BRIAN MOLKO, FLAMBOYANT FRONTMAN FOR inventive London psyche-rockers Placebo, swears that North America is safe from his band’s reported debauchery. His agent, Rob Prinz of Creative Artists Agency, need not worry about his client. Despite U.K. press reports of excessive behavior in all matters sexual, pharmaceutical, alcohol and rock ‘n’ roll, the singer/guitarist said, “It can safely be said that we’ve pretty much done it all by now. We got a lot out of our systems.”

It’s not clear what he means by “a lot.” When the singer – whose band’s second Virgin album, Without You I’m Nothing, has spawned the hit single, “Pure Morning” – was queried about the nature of this so-called “deviant” behavior, he didn’t go into detail. “It’s just a big sensationalist exaggeration of everything that is rock ‘n’ roll,” he said, stoking one’s imagination.

“All the stories that you hear about rock ‘n’ roll are all true – all the cliches are true and you realize that after being in a band a while, except that in real life they’re usually sicker and more extreme. We were just incredibly honest about what life is like when you’re in a band.

“We did nothing else that young men in their 20s with a bit of money wouldn’t do. We were in a band. We were getting a lot of success in Europe. We had never been in a band before. We’d never had a deal. We’d never been recognized in the street before. We bought into the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing with great vigor and had a really, really good time.

“The only difference is that we did it in public and the other thing is we weren’t particularly that bashful about being honest about it, so it earned us a reputation as being international hedonists. We’ve all had our problems and we’ve all had our ups and downs and we’ve all felt the brunt of our actions. We’re all quite philosophical about it really.”

The “we all” refers to his bandmates, Stefan Olsdal (bass, guitar, keys) and Steve Hewitt (drums), and together they are quite willing to put in the hard work to make Placebo successful. That means spending the better part of 1999 on the road. The trio played some radio dates just before Christmas and will return in late February/early March.

“It’s just the beginning really,” says Molko, who met his management team, Alex Weston and Dave McLean of Riverman Management, back in 1995. They were local promoters and the unsigned trio approached them for gigs. “There’s a lot more time that we need to put into playing North America. It’s what we have to do. You have to take your music to the people, otherwise, they’re not going to care about you. They have to feel your presence.”

While European tours with David Bowie and U2, behind its 1996 eponymously-titled debut album were successful, Placebo didn’t get such a warm reception the first time it hit these shores as opening act for Weezer. “When people throw coins and scream, ‘You f**kin’ faggot!,’ it just makes you angry, and confrontation is something that gives you energy and a real drive and a real spiritual f**k-you and you just plow through it,” says Molko.


When the fiery sets were over, Molko didn’t even bother assessing what went wrong. “You usually just get drunk,” he laughed.

Back home in London, there is no doubt that Molko, who usually appears wearing makeup and some feathery get-up, is a rock star – recognized in the street, stared at in restaurants and clubs, followed home by autograph hounds and adored. And he certainly fuels the persona.

Asked if he ever instructs his road crew to select pretty girls to go backstage as true rock stars are mandated to do, he says, “Oh, sure. It happens, yeah. It happens with all bands really. Touring is a very frustrating lifestyle but it’s also a kind of lifestyle that’s almost responsibility-free. You end up getting into a bit of rut after a little while. You have to spice things up in order to not go insane. There’s a lot about the lifestyle that’s incredibly boring. It’s also filled with extremes.”

He likes to test his celebrity status back at home in order to avoid plebeian customs like standing in a queue that curves around the block and paying pricey dance club cover charges. “I do that all the time in London,” he said. “It’s important to never say, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ We promised ourselves we’d never ever say that. It’s all got to do with your attitude. Sometimes, if you behave like it’s your God-given right, then people will allow you that right.”

Still, Molko claims even if Placebo explodes worldwide, he’ll never turn into a terror of a rock star. “I’d like to keep my soul intact,” he says. “It’s only for the time that you’re onstage that you’re this magical rock star. The rest of the day, you’re just the same asshole that you always were.”