domingo, 14 de enero de 2018

Dave Tong about Brian Molko and Placebo back in the 1990's

Photos by Dave Tonge

Dave Tonge Brighton/London based photographer. All the images here were taken by him. 

Teenage kids sometimes u just want to shake them and shout , "Just don't do it, please!!!" Sorry where was I ......

Photo by Dave Tonge

Colorado, late 1990's I'd been sent out to shoot a cover story for the NME
Brian wasn't playing ball though, sun glasses on, scathing and bitchy to all around him, fuelled by the fact the Times journalist we were travelling with insisted on calling him place-boo. 

I'm sure it was as genuine mistake to begin with, then trying to style it out, he continued throughout the time we were with him. "He loves it, he likes people taking the piss!" Was his drunken reply to me, later that day in the bar, after a shit day trying to get a story, I wasn't convinced.

Photo by Dave Tonge

Photo by Dave Tonge

Photo by Dave Tonge

I'd heard a couple of tracks, I quite liked them, so I was looking forward to the gig. 

Not a big venue, that's always good and it was packed even better. There was a solemn mood in the dressing room, it's often the case before a gig. 

Personally it's the thing of nightmares for me, performing, but hey. A grabbed a couple of snaps, see previous post and the lead shot in this post. 

I saw Brian properly for the first time, yes the dark glasses had gone, but he was vulnerable, alone. I started thinking that the timing of his rise couldn't of been worse. Apes like Liam Gallagher were lurching around, desperately trying to look hard, championing laddism, while this nasaly sounding little Goth, openly bi sexual, tried his best to impress a football and stella obsessed music press, he had no chance! 

He strolled off meekly to the stage and strangely i had a brief pang of concern for him, I hoped he'd be OK, wtf!

Photo by Dave Tonge

Photo by Dave Tonge

Photo by Dave Tonge

They blew the top of the place, absolutely burnt the house down, are they normally good, or was I drunk? 

The energy backstage fizzed in the air as me and the journo Roger Morton, joined them to drink it in. 

Poor old Roger tried doing an interview of sorts, but said something that offended and got shouted down ( see pics), as I flirted with Stefan, damn that man was sexy!

Photo by Dave Tonge

Photo by Dave Tonge

Probably half an hour in total and we got everything we needed, nothing from the previous 2 days got used.
One of these shots was the cover, there's a challenge!

Sources & Photos: Dave Tonge IG   /

Placebo feel the love

Placebo feel the love

 by Bob Gordon
Thursday, 24 August 2017

There’s something inherently Placebo about the documentary the band have released while in the midst of their 20th anniversary.

Placebo: Alt.Russia follows vocalist/guitarist Brian Molko and bassist/co-founder Stefan Olsdal along the Trans Siberian Express, with the latter stopping along the way to interview local artists.

The doco has won five international awards and is as far from a self-congratulatory summary of two decades of achievements and tribulations as you could get.

“We’ve always followed our own gut instincts and always tried to forge our own singular path artistically,” Molko says.

“We’ve never made careerist decisions. It’s just not part of our DNA.

“So when we got to Russia we were like ‘How many documentaries are there out there already about a band going to a different country and what a band experiences?’ Like, hundreds. So let’s not do that let’s do something else.

“I think it’s that particular angle which has brought originality to the film which has sparked great interest and led it to winning many awards.”

The anniversary commemorations are, however, playing out on the road. The 20 Years of Placebo World Tour sees the band revisit their back catalogue like never before.

“It took a great deal of crying and pain for me to get to the point where I could actually do this retrospective show,” Molko laughs.

“At the start I wasn’t sure if it was going to be possible for me to do it on an emotional level. But as we started to do it the response from the crowd was just so euphoric that that’s what we started to feed from — the euphoria we were creating in the audience.

“That’s what’s giving us the energy to do it and making it a lot of fun.”

While 1998’s Every You Every Me is the most played Placebo song in the band’s concert history, other hits such as Pure Morning and Nancy Boy were long buried and, in Molko’s words, have been “exhumed from the graveyard for this tour”.

The love from crowds has made the frontman take a second look at older songs, albeit with a critical eye.

“I think now I’m a little less harsh in terms of my opinions towards them,” he says.

“I recognise their essence, whereas before I just thought that they weren’t well written songs and they were naive and that I’d written much, much better lyrics since.

“We’ve reappraised the value of their naivety, their innocence and their spontaneity, I suppose. Seeing how much they mean to people can be quite a joyful experience.”

Photos: Placebo World IG
Interview sources: The West Australian

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sábado, 11 de noviembre de 2017

From studio to stage with Placebo’s Bill Lloyd

From studio to stage with Placebo’s Bill Lloyd

by Danny Turner for Native Instrument Blogs

Every rock band needs a good tech guy, and Placebo has certainly been grateful over the past 20 years for the contribution of William Lloyd. The former member of Faith Over Reason has been an integral member of the alternative Brit rock giants, not just plugging holes in the studio but coming up with creative ideas and on-stage technical solutions.

Lloyd joined Placebo in the early-‘90s as a roadie, but as the band became increasingly reliant on his expertise, his role evolved far beyond that. Today, he not only serves as their technical advisor, but strategizes their transition from studio to stage, where he also plays bass and keyboards.

We caught up with Bill at the O2 Brixton Academy during Placebo’s latest round of UK concerts, as he further explained his creative and technical role in the band.


I first met Brian Molko at the Edinburgh festival in 1993. I was supporting Jeff Buckley with my first band Faith Over Reason and he was helping his friend from The Kills with some crazy off-hinge theatre production. I met him in the pub, got chatting and thought he was interesting. I was also working for a record company at the time, so asked Brian to send me a demo tape of him, Stefan Olsdal and their original drummer. It had four or five tracks on it and I was immediately blown away; it’s how Placebo got their first management deal.

Because they were very inexperienced and didn’t really know anything about gigging, I started driving them around, helping them to get some equipment together and did their sound. As the band developed, I became Stef’s tech and did a tiny bit of programming. I delivered the gear for the first two album sessions, but didn’t stick around much for Without You I’m Nothing because the producer just wanted to crack on with it.

I came back during the last week just to hang out with the boys and pick the gear up, and that’s when they told me that they wanted me to play live with them. Basically, there were a lot more parts on the new record and they couldn’t do it with a three piece, so I started playing bass and keys on the second album tour. At first, I used to play behind the cabs because they wanted to keep it to three members on stage [laughs], but after a while they said, no it’s silly, come on stage with us.


I was always interested in sound. At school I did the sound at plays and productions and started to learn about it. I bought some amplification gear so my band could rehearse and used to get involved in the mixing and recording using a basic four track. I also got into synthesis at an early age. I liked a lot of the early ‘80s synth bands like Depeche Mode and OMD, but also hip hop and rock. My first synth was a MiniKorg-700S, which I bought for £50, although it’s probably worth a grand now. It was analogue, very simple and had what’s called a ‘traveler’ so you could do swoops. It was fun, and a great way to learn.


I get involved in the writing sessions, especially in terms of recording and mixing. I also do some guitar programming, help them get sounds together and take notes on how the sounds were created and what pedals we used. We use Guitar Rig a lot for guiding the guitars, so I’ll set that up and programme them ready for recording. When the producer and engineer get involved, I’ll let them get on with it, but I’ll still be alongside the boys setting up pedals and dialling up sounds. They’re quite particular and like to get hands-on with everything, but they’ll usually ask my advice on a few things.

The studio environment is perfect because you want the recording to be as clean as possible. It’s very rare that you’ll find studios with decent isolation booths, so we’ll track everything and get the drums down first with Guitar Rig guitars, so there’s no bleed on the drums and it’s all coming direct into the headphones.

Guitar Rig has speaker simulations, so you can create a bit of air and it really works a treat. It’s got its own guitar patches, but you can plug the guitar in and it will emulate speaker cabs, pedals and amplifiers – or any combination. It’s very rare that what we do on Guitar Rig actually ends up on the record, it’s just a guide, but it creates a real intensity and the vibe of playing through a big rig, even though you’re just playing through a computer.


There are a few songs on the new album that are more electronic rock-orientated, but the blend’s good I think. The song “Exit Wounds” starts with samples, loops and crazy noises, but when the guitars kick in it lifts it into the rock world.

Nobody knows where we’ll take the music in the future. I just bought a Roland modular synth because the boys are quite keen on dirty synth sounds at the moment, but whether it gets on the record, who knows?


That’s the main part of my job really. I don’t really think about that side of it much while we’re recording because we just want to concentrate on making the record, but when we come towards the end of an album session, or during mixing, I’ll start thinking about how I can translate the songs to the live arena.

The boys give me free reign to consider what samples to use and whether we’re going to play them live as a long sample or chopped up. We prefer to play live as much as possible and don’t like to track anything, but we’ll bring clicks and loops in and out and I‘ll play some loops as well. Brian doesn’t always like to come in at the same spot every night and sometimes waits a bit to add dramatic impact, so we like to keep everything flexible.


There’s always been synths, pianos, loops and samples on all the records. Maybe not so much on the first album, but we play a couple of songs from that on this tour so I sampled sounds from the original and augmented them with digital samples and emulations. From the second album onwards, there’s always been lots of loops and samples. Even the drumming tracks have some studio trickery, but we try to keep everything as live as possible.

I do most of the programming at home. I’ll usually take the studio sessions and start looking at them, chopping up the obvious bits straight away. Then we’ll get together for a pre-tour, pre-production session in a small studio. We’ll get a block booking, and while the boys relearn how to play the stuff live, I’ll be throwing in the samples and loops to see what works.

If a track has a loop in it, I’ll always make sure the loop is ready to go and clicked up for the drummer, and if there’s a lead line that’s really particular to a song, I’ll make sure that’s ready to go too, but I’ll also throw in atmospheres, re-programme sounds on-the-fly and add in a bit of distortion or speaker emulation, again using Guitar Rig, which we use quite a lot because it makes the samples a bit dirtier and more real-sounding.


Between 50 and 70% of the bass playing is done live, but we’ll use Guitar Rig live for emulation to make the samples sound a bit more gritty with some air around them so they’re a bit less clinical-sounding. I use the Leslie Amp in Guitar Rig quite a bit because it adds distortion on a couple of key tracks. It’s basically a Hammond organ speaker cabinet that has a rotary effect, and it’s brilliant. I think Guitar Rig sits better with guitar music. Pop music is more clinical and the punters don’t care about what sounds you use, but in rock it’s good to be a bit more individual and use a programme that sits well with the guitars and can dirty stuff up a bit.


We use Mainstage live, because it’s like a big mixer. It hosts all the soft synths and samples and you can actually play samples from it, although I’ll normally do that within the Logic ESX24 sampler or use Kontakt. Because we use 14 channels of samples, Mainstage is great for mixing all of those, sending them and adding effects. Being a fan of ‘80s reverbs, I love Komplete’s RC48 reverbs, which I use a lot. I’ll also bring in Logic delays, Massive, and third-party plugins like Sylenthand assign them to different channels.

The layout on Mainstage is great. You can do keyboard layering, key zones, all your mutes, and see them really clearly. We’ll use Massive for some of the lead synth sounds because they work brilliantly. The guy who assisted the producer on our last album always tells us to go straight to Native Instruments when starting a mix. In fact, I just did a mix for TV and ended up using NI plugins for most of it. When we’re on the road, we might do a TV or radio show and we’ll often prefer to do our own mix. I’ll get a raw live feed from the front of house and use NI plugins for filtering, reverb and compression. I especially love NI’s SSL emulations; they’re fantastic.


Although we use real pianos on the album, Alicia’s Keys software does a lot of the piano emulations live. We’ve recorded some fantastic pianos in the studio using a great Yamaha rack, but the software is getting quite close now. Unless the listener is a real nerd, they’re not going to pick up on the difference.

We’re controlling Kontakt with Roland pianos, which have their own sounds anyway. You can’t replicate the feel of a piano and how it reacts to being played, but Alicia’s Keys is close enough. We tested it against other software companies and it came out on top. It sits well with everything and reacts really well live.

Sources: Native Instrument Blog / Photos: Native Instrument Blogs and other unknow sources.

miércoles, 1 de noviembre de 2017

An unusual concert review - Placebo Live at 02 Brixton Academy London 23.10.2017

An unusual concert review - Placebo Live at Brixton Academy - London - 23.10.2017  

by Virginy - Placebo Anyway Team member 

So I'm back home now for a week, time to tell you something about my trip.

But this is not a concert review, so don't be disappointed...

London is a beautiful city but you need a lot of time 4 days are too little and the chaos before took longer than the journey.

When everyone had his ticket, mine was still not there, RyanAir cancelled lots of flights, because of a post strike I could not pick up my new credit card and last but not least we couldn't check in to hotels after midnight, not so good when you leave plane after that time, so we had to spend our first night sleepless at London Stansted Airport.

Next morning we went to London Dungeon for an excursion into English history with Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper.

At lunchtime we could finally check in at our hotel in Brixton and later we went out for dinner with some amazing people I couldn't wait to meet.

It was a funny evening and I guess the waiter in the pub had the best turnover for a long time... :)

Next morning at 9 we started queuing for the concert. There were already about 20 people before us who spent all night out there.

Of course we met some cute people there like the big guy from Norway with his daughter. (Just read a post of him, but can`t find it anymore).

Unfortunately, there are always some unfriendly or rude fans too but luckily most are really nice people.

After a chaotic intake, I finally made it into the second row, but we were all separated.

Photo credits: Virginy 

Anyway standing in front of Brian was great but after the first song it was clear that his voice had not yet recovered.

At "Jesus Son" there was only a simple "come" instead of a "cooooooome" someone said it was a little bit like hearing a Placebo song covered by Placebo and yeah, it was, not bad but different...

Photo credits: Paul Grace 
A few songs were cancelled ("Lazarus", "Space Monkey", "36 Degrees", "Lady of the Flowers", "Teenage Angst" and "Running up that Hill") so it was a short concert but I was thankful they played cause O2 Academy Brixton is a very lovely historical place for fans like me.

Photo credits: Virginy 

Later we went to the Placebo for Grown-ups After Party to let the night fade away with lots of crazy people and good music.

Photo credits: Virginy 
The PFGU team made a really good job and gave us the chance to meet people from all over the world, thx for that again.
After only a few hours sleep I had to leave this wonderful city again but I'm sure I will be back^^

A big hug for everyone who accompanied me, especially Amandine, Katrin, Gunther, Mayte, Niall, Katarzyna and to you, Mr. Norway, too.

Was a pleasure to meet you all, hope we can repeat this soon.

Until then have a nice time.

♪Virginy♫ - Placebo Anyway 

viernes, 27 de octubre de 2017

6 things we learned at Placebo's Brixton Academy show

Photo credits: Zoran Veselinovic

6 things we learned at Placebo's Brixton Academy show

by Paul Beal for 26.10.2017

PHOTO GALLERY show 1  / show 2 

We went to see Placebo at Brixton Academy (23/24.10.2017), and these are the things we learned

Last October, British alt.rock stalwarts Placebo announced that they’d be heading out on the road to mark their not-inconsiderable 20 years as a band. The tour, they said, would be a showcase of hits and fan favourites – a setlist which would correlate with their recently-released retrospective album A Place For Us To Dream.

This week, that tour culminated with a double-headline slot at London’s Brixton Academy. Returning full circle to where they began in 1996, the band promised a show tailor-made for fans. But did they manage to deliver? Here are the things we learned.

Placebo fans really, really like Placebo

The excitement and anticipation levels within Placebo's fans are sky high before the band even make it to the stage. Take, for example, the split second of a video projection – cast onto the back of the stage slightly before time – which prompts a deafening frenzy of cheers from the crowd.

When the band finally appear (after a video of super-hit Every You Every Me is aired – more on that later), you’d be forgiven for missing the opening notes of fan favourite Pure Morning as the whole of Brixton Academy explodes into life. Which is understandable, really, since this is a song they’ve not played live since 2007.

Placebo really, really like their fans

Placebo are known to have an absolutely rabid fan base; diehards who will follow them to the ends of the Earth and, most likely, back again. Brian Molko acknowledges this when he gives a shout out to the front row, recognising many faces who’ve travelled thousands of miles to see the band he readily admits is “for outsiders, by outsiders”.

This, of course, means that when Brian reveals that he completely lost his voice two weeks ago and he’s not fully recovered, there’s no need to worry about whether these songs will lose any of their power. This crowd have got his back and they’re ready to sing the hits right back at him.

Placebo still attract a diverse crowd

While it’s not surprising that a band like Placebo – who have played with concepts such as gender identity, sexuality and mainstream attitudes towards masculinity throughout their career – bring in a crowd that’s incredibly diverse, it’s telling that even 20 years on, it still lends the show a noticeably different atmosphere to your average rock gig.

The piano is not a friend to Placebo

When Placebo are doing what they do best, they’re fantastic. But when they change pace, the set starts to flounder. Such is the case when Stefan Olsdal plonks himself in front of the keyboard which has been dragged to the front of the stage and embarks on a run of piano ballads which dampen the energy in the room significantly.

While there’s nothing wrong with slowing down the pace of a set, in this instance it just goes on for a little bit too long, failing to pick up again until Without You I’m Nothing kicks in. However, once that’s over with, they manage to drive it on home with a solid run of bangers right until the set closes, with songs like Slave To The Wagereminding you why Placebo have been going this long.

It’s a 20 years tour… but they didn’t play their biggest hit

As we mentioned earlier, while proceedings kick off with an extended video version of Every You Every Me projected onto the back of the stage, Placebo make the odd decision to… not include it in the setlist. We know, we know; no one would put together a Placebo setlist and not include Every You Every Me… apart from, it seems, actual Placebo.

Don’t worry, the early ones still sound great

The whole set is a fine-tuned fan’s delight, peppered as it is with classics that haven’t been given an airing in years; songs the band themselves don’t consider their best work, but which we've been desperate to hear.

Pure Morning and I Know sound absolutely huge, and no doubt benefit from the band being fleshed out since they were originally released. If anyone had doubts over whether their older material would sound weak in comparison, that thought is quashed from the moment they step on stage.

Placebo know what their fans want, and when they come back on with an encore of Nancy Boy, the Academy explodes into a mass of flailing bodies. Even though Brian’s voice has suffered over the years – prompting him to sing this one an octave lower than normal – there’s no denying the power this song has, as fresh and vital now as it was 20 years ago.

Sources: Teamrock
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More Placebo concert reviews 

miércoles, 25 de octubre de 2017

Digital 21 & Stefan Olsdal - The Big Shot Interview 2017

Digital 21 (a.k.a. veteran electronic producer Miguel López Mora) and Placebo bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal teamed up and started making music remotely from their home bases of Berlin and London. The result is their triumphant debut album, Inside, featuring a cadre of guest vocalists from all over the world, including Cuushe (Japan), Margrét Rán from Vök (Iceland), Helen Feng from Nova Heart (China), and Julienne Dessagne (France/Germany).

The cinematic album boasts the techy romp “Who Are All Of You” featuring Dessagne, who is one half of genre-bending Saschienne with Sascha Funke. It’s driven by a sinister synth-driven grooves and Dessagne’s enigmatic voice.

Ahead of Inside‘s release on October 20, we wanted to know more about their project. Instead of asking them questions, we turned the tables and asked them to interview each other.

Read on to be a fly on the wall for their chat about music, inspiration and their captivating debut album.

Digital 21 interviews Stefan Olsdal

by Darren Ressler 09.10.2017 for BigShotMag  

Name three songs of our album that touch you and why.

Stefan Olsdal: “War”: I think we fused the string quartet with electronica perfectly on this one. The ferocity of the synths and the tension in the strings convey the title well, and the opening chords get me every time!

“Spaces: Margret Ran brought this piece of music alive with her heart wrenching vocals. The instrumental was one of the first we wrote and evolved into something majestic.

“Symmetry”: I’m a sucker for a pop song, and this is the one from this album for me.

Which are your favorite places on earth?

Right now it’s my home in London. I’ve been on the road for a long time and I’m feeling a little vulnerable at the moment. I need my comforts! My apartment is my safe haven from the chaotic and uncontrollable world outside.


Adorable. Soothing yet cutting vocals on “Symmetry.”

Julienne Dessagne?

Fiery. Crushing vocal delivery on “Who Are All Of You.”


Soulful. Contemplative and experimental vocals on “Human.”

And last but not least, Margrét Rán?

A natural. An singing Icelandic force of nature on “Spaces.

Your favorite instrument?

Right now it’s my Martin Tenor acoustic guitar from 1946. Four strings and short neck, and tuned like a cello.

Music is…

My lifetime sparring partner.

The album is called Inside. What’s inside your head right now?

Digital 21: Right now I’m working on the “Toi et Moi” video clip. So “Toi et Moi” in my mind nonstop. After finishing a video, I hear the song in any sound of the “real” life … in the wind or in the sea. And I see the images everywhere.

What would you take to a desert island: A Moog synth or a string quartet?

Both! But if I have to choose, then string quartet for many reasons.

I can hear the album work in a club as well as a seated theatre. Was this the intention?

The main thing is to make our music and our sound. We can enjoy the beauty of a silence in a quiet song and the beauty of a scream in a club song, playing on a big stage. You know I prefer small places, but I always fly playing music. So big places are okay to me as well.

What qualities of voice did you look for in female singers?

I love voices with texture. Voices that can touch you from the insides. But the main thing is always the song.

After touring with Placebo around Europe, where do you want to perform this album live most in the world?

The place of the next gig. Anyplace. I only stop my mind when I play music live. So that is very important to me.

The artwork that you did for the cover reminds me of an August Strindberg painting of the sea. Are you an alchemist like him?

No. I don’t have time for anything else!

“War” is a powerful title. What are two of the most powerful songs on the album for you?

I have to say three at least, or I will feel bad about it. “Spaces,” “Toi et Moi” and “War” (all their versions, so they are seven songs actually). Sorry I cannot choose only two.

Music is…

The only thing can save me.

Digital 21 photo credits: Image by Eli Martin. Live image by Javier Alonso & Marina Sanz.
Sources:  BigShotMag  
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lunes, 23 de octubre de 2017

Placebo Alt.Russia

Alt.Russia review by Mona - Placebo Anyway team member

Review "Placebo: Alt.Russia"

When I first heard of Alt.Russia, my first thought was: "You have to watch it, it sounds great." 
What a good idea to combine a tour with making contact to other artists! I thought I would have to watch it on DVD later, so I was very happy when I got the information, it would be shown at the Internationales Film Festival in Braunschweig! The festival exists since 1987. The founders of this festival established also a cinema, the movie of the band was shown in it.

Alt.Russia was filmed during the tour through Russia in 2014. The band gave concerts in 10 cities and had several meetings with alternative creative artist. They wanted to visit persons who do their own things despite the strict government.

The film starts with the travelling with the Trans-Siberian Railway and you can see the band in a good mood. They like this railway and the way to travel in it. They also travelled by car, train or plane during their tour.
The interviews and representations of the art alternate with footage and songs from the live gigs and the travelling.

They met an architect and visited some of his buildings in the style of constructionist architecture. 

Also a drawer, she talks about drawing her movies. Its such a long process and sometimes at the end, she doesn't like them.
They talk about music and its influence beyond the borders of religion, countries or languages. He's a musician which a special flute.
They walk around with two streetartists, the young men hang their paintings on the front of abandoned buildings.
They met two young men who are doing visual art installations, for example in a church.

They met an independent tv broadcaster which is sponsored by donates. At the moment of the interview, it was in a bad condition and nobody knew if it could survive.
They talk with a photographer, she's known for making photos of couples who are expecting a child. She snaps them while her models are sleeping in their beds at night. During the interview she also snaps Stefan while listening to Bosco. He took also some pictures of her while listening to this song.
At the end Stefan is talking to the regime critical artist Pawlenski. I don't know if I would call his work "art", its more some kind of protest.

I enjoyed the movie very much. It's always something special for me to watch a movie in a cinema. I don't do this often.
You can see and feel how much love to the detail is in this movie. Stefan visited the tv broadcaster afterwards which was in a better condition now. He also visited the church in which the two visual artists exhibit their installation to have a look at the finished artwork. 

If you like to watch behind the scenes or if you like interviews with the band, you should watch this movie. I really hope it will be available on DVD some day.

Brian Molko Interview VICE - 23.10.2017

Brian Molko Used to Piss On His Finger Before Meet and Greets

Twenty years after Placebo's first album, the frontman talks about saying no to "karaoke competitions" and giving up on being a punk.

by Tom Connick for VICE 23.10.2017

This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into his or her psyche.

Placebo frontman Brian Molko is an absorbing character. Since erupting into the mainstream two decades ago, he's sat on the knife-edge of popular culture, remaining both a queer outlier and a "no fucks" presence at major mainstream events. He's an essential icon of the last two decades' changing views on sexuality and identity.

Twenty years on from their debut album, he's every bit as vital a force. As Placebo celebrate their career with a "20 Years" retrospective box-set and tour, we sat down with Brian to chat urine, The X Factor and how packing in the drugs made him realise he wasn't a punk.

Photo: Maud Maillard

VICE: Is there anyone, apart from your partner, that you're comfortable being completely naked around?

Brian Molko: My father used to walk around the house naked when I was a kid, and I didn't need to see that first thing in the morning! So yeah – I don't do that around my son. I suppose the only other person who really sees me in a state of undress is my make-up and wardrobe assistant. But we've been working together for six years now, so she doesn't really bat an eyelid. I change my pants – I put on new pants when I go on-stage. Clean pants!

Do you have "special" pants?
Yeah! I have show pants. I used to have a pair of lacy women's underwear, which used to be my lucky pair of panties. I used to wear them on-stage when I felt like I needed a little bit of extra mojo.

Did it work?
Yeah, psychologically it helps! You're sat there wearing an elegantly cut suit and underneath it you're wearing women's underwear. You're playing guitar and singing in front of five to ten-thousand people, and they don't know it!

Redressing the power balance a little bit.
We used to do quite a lot of meet-and-greets for competition winners, until I got molested by one of the competition winners, then we had to stop. Since then, I do them very rarely. But what I used to do before the meet-and-greets, is I would go to the bathroom and purposefully pee on my index finger and then not wash my hands. All the competition winners and Placebo fans that I met that day would walk away with a bit of my pee on their hand. And they never knew it! They're all walkin' away with a bit of Molko DNA… I don't do that any more…

When was the last time you said "no" to something relating to your career?
Yesterday. Unfortunately, I can't say what it was but it was a very significant business choice – one that could have been incredibly profitable, but myself and Stefan [Olsdal, Placebo bassist] said no.

Is that something that happens often, then?
Yes, very much so. Otherwise we'd end up on boxes of fake Nespresso capsules like my dear old friend Robbie Williams. I think a band is defined more by what they say "no" to than what they say "yes" to – and to a degree, an individual human being as well. The easy thing to do is to say yes, especially if there's a great deal of money involved. I turned down The X Factor in France. I'm bi-lingual, I speak French, but there isn't enough money in the world that would get me to do one of those karaoke competitions.

Was that to be a judge?
Yeah – they offered me a million euros. But based on the fact that I think these karaoke competitions are a majority shareholder in the ruination of pop music as an art form, there isn't enough money in the world to make me want to do that. So yeah – I'm the guy who turned down a million euros. We're driven by doing what we think is the right think artistically, rather than financially or in a careerist way.

Photo: Marco Vittur 

Is that difficult?
I don't know. You just know that you wouldn't be able to able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning. Being able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning – you can't put a price on that.

What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
Pop music from the '80s. I think it's a much-maligned decade when it comes to pop. I consider pop to be an important and significant art form, which is why I'm so angry at all these karaoke competitions ruining it. If you go back to the '80s, you'd have songs in the charts like "Ashes To Ashes" by Bowie, which is a fucking freaky song, man. It's really weird, musically, and it's about heroin withdrawal, and this is in the top ten! Around the same time you had Kate Bush shouting "babushka, babushka, ya ya!"; you had Peter Gabriel doing really weird avant-garde music. All these records were in the charts, and these people were discovering new technology. Because of that they were really pushing the envelope of what mainstream music could be.

Do you think that's been lost?
It's totally homogenised now. Because of the karaoke competitions, it's generally accepted that there's one way to sing a ballad, and there's one way to sing an upbeat song, and that's it. Which, of course, is absolute bullshit!

Is there anyone out there doing interesting things, do you think?
To be honest with you, I haven't heard anything good by any white people in a long time. Anything that's stuck its head above the bullshit has been by black artists – whether it's R&B or hip-hop, or however many sub-genres there are of that now, the only thing that's actually been experimental in any way has been music composed by black people. Whatever you think of Kanye as an individual, or as a person – however many Kanye interviews you read or watch on YouTube and are completely flabbergasted by – the guy is a fucking major talent. Jay-Z's just brought a new record out – this is where the innovation is happening. It's certainly not happening on Simon Cowell's label. I don't think I've heard anything white in pop that's been any good for about ten years.

If you could live in any time period, which one would you pick?
Oh, that's easy! I would be about 22 in 1967. I'd live in San Francisco and I'd live the hippy dream. I always used to think that I was a punk at heart, but that was the drugs. When I gave up the drugs, I got shitloads less angry and started studying Buddhism and meditating. I just turned into an absolute hippy! That's probably my true nature – I think the drugs were making me angry. So yeah, I would live the hippy dream. I'd try to make my way into the front door of the Grateful Dead house in San Francisco.

Janis Joplin (lower left), with friends in the Haight Ashbury area San Francisco, 1967.

When do you think you were in your sexual prime?
Ooh! My sexual prime has to be with whoever I'm with. I'm in a relationship now and I have been for over two years, so I'd say now! I'm also genuinely very, very, very much in love, which Is really important. In the old days, when we used to indulge in the whole groupie thing, nine times out of ten you'd discover that for them it was all about the thrill of the chase. Once they got you into bed, they just turned into a plank. It's very much dependent, for me, on the emotional connection and on love.

Weeing in the shower – yes or no?
Of course! I don't understand people who think it's disgusting. They're washing their ass while they're in there… What's the big deal?

And to round up – how often do you lie in interviews?
Actually, this has been one of the most honest interviews I've done – I haven't told a single lie! When I lie in interviews, it's usually through omission, rather than bare-faced invention… or wording something to make it sound more glamorous than it actually is. But I've been completely honest in this one.

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