Placebo: «The days of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll are over»

 Drummer in British band Placebo on why they’re not ashamed to have been playing in front of teenagers for 20 years  06/23/2014, 22:15
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Placebo: «The days of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll are over»
Photography by Sergei Mordvinov

For the first time in their 20 year career, British band Placebo have made it to Siberia. Nearly 3000 fans attended the concert in Novosibirsk, most of which were 14-year-old girls in love with frontman Brian Molko’s voice and young men keen on heavy guitars. Sib.fm’s correspondent asked the band’s drummer Steve Forrest what Placebo want to tell their fans about Siberia, why they are happier now and what they think of Orthodox activists.

You’re making a film on this tour. In Novosibirsk, for example, you met a local architect. What will the movie be about, and why are you doing this?

Basically, we’d never been to Siberia, so first of all we’re learning about this place ourselves, feeling its uniqueness. We want to find out about constructivist architecture, which we’re curious about too. Our goal isn’t only to show ourselves, but also these amazing places that are new to us. We want to share everything with our fans, who’ve never been here and might feel that Siberia is a very distant, cold and dark place. That’s not the case. We want to show how interesting it really is. For example, we got on the train and some Siberian landscapes that look just like the Swiss Alps. I didn’t know that Siberia could be so beautiful — I was impressed.

You very rarely give interviews. Why are you so secretive?

That’s right. About five years ago, Placebo was a more closed-off group that had a dark and gloomy style, but now it’s different. We’ve changed, and believe that there’s nothing wrong in being open, smiling and showing your sunny side. We’re meeting fans in Siberia so actively for two reasons. Firstly, it’s just interesting for us. We’ve never been here and don’t know if we’ll come back. And a lot of people didn’t believe that Placebo would come, so we decided to respond to that.

It’s obvious from the last two albums that you’ve become more joyful and sunny. What changed?

I think the main reason is our own personal changes. I joined the band in 2008; before then it was a different group. The music we make reflects what is going on in our lives. A lot has changed. The days of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll are over. Perhaps that’s why the sound of the last album Loud Like Love was lighter. But the lyrics haven’t changed much: there are still suicidal themes, pain, suffering. We’re happier in ourselves, but this is reflected more in the sound than the lyrics.

Before, we would write songs in a bad mood and say, «Fuck you!» Now, we write songs in a good mood, but say the same things

Aren’t you tired of playing for teenagers? At the end of the day, most of your audience are 14-year-old girls.

I’ve been wondering about this, because in Europe, for example, we have quite a mixed audience: there are teenagers, but there are older people too. So it was strange to see mostly teenagers here. It was a bit of a surprise for us. Maybe people just haven’t got used to us yet. But we don’t mind playing for teenagers, it doesn’t really matter. There’s no age limit for enjoying music and rock ’n’ roll.

But you’re not a rock ’n’ roll band...

In 1998, Placebo appeared in the film Velvet Goldmine

Yeah, we’re not like rock ’n’ roll from the 50s with leather jackets, but ultimately we’re a rock band. We still have loud guitars and big drums, but we also have a sensitive side using keyboards and a bit of electronic stuff here and there. There are a lot of different variations. People normally say that we’re an alternative band. But it’s all so complicated...

The band’s been together for nearly 20 years, but you joined just six years ago. Do you get on well? Are you comfortable?

It was love at first sight. Before that, I was in a band which supported Placebo a year earlier (Evaline — Sib.fm comment). I just sat behind the drum kit, looked at everyone and said, «Well, let’s just see if this works». And we started jamming. It was wonderful, a natural chemistry in personality, music tastes and the creative process. It’s still the same now. I feel as if we’ve always been together.

We’re really close and there’s a really strong bond. Not just between the three of us, but all six of us and the crew — we’re all one big family. You can’t tell that they’re 14-15 years older than me either. They’re just big kids.

Have you heard that the Orthodox activist movement is growing in Russia? Some of you are of a «non-traditional sexual orientation». Were you not afraid to come here?

Yeah, we’ve heard about it. I personally don’t agree with it, I think people should have the freedom to be who they really are. That’s really important for us. It’s no secret that Stefan is gay (bassist in Placebo — Sib.fm comment). I respect people’s desire to live according to their traditional values, but I don’t think that we should build a wall to restrict others and tell them what they should be like. It’s wrong to judge someone by their skin colour, religion or sexual orientation.

Do you believe in God?

I’m religious, but I never discuss it, even with the other band members. It’s very personal.

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