The relationship that is key to Placebo's longevity
While in Australia for their recent 20 year anniversary tour, Placebo bassist Stefan Olsdal spoke to Double J’s Myf Warhurst about the band’s career, and why he’s standing up for equal rights.
“A lot of it is a bit of a blur to be honest,” Olsdal said of his band’s rapid ascent to the top of indie rock’s ranks.
He is my musical husband, I spend more time with him than friends and family.Stefan Olsdal — Double J
“I’m just here with enormous gratitude that the band is still alive and kicking. We’re here celebrating all things Placebo, it was the time to reflect and look at everything that got us here today.”
The band started when all its members were incredibly young, which meant they had to do a fair bit of growing up in the public eye, thanks to the ever-watching English music press.
“I was 19 and had to say goodbye to my high school teachers and say, ‘Bye, I’m going on tour!’,” Olsdal said.
“I’ve been on tour ever since, there was a lot of growing up in public. We had success early on and the British press are quite vicious.
"I’m quite a sensitive soul and it took me a few years to develop a tough skin. Through it all we just held on to the music.”
It’s his relationship with co-founding member Brian Molko that is a defining cornerstone of the band’s longevity.
“I still remember the first few days Brian and I jammed and it just felt right,” he said. “That’s what carried me through to today.
“He is my musical husband, I spend more time with him than friends and family. It’s a relationship that works and it’s based on shared values and morals and the music that we both completely agree on.”
Music and politics have always been intertwined with Placebo, particularly around the themes of gender and sexuality.
When asked how the band felt about playing the Margaret Court Arena, a venue whose namesake is openly against same sex marriage, Oldsal reflected on how that fits into the band’s stance on LGBTQI rights.
“We play a lot of countries and we wouldn’t play in these countries if we agreed with the government’s policies,” he said. “A lot of places haven’t moved as far as I would like in terms of justice and equality.
“Australia has come a long way but I wish it would come further. I think humankind will look back and think, ‘Why didn’t we treat everyone equally? Why didn’t we have the same rights?’”
When asked if he will be getting out his rainbow bass for the Australian shows Olsdal confirmed that this was his preferred form of protest, despite the accompanying feeling of being targeted.
“It’s my weapon,” he said. “That’s the one that I wield around the world because there’s work to be done everywhere.
“I stand up there and sometimes think I’m going to see a red dot circled around my chest but it’s something that I’m willing to stand up for so I stick my neck out, but it’s worth it.”
Oldsal has exciting plans for Placebo’s future. He believes the band’s strong legacy has given them creative freedom that they plan on harnessing.
“I think we have stamped our identity so firmly in the music scene it allows us to do whatever we want now,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to getting experimental.”