Growing up the Placebo way

Placebo’s Brian Molko, the group’s eccentric frontman with the unisex look who will play with his band at the Rockwave Festival tomorrow, was very relaxed and at ease at the exclusive interview he gave to Kathimerini a few days before the show. Molko inhales the smoke from his cigarette with pleasure, talks fast and laughs loudly when remembering his experiences from previous Rockwave festivals. «I remember this year that we were scheduled to play at the Rockwave Festival and there was this terrible storm. It was raining very hard and the wind was very strong. Nick Cave had been forced to cancel his show and we didn’t know if we’d be able to play. Unfortunately, these are things you can’t predict. The truth is that the Rockwave Festival has always had very good bands and we are very happy to be playing there again.» What will the Greek audience see in your show? Our shows are mostly based on spontaneity. All I can say is that lately we have been based in France writing some new songs, a couple of which we will try out in our summer tour. We want to include them in a collection of old singles that will be released by Christmas. You know, we have firm views on touring. We would never want to do what U2 or REM do for instance, jump around like mad just to flatter our audience. I find all that old-fashioned. We want to be honest and genuine with our audience and each time to give them what we have. We are very interested in playing at places we haven’t been before, or places we don’t frequently go to. A lot has been written about your appearance, the heavy make-up, the painted nails, the eccentric clothes, but also your statements regarding sex and drugs. Is challenging the audience part of the show and marketing? I am just being myself. I enjoy the freedom of being a musician and belonging to a band, it’s that simple. I really don’t understand it when some people describe us as provocative. Concerning the press, I follow what Andy Warhol used to say: «I don’t believe in what the press writes about me, I believe in how much they write about me.» As time goes by, I pay less attention. Do you deal with criticism of your music with the same attitude? My attitude is the same whether the criticism is positive or negative, because it is only one view and it is based on subjective consideration. I sometimes wonder if writing about music is like dancing while trying to describe architecture. If you pay too much attention, it might affect you very badly in relation with your band, your music and even your personality. The best policy is to keep all that away, especially from the creative process. All the same, critics have described your latest album as your best work so far. «Sleeping With Ghosts» has been described as your most emotional and most explosive album. We wrote the songs over three years and we included the best material in the album. During that period we went through many different emotional stages. We had all the time we needed to look into it, because we wanted to surprise ourselves. You must seek surprise when writing music and constantly renew your material. You must provoke new things. Your lyrics were often quite dark, describing extreme situations, like casual sex, forbidden substances, heartbreaking loneliness and broken hearts. In order to write such lyrics, one must have experienced these situations. Writing lyrics is a personal experience, but up to a certain point, it is also fiction. Lyrics are sometimes based on personal experience, but they can also be based on things that happen to those around you or grow out of your imagination. Unfortunately, people forget that we are also storytellers. I point that out, because people should not form opinions about someone’s character knowing only one’s art. Art is only part of someone’s personality and a very subjective one. You can’t know what that person’s daily routine and personal life are like. Judging from your last work and your new, more mainstream appearance, which coincided with the fact that you entered your 30s, I feel you want to change your image. My 20s were very chaotic and crazy because I felt the need to try everything. This was also a very difficult period of my life. Now that I’m in my 30s, I feel very different, since I have left many experiences behind. I feel cleaner, more certain and more mature, although being in a rock’n’roll band makes you feel a bit like Peter Pan; you feel you will always be young, whatever that means. Many of the things I did in the past I wouldn’t do now, but that is part of the growing-up process. It is very sad to be in your 30s and to behave as you did in your 20s, because then you haven’t learnt anything from life. Fortunately, I found out that nobody is immortal and transparent. What is Placebo’s most important element? The band’s international character. [Molko is of American descent, Stefan Olsdal is of Swedish descent and Robert Schultzberg has a Swiss passport]. Being an international band with an international appeal has always been our main expectation. We don’t want to be labeled a purely national band and be restricted by our nationality. A band that grows within a city’s limits cannot be the same as one that consists of members from different countries. I find bands like these very interesting. You are of American descent and you have often expressed your disapproval of the choices made by the US government. There will be elections in the States in a few months. Do you believe that if George W. Bush is not reelected something could really change? The greatest disadvantage of politics these days is that people choose to vote for what is least evil. In this case, Bush is the greatest evil. The interview was translated from the Greek text. For ticket information, check «What’s On.»

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