day is sort of starting and feeling dislocated from the world really and kind of like yearning for a friend to put their arms around you to make the come down easier.

SS: The "Skin Crawling" lyric is very effective because it's that awful feeling that you get when you've been up all night...

Brian: Yes, my skin's crawling a bit right now actually. (laughs)

SS: Were you up all night?

Brian: Pretty late yes, we were celebrating, we were at the BBC studios and we were celebrating our chart entry, our chart rear-entry, and yes then we went off to a party with Baby Bird after that so yes, we were on quite a high last night.

SS: It sounds like you're into this rock and roll lifestyle, is that true Stefan?

Stefan: Well I think that if we look back to these past two years since the first album came out, since Steve joined, we really have... I think we really did push the boat out quite far in a lot of metaphorical senses of the word. We came in though without any schooling and no one prepares you for what lies ahead when you're in a band and when you do have a big hit like we did with 'Nancy Boy' there were a lot of opportunities and a lot of trappings that we sort of found ourselves in. And we probably didn't sort of feel that great doing it but came out the other side thinking 'we've come together a lot more as a band' and I think we need to be just a bit more wary of what's out there this time around.

SS: Did you find that going away to the rural hideaway of Real World studios to record your album was a chance to get all that in perspective and rethink how you were going to go on from here on in?

Steve: I think it needed to be done. We had to keep away from distraction. I mean we went down there to track and we were desperate to get it right and get it down as soon as possible really. We felt like, I don't know, after two months you suddenly feel... because there's no drinking, hardly any drinking going on, and no parties or any clubs - it's like three vicars, you know what I mean? Yes, in Box. (Box is the name of the place where Real World is located)

SS: Real World is Peter Gabriel's studio, did you see him at all while you were down there?

Brian: Yes, we hung out with Peter, who's very cool. We'd like have dinner and then sort of like finish off our bottle of vintage wine in front of the telly and discuss the Millennium Dome and things like that, it was very very civilised you know. And the funny thing that Peter Gabriel said to us as we were leaving on the last day, he said 'In two months you've recorded an album, in two months I've recorded one verse'. (laughs) He was cool, he had his birthday actually, he had a little birthday party when we were there which was cool.

Steve: Just to notch up against all our other celebrity birthday parties! (laughter)

SS: But you didn't have to perform at this one?

Brian: No, no, we just had a slice of cake.

SS: This mixing with stars is something you've been known for, like the much publicised performance you did for David Bowie's birthday party. How did you get invited to do that?

Stefan: Well this happened even before we actually recorded the first album. Morrissey was supporting David Bowie on his European tour for his previous album and we were asked if we... well David Bowie got hold of our demo and we got a call asking 'do you want to come and support me?' and it was like 'yes!' You know, you couldn't say no. Yes, that's when I met David.

SS: And became friendly with him on tour? Was he sociable?

Brian: Very much so, you know he's a big fan of the band and it took us... you're always a bit scared of somebody who's so legendary you know, so it took us like a few weeks or something to kind of really relax in his presence but you know once we did we found that there's a lot of knowledge and a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from him. And he's a very giving person and he's very, very fascinating to speak to. And so whenever we could, you know when he wasn't surrounded by loads of people, and usually when Iman wasn't there, we'd kind of hang and just chat for a while, you know. We got to know his band really well as well, so it was a really good atmosphere you know and they didn't have any kind of like headline band/support band sort of attitude you know, they were very, very sort of happy and willing to mix with us and obviously we felt very privileged and the friendship kind of developed out of that.

SS: People might think that you've modelled yourself to a great extend on Bowie the icon, Brian...

Brian: Yes, perhaps, you know but I think that Bowie's motivation for you know for 'Ziggy' and 'Aladdin Sane' was very, very much like adopting a character whereas kind of like the way that I look is just a very natural expression of my inner self.

SS: Did you admire him when you were younger?

Brian: Absolutely, you know that period from 'Hunky Dory' to 'Aladdin Sane' is sort of like it's an absolute wonderful period and my favourite Bowie period, yes.

SS: How old were you then?

Brian: I think I must have been one when 'Ziggy Stardust' came out so it took me maybe until I was about 14 to actually get into it you know!

SS: You worked with the producer Steve Osborne on this album. Why did you choose him?

Steve: There was nobody else! That was our choice, that was our top list, our top three was Steve Osborne. It nearly went mad because we were on tour with U2, we'd finished and we'd meant to come off touring and then go straight in the studio and his wife was having another baby and we hadn't finished writing the album and stuff like that, but we took a little break then finally got it together, and went in in January with him. We wanted to bring in a bit of technology with the new music and Steve's one half of the Perfecto team with Paul Oakenfold and he's got his foot in the dance camp and the rock camp which suited us. He's a funny old cookie, Steve Osborne, he's a really lovely guy, he's very quiet.

SS: He must have been terrified by the three of you then, especially when you started laughing.

Steve: There wasn't as much laughing going on in Real World actually, I think we were concentrating on pulling our hair out I think!

SS: Is the idea of friendship and relationships what's inspired the title of this album, 'Without You I'm Nothing'?

Brian: It's a very romantic title and when we were demoing the album it seemed to sort of emerge as something that... a way of getting the theme of the record across. You know the record's like sort of primarily about an ever-pervading loneliness and heartbreak really and you know there's quite a few relationship songs in there so on one level it's kind of like us... it's a message for us, from us to ourselves, to each other in the band. It's a message to our fans and it's also sort of something that's universal in the way that most people have felt that at least once in their lives.

SS: There's also a song on the album called 'Without You I1m Nothing'...did the idea for the title predate the song?

Brian: No, it just emerged as we were demoing the songs in London before Christmas basically. We're always looking around you know trying to pull things together you know at every stage so at that point we were already talking about what to call the record you know, because we were going to call it Placebo 2. We couldn't think of anything to call the first one and we couldn't think of anything better to call this one. It would have been nice to call the album something that wasn't a song title but whenever we came up with things it always seemed to be a bit too pretentious.

SS: There's a more reflective feel to this album. Everybody said that 'Placebo' the first album was about sex, sex, and more sex. This is a bit more like the morning after or maybe the month after...

Brian: This is kind of like the post-coital depression album really and I think it really reflects what we've been through emotionally over the past sort of like year and a half and kind of how we spun ourselves out emotionally.

A lot of it was kind of our own fault and how in many ways our worlds kind of like fell apart around us as we were getting more successful - on an emotional level definitely and on a relationship level. So in that way it's been sort of like a tough couple of years you know but you can't really have it all. There always seem to be things that are sort of inversely proportional to each other you know. As you kind of like get more successful so your personal life has a tendency to suffer. We're very emotional people and very sensitive to things like that so I think we have a tendency to beat ourselves up about it which is maybe why it came out on the album in that way. But sure we have... the reason that we're so reflective at the moment is 'cos you know we went sort of so mad for a while that there's a lot to think about now. And there's a lot to be careful about and there's a lot of you know bullshit that we don't want to repeat and we don't want to create our own suffering any more like we used to.

SS: That whole thing of having it all very fast, did you ever feel it was likely to get out of control?

Brian: Yes. I think it did get out of control for a little while you know. People had to pull us... well pull me back anyway, you know, keep my feet on the ground, stop me from walking round like a primadonna all the time, you know.

SS: Stefan, you strike me as quite a solid sort of guy. Were you pulling Brian back as well or were you all pulling in three different directions?

Stefan: Well there was one part of the tour that I think none of us can really forget is when we'd just played Manchester and we had a gig in Sheffield the next day and we woke up and me and Steve were there and the whole crew's there and we went on the tour bus and like 'where's Brian?' We couldn't get hold of him anywhere so we ended up driving off to the gig because we had to be there, and it was like 'fucking hell he's walked out on us now.' And it just ended up that he'd fallen asleep at somebody else's house and he ended up getting a cab driver to drive him to Sheffield and having to stop off at a newsagents to pick up the NME to see where we were playing. I mean that's sort of how out of hand it got a bit, but apart from that we kept it together reasonably well and I think this time we're going to keep it together a lot more.

SS: Musically how have got yourselves together and forged a new path for yourselves?

Steve: Well it's a completely new band. More energy than any band around actually I think and it's... when it comes down to live situations it's just so massive. We did some gigs at the weekend and it's just... it's fierce, it's a completely new thing, it's changed so much, it's so confident, it's so, you know, big and feisty.

SS: When you're playing live, Brian walks out and tends to become the focus of attention - does that bother you?

Stefan: Well yes that happens but I don't know how anyone can miss a six foot four person walking on stage - it probably makes me look 20 feet tall you know.

SS: You're at the back Steve, you're probably the least visible of all aren't you?

Steve: I ain't got time for all that crap, I've got too much to do, definitely!

SS: Brian are you very aware that you're the centre of attention?

Brian: Yes I am, and you know it's not necessarily something I feel incredibly comfortable with. It's sort of... you know people must know and they have to know that this is a band, that these two are not my backing band and that this is a complete three piece. And that's why I don't do interviews on my own any more. People used to have a tendency to sort of like focus on my life and my personality and sort of try to psychoanalyse me in some armchair fashion and it stopped being about the music really. And I think we're coming across more and more as a unit you know and these two have so much to say and I talk so much bullshit, that it's probably a good thing!

SS: But people will always be fascinated by the element of sexual ambiguity you bring to your stage performance...

Brian: I guess so, I mean I guess I look like a girl but I kind of rock like a boy when we're on stage. I don't know what it is about a boy in make-up which really freaks people out you know. Most of the time I just wear it for the same reason that you're wearing make-up, you know, just to try and make yourself look a little bit more attractive.

SS: How important is that to your act and also the fact that you've got a drama school background. How much of it is role playing?

Brian: It's not an act, you know, it real, it's just a sort of you know an expression of who we are. It's our three personalities crammed into the music, it's not an act at all. It's not some sort of Ziggy-like attempt to create a character. I believe in honesty and nakedness and vulnerability in music, not acting in music, I leave that for Kylie.

SS: What sort of an audience do you have? Is it skewed either way sexually?

Brian: I hope so!

SS: I mean do you get more boys or more girls!

Steve: A good balance I'd say. I think there's an increase in boy clones but then you can't tell anyway if it's a boy or a girl anyway, it's weird. (laughter) The audience is changing as well, I think we're getting across to an older audience, I think people can relate to it because maybe the punk element you know and people who are slightly older can relate to it and are quite into it but yes it's getting bigger and more varied.

SS: There's a lot of drama on the album, changes in atmosphere and highs and lows of emotion - like for instance when you go from 'Summer's Gone' to 'Scared of Girls'...

Brian: Yes, that's what we've always tried to do you know. We've always tried to follow one extreme emotion with the other extreme in order to sort of like keep your attention continually and to take you on a kind of emotional roller coaster ride you know, so that also reflects kind of who we are as people really. We're not very stable in the way that our highs are very high and our lows are very low, there's not very much in between. So it's kind of natural that the music will kind of come out that way.

SS: It's like music for the drug-fuelled generation, perhaps you have to have such highs and such lows to get your kicks...

Steve: It's the second Prodigy album isn't it? 'Music for the drug-fuelled generation'.

SS: Does that have anything to do with it, do you think people just expect so much these days?

Steve: Definitely, definitely. You take an audience in Britain, take an audience in France. I mean to impress an audience in France, even if they are your fans they'll buy your records, turn up to your gig, but you know you've got to do it right and do it the best you can otherwise you know they just won't stand for it. And it becomes more pressured as a performer, you know being in a band, to get it right, and stuff like that. It's weird, different attitudes in different parts of the world I think, within their youth.

SS: Which is the hardest place to play?

Brian: London.

Stefan: Yes, England. Yes England can be quite cynical and sort of arms across chests. You know, 'we've seen it all before, I'm not very impressed, I'm bored,' you know.

Brian: Nobody cares at gigs in London anyway. They're all standing at the bar talking all the way through your gig you know, they're just there for the free lig and the free beer you know. Everybody's so sort of like jilted and it's just you know industry schmooze fests. You never really enjoy London gigs you know unless it's at the (Brixton) Academy you know 'cos like I mean that's the sort of dream place to play but...

Steve: We played Shepherds Bush Empire as part of the MTV five-night thing, that was really good. It was the first gig of the year actually, it was cool.

SS: Where would you say was your best place to play, the most exciting, the most responsive audience?

Steve: Espana, Viva Espana. We've just come back from Spain, it was cool there. Portugal was cool, it's just going off all over the world at the moment, it's fantastic. We've played Portugal once and we turned up at this festival in the middle of nowhere and there were 30,000 people screaming your name, absolutely going mental, mad for it, and it's... to actually to be blown away by the audience, still be shocked, and you know get excited by it and just thinking 'God, what's going on?' is cool.

SS: How well does the stuff on this album translate live?

Stefan: We don't know yet really. We've played a couple of tracks that we actually wrote when Steve first joined the band that have been in our repertoire for the last two years but most part of the album we haven't played live yet. So we're just going away to rehearse for a long time to sort of make sure we can play them.

SS: So when are you expecting to play this live?

Brian: October for the first time, yes.

SS: Which is about when the album comes out?

Brian: Yes, absolutely.

SS: In the meantime you've got another single which is...?

Brian: 'You Don1t Care About Us'

SS: Why is that going to be the second single?

Brian: Because it's Uber-pop. It's the poppiest that we've ever been in our lives, it's sort of... it's got a really cheerful melody but it's quite a disturbing song.

SS: Disturbing in what way?

Brian: Well it's kind of... it's sort of somebody ranting at me basically, it's sort of like an ex kind of telling me I'm crap at relationships really which is what all the mental masturbation's about in that song. But it has a total, total pop edge to it, it's kind of got that punk pop thing that 'Nancy Boy' had.

Stefan: Yeah, a three-chord wonder!

SS: Easy to play then is it?

Stefan: Well sort of it's not super-simple but it's just sort of really stripped down to the essential changes which in this case become very pop and which makes a very good single.

SS: Is 'Pure Morning' still on the radio despite people being nervous of the weed and the breasts and everything else?

Brian: I don't know if they're nervous, nobody's nervous about it, nobody's nervous. We were A listed on Radio 1 with it. Nobody said a word. No, now they're playing the remix, you know, our 'Pure Morning' dropped out of the A list and bang in comes like you know the remix so it's cool. Pete Tong playing it on Kiss, it's all over the place.

SS: And who did the remix?

Brian: Le Rhythm Digital, Jacques le Comte. I met him at V97 last year and actually hadn't really heard anything by him and just kind of asked him to do it on the strength of him being such a nice bloke really.

SS: It also helps to make sure you have a foot in both camps, rock and dance. Is it important for you to keep both sides of your audience happy?

Steve: I don't think it's a conscious decision actually. I think it just happens. I mean we've all come from different musical backgrounds, I used to play in dance bands and stuff like that. I think 'cos people are so mixed up with... their choice of music crosses over in so many different ways anyway that it's a natural thing.

SS: I feel the songwriting is very much to the fore on this album, how much have you taken on the role of singer songwriter, Brian?

Brian: Well actually you know the songwriting on this album has become far more balanced and my role as a guitarist has like diminished quite a bit you know and like a lot of it's been taken over by Stef when it comes to the recording. So I wouldn't say that there was a singer songwriter thing going on at all. On some of the songs I don't even play a note, I just come in and sing 'em, you know kind of thing, so I feel very, very good about that because I'm not writing songs in my bedroom and then presenting them to the band and saying 'play along with this'. They're evolving quite organically around us you know. So it's quite the opposite really.

SS: Does this give you more time to concentrate on your vocals? I hear more variety in your voice on this album...

Brian: I got very tired of people sort of like whenever they spoke of my vocals calling me 'the helium-soaked Molko' you know the kind of thing. So I knew I had the range and I decided that I was going to show it off this time and that I was going to sing properly. I think my register's dropped a little bit from all the drinking and smoking as well. Sometimes you can go back to playing some really old songs, it's quite hard for me to get up there sometimes. If you listen to our first demos, Jesus, somebody must have been really squeezing my balls hard when we did those!

SS: On 'The Crawl' you sound a lot like Bowie.

Brian: That's interesting 'cos that's what Steve Osborne's wife said when she heard it and I can do nothing but take that as a great compliment. Talking of sounding like Bowie, have you heard 'Party Hard' by Pulp, the new single? Check it out. It's like Bowie 1977 I think, it's around 'Lodger' time.

SS: Which leads me onto 'Every You, Every Me'...

Brian: I wanted to call it 'Heavy Metal Petting Zoo' but they wouldn't let me! (laughs)

SS: ...I thought that sounded REM-ish...

Brian: Yes, that's true, yes. I think so, but that wasn't a conscious decision either really, it's just kind of... it was exciting for us to try an acoustic rocker. It's got quite a U2 bass line actually in it with a disco beat, yes.

SS: You toured with U2 didn't you?

Brian: Yes we did, yes we did five gigs with U2 at the end of last year on the Popmart tour. They gave us our biggest gig of our lives which was the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, you know 80 to 100,000 people as the sun was going down in the rain, what a buzz. Then we got on the Lemon jet and flew to Portugal.

SS: Did you get any ideas from seeing how they won over the crowd on that tour?

Brian: The show is just so amazing, really. We felt quite privileged to be able to like do a show and then you just like step out into the front row and then you've got this amazing visual spectacle, you know. And they were even playing stuff from their first album, do you know what I mean, it was like really, really quite exciting.

SS: Did you get on well with them?

Stefan: Yes. We hung out, sort of had a chat with them on the plane. I wasn't feeling very well that day but yes, they were really sort of accommodating and you know quite down to earth. Larry was sitting there reading his book you know...I mean you've got to admire them really for what they've done and how they've actually managed to maintain a really good rapport with the bands they tour with. I mean Bono was rolling around on stage and screaming 'Placebo' at the end of the show, and I was just like 'whoa, I can't believe this.'

SS: Yes, I can imagine that sounded good. I like the name Placebo with it's sweet pill connotations...

Brian: There's kind of a deceptive quality to the name as well which we kind of like, you know. There's a certain trickery involved isn't there which is fun and it's a good reflection of what we're like really.

Stefan: We settled on Placebo because we thought that it sounded... if you imagine 40,000 people screaming in unison, that it sounded really good, you know. Pla-ce-bo, you know, it's kind of easy to get your mouth around.

SS: We got sidetracked, didn't we? We were talking about 'Every You, Every Me'. Who's that aimed at and who's it about?

Brian: Who's it about? I'm not really too sure just yet. I think it's about a lot of people. Probably anybody... everybody who's had the displeasure of sleeping with me. (laughs) I want to stress that I said displeasure there. (laughs)

SS: 'My Sweet Prince' is not as risque as some of the others but you're not going to get much radio play because there are so many drugs references in it - and yet it sounds to me like a love song.

Brian: It is a love song really, you know, and it's... we don't write songs with radio play in mind, you know, that was a song that... there was quite a big tragedy in our lives that occurred while we were demoing this record before Christmas and it sort of had to come out. We just kind of vomited the song forward you know. And it's kind of a song about sort of two romances, a romance with a substance and a romance with a person and they both ended very, very tragically. Hence you know the very, very downbeat mood of the song. It's so, you know... the song, even the guitars sound druggy in that song, it's weird, and that wasn't really that purposeful, it just kind of came out that way.

SS: Does the song deal as much with criticising drugs as it does with the love affair with drugs?

Brian: It's more about the love affair with the individual really and you know, I don't really care. That's a very important song to me and it sort of... it puts in a box sort of like a very, very difficult moment of my life and you know essentially we write music for ourselves first and I find that one quite difficult to talk about.

SS: Is it very satisfying for you in a cathartic way when you sing it then?

Brian: Well yes, and I think most of the songs on the album are sort of like me purging myself of certain demons really. I think it makes it easier to live with if you've done something positive and artistic with them you know and that you1ve kind of distanced yourself a little bit from these things. You can look upon them objectively because you've put them in a song.

SS: And the tragedy that happened, did the person survive to know that this song's about them?

Brian: Yes, she knows.

SS: Do you think it's a help to her?

Brian: I don't know.

SS: It's the lowest point of the album but it's the most beautiful point as well...

Brian: It's the first time that we do three-part harmony as well which we've been getting into a lot recently when we've been in the studio since the album, we get to do our three-part harmony which we like very much. So the boys are singing as well which I like.

Stefan: And I get to play Peter Gabriel's old grand piano as well.

SS: Was it responsive?

Stefan: It had to be tuned you know. They weren't very good with tuning their pianos down at Real World so I ended up using his. Yes, it was a good piano.

SS: So there's a touch of the BeeGees in you yet then, the three boys in harmony...

Steve: Oh yes, oh yes, you've hit it right on the head there, definitely!

SS: Are you fans of that old-fashioned pop music?

Brian: Absolutely, absolutely. When we're on tour after a show we're driving to the other country we all get in the back of the van and we break out the disco records on the CD disco party, you know, BeeGees, Madonna, Abba, old stars on 45, all that stuff you know. 'Knock on Wood', Blondie, yes, you know, the whole shabang. We love disco.

SS: Did you love that stuff when you were growing up as well or were you far more hip when you were young?

Stefan: I was sort of fed Abba throughout my childhood so I think it's sort of quite ingrained in my blood you know. I think Agnetha is running through my veins right now (laughs) which is quite pleasant. Yes, so that's quite a bit part of my youth because I'm Swedish after all.

SS: What about you Steve?

Steve: Yes, I was brought up with Elton John and Wings and stuff like that 'cos well that was all I could listen to because it was all my dad would let me listen to I think. But the BeeGees were in there and stuff. It was a weird seventies period but there were some cool records. And then I discovered my own brain. (laughs)

SS: What about you Brian, because you mentioned you were into Bowie records at 14.

Brian: Yes, I was sort of exposed to lots of stuff like French music and stuff and so I think that's why maybe I'm sort of like such a big Stereolab fan, and that sort of like immediately appeals and you know sort of like Jacques Brel and people like that. It was just around me all the time growing up in a Francophone country. I know how to speak the language so I'm sort of... I'm a bit biased towards it. So I think you know I like things that have a continental feel to them because of that really.

SS: Maybe your European upbringing allows you to get away with lyrics that you wouldn't have dared use if you'd been brought up speaking English in the UK or America. I'm thinking especially of those rhymes in 'Burger Queen'...

Brian: That's the whole point of a song like 'Burger Queen' sort of like structurally or if you're talking about it from a musical standpoint. The whole point of that song is to use a cheesy rhyme but to use words like infection, you know, connection, erection, you know. So it's subverting the cheesiness. It's like putting fuck and baby in the same verse.

SS: I bet it's also the first time caesarean section's been used in a pop song!

Brian: I know, I'm so, so proud of that. I'm so proud of that one. (laughs)

SS: Is that song based on a real person?

Brian: No, that one's kind of more of a story really. It's kind of about being in the wrong place at the wrong time you know and I guess you just finally... since we kind of grew up in Luxembourg - finally since we've written a song about it we can kind of forget about it now. But you know I think it's just... the play on Burger King, Burger Queen, Luxemburger, just kind of you know amused me when I first came up with it and along with 'My Sweet Prince' I think it's one of the saddest songs, but really beautiful, that we've written. I think there's a real beauty in our sadness you know when it goes down there there's something in it that really pulls at your heart, you know, and I don't know how we really achieve it but it's there. There always seems to be a tiny bit of hope at the end of it as well which is important.

SS: Can you tell me what 'Allergic' is about?

Brian: Well that's one of the songs on the album that isn't really a love song. It's a kind of environment versus religion song. It's me having a go at Christians for not giving a shit about the environment basically because to them their rewards will always be in heaven and not on this earth so it really doesn't matter that we're using this place as a fucking garbage tip, you know. And when I first started writing songs I had to shake the spectre of Jesus out of me so I wrote a lot of sort of like' I'm angry about God' songs and it didn't really kind of you know I had to get that out of my system before we started the band really. But it's kind of crept up on me in this... in 'Allergic' you know. It's just kind of having a go really but it's also kind of like saying, you know, that Mother Earth, you know, Mother Nature, is stronger than you and Mother Nature will have her own back.

SS: How did you get involved in the film 'Velvet Goldmine'?

Brian: Well they called me in for a casting really. It was at the time of 'Nancy Boy' and our faces were all over the charts, all over the music papers. And when I got the role in it of Malcolm, the singer in the Flaming Creatures, the Flaming Creatures were going to play 'Twentieth Century Boy' so we offered our services to re-record it because there were lots of bands doing that and then we said well you know why don't the other two in Placebo sort of like be in this band as well? And Steve ended up being the drummer in the Flaming Creatures and Stefan ended up being in a band with Donna from Elastica and it just kind of like... it just snowballed you know and I think we've gotten a lot of good publicity from it for a long time and the film hasn't even come out yet so it's great.

SS: How much of your music is in the soundtrack?

Brian: Just one song, 'Twentieth Century Boy'. And I sing 'Bittersweet' by Roxy Music, I'm singing live in a club which is cool.

SS: It's been done for so long now it must seem like history to you...

Steve: Yes, it's just like get it out, get it out. How long ago is it?

Nearly two years, they're taking their time about it.

SS: Did you like the idea of being film stars, does it appeal?

Steve: Not to me. A film debut and you've got hair extensions, platform boots and a weird nightie and you're thinking hang on, this isn't funny 'cos I look a right prick. (laughs) I wouldn't go into it, music's more immediate and it's far more pleasing.

SS: Whereas you Brian seem to relish the dramatic roles if the video for 'Pure Morning' is anything to go by. Did your role in that video appeal to you?

Brian: Well it was kind of my idea really, so yes it did appeal to me, it's kind of nice to see the fruition of your kind of... your stoned imagination sort of like come up on TV three weeks later so yes, that was fun. Actually, I was really quite depressed that day and quite hung over and so when you see me looking like that it's actually for real, that's how bad I felt while we were filming the video.

SS: And it wasn't down to fear of heights was it, because you did have a double?

Brian: Yes, it's all blue screen trick photography. I don't actually know how to walk down buildings!

SS: And you had a stunt man...

Brian: Yes, a stunt man, yes, with a black wig.

SS: Was he a convincing double for you?

Brian: Yes I guess so. He was butcher than I am!