Placebo’s Brian Molko Talks Touring, Expressing His Flamboyant Side + Bret Easton Ellis
Glammy British alt-rockers Placebo introduced the world to their seventh album, ‘Loud Like Love,’ with an ambitious 90-minute live Internet broadcast. It aired in September, marking the record’s release with an in-studio concert featuring new songs and classic cuts, band interviews, guests appearances, competitions and a bit of larking about.
Among the guests was American existential author Bret Easton Ellis, who narrates the plot to the video for lead-off single ‘Too Many Friends,’ a song about the fakeness of Facebook friends and dis-connectivity caused by social media.
Diffuser.fm chatted with singer and guitarist Brian Molko the day after he landed in New York City for a pair of shows — one in the Big Apple, the other in Los Angeles — ahead of the full 2014 U.S. tour. “I’m very jet-lagged, but I’m OK. Forgive me if I sound like a space cadet,” he announces from his label’s offices. We don’t have to, because the lucid, thoughtful Mr. Molko certainly doesn’t.
‘Loud Like Love TV’ was a huge undertaking. How did that come about?
I wish the band could take credit for the idea, but it was two guys who work for our management company. It came up after a discussion on how to play in every country that your album is released in at the same time. They dreamed up this live TV show, and it sort of snowballed and became this international link-up in real time. It was really quite brave, and we were lucky nothing went wrong. It was also a way for the fans to really get to know us as people, as human beings. They were allowed to see us as we really are, which they’ve never been able to do before. From that standpoint, it was particularly special.
As it’s been four years since the last album, did it make up for that time away and cover a lot of ground before the tour?
Absolutely. I guess one of the amazing things about the Internet is that it gives you more freedom to sort of drive the bus yourself. At the beginning of the show, there was about 86,000 people watching, which they announced to us as soon as we started. So it was like, OK, no pressure then!
Could you see a time when you would just do a simulcast and not tour?
That wouldn’t really be possible. To do something like that cost about £100,000. In a climate where people don’t really buy records any more, it’s not really possible not to tour. Touring is how we make a living today. We’re very fortunate in that we have had a lot of practice and become quite good at it and will survive. It’s how the majority of bands survive. Not touring is a luxury most of us can’t afford.
Do you like touring?
I like arriving, you know. Not so much the actual process of traveling. Arriving somewhere is better. But I really do like playing; I really like performance. There’s a dubious psychology to a person who needs affirmation and reassurance and recognition from thousands of strangers. I am actually a shy person, but there is a need for the flamboyant aspect of myself to express itself. The context for that is the live show.
So, are you an introverted extrovert?
To some degree, yes, and, to some degree, that side of my personality is satisfied by the act of performance, and I don’t need to behave extravagantly in my everyday life. Which I’m quite grateful for.
Your mum probably is too!
Yes, she probably is.
Why choose Bret Easton Ellis to narrate the video for ‘Too Many Friends.’
We felt that it was very appropriate, considering how much he tweets and how active he is on social media. It fitted in really well. But also, for me, I was very excited about the fact that he would be involved with Placebo in any way. When I was a teenager, I read his first two books, ‘The Rules Of Attraction’ and ‘Less Than Zero.’ They had a big impact on me. He sort of captured a kind of lost-at-sea nihilism that was present in the ‘80s. Just from a fan’s point of view, it was a very attractive project for me. I am genuinely a fan.