Steve Hewitt, www.waxx-music.com, October 2010
| PLACEBO WORDZ |
Placebo Songs commented
by Brian, Steve and Stefan
| Steve Hewitt, www.waxx-music.com, October 2010 |
Read the original here.
(It was a bit difficult to translate it because it seems they had some troubles to translate it in French in the first place, so some answers are a bit weird in French, hope it will not be too confusing now that I have translated them again in English...)
Why did you choose to take a band name and not yours?
Because this is not a solo project. This is a band. It started as a project where the songs came first, and the band later. A bit like the story of the chicken and the egg. My departure from Placebo was sudden and very strange, so I went into a studio to write songs about what I was feeling. And as I was going along, I realized there was a possibility to bring it to a higher level. So I finished the album, but it became clear to me that it had to be brought on stage, to be played live, so the band was formed. Here's how it started.
And why did you choose this name? Is there a connection with Robert Browning’s same named poem?
No. I thought it would be a unique name, and those three words perfectly suited to describe the emotional state I was in. I always had in mind this image of the phoenix rising from his ashes, I thought it suited me well because I played in one of the biggest bands in the world. It sounded like the perfect sentence to explain where I was and where I am.
It's kind of a new birth for you?
Yes, yes, absolutely.
Did you start writing these songs while you were still in Placebo, or only after?
I’ve always been a co-composer in Placebo, the three of us were composing, although Brian (Molko, lead singer of Placebo, ndr) would definitely tell you the contrary, we really worked as a band, each one was invested. So when I found myself alone, I started to write, it seemed natural. The biggest challenge, really, was that I would have to sing! I used to sing in the studio with Placebo, but I'd never done it live. That was my biggest fear. But it was really time to move forward, after 25 years playing drums. It was time to stay in the music, but to try something really different.
The first of these songs you've written is "Love Song," wich you made your wife listen to, who wept. If she hadn’t reacted like that, would it have affected your writting and your musical direction for this album?
Probably. It would have made me doubt. It was mostly to see what she thought of my singing (laughs). The night I finished the song in my studio, which is upstairs, I told her to come, press "play" and tell me what she thought. I was waiting downstairs, and she came back crying, I took it as a good sign. She found it beautiful, so I was comforted and given confidence in this project to start a band and sing songs. So yes, you need approval before you say "I'm fantastic." You need the opinion of other people to confirm to you that you go in the right direction and not a bad one. She’s not at all in the music world, but she likes it, she is not a musician, and having her opinion was the most important thing for me.
It was the first song, but it’s the last on the album ...
Yes, this is the first song I wrote. I did it on piano, and it is made of three parts, which I thought was ambitious for a first song. It was somehow a kind of catalyst to push things further. With this song I realized that I could develop my emotions, push them, after finding myself feeling so down, it was a way of saying "thank you for helping, supporting me" through these words. And because the first 10 songs I've written are all on the album, it’s why it’s there too. I didn’t have much material from which to choose, but all the songs on the album seem to be good, they all have this common resentment. I feel that this is a very honest album.
You’ve been behind the drums for 15 years, are you afraid to be on stage as a band leader?
Yes, definitely. Making this album was fun, and writing lyrics and singing were good challenges, but the more I did the more it became natural. I started to like it. When we finished recording the album and the mix too, I took a step back and came back to the mix, to be sure it had a good commercial potential. And I started to freak out during this remix, because I knew I would have to go on stage, with fear in the stomach. But I overcame all that. I gave myself enough time, and now I'm happy in my head, I'm done with all these fears. It was a big challenge, but it's very exciting to do something completely different. Change is good, and today it’s only a pleasure.
How did you set up your band?
There was Donald Ross, he’s not in the band. He works with Julian Cope, and he works a lot. He worked on the album during a break. This is a good arranger and a good producer, but so am I. So he came by my side to record the album. It was obvious to have him in the band in all cases because he is a natural. My drummer is named Keith York, someone I've known for 20 years. We play similar styles, so I told him he had to incorporate this project, to which he replied that there was no problem. The other guitarist, Steve Hove, was suggested to me by my engineer. He came to listen to the project, he loved it, and he’s the youngest among us. This is a good guitarist. He plays very well. There is also Laurie Ross on keyboards, who worked in the studio on several instruments, and it was enough to give me a reason to make him join the adventure. Magnus Lunden is the bassist, what seemed like the most natural choice after seeing him play. He’s a music teacher and he has never been in a band. So there was no audition or that sort of thing, it just happened like that, it worked well.
Your brother Nick also found himself involved ...
Yes, for recording sessions. I wrote all the music, and I was obviously going to do the singing and the lyrics. I can play the guitar, but I'm not the best guitarist in the world. So I caught my brother Nick to redo everything I had done, but to redo it properly. It was a good opportunity for him, and it was great to work with him. But we have this kind of sibling rivalry, a bit like the Gallagher brothers of Oasis. That's why Nick is not in the band, because there is no way to be touring together, it would go badly because of that. And there was Jon Thorn on bass at the same time. We also had to redo the bass parts, and he was available, so he came during the recording to do this. So there really was a studio band, and they helped me to do this album, to transpose my ideas. Then they went on with other things, and I formed my own band.
There is also your daughter singing on the record...
Yes, she sings on "Love Song". It was mainly a way for me to put pressure on her as she excels in everything she does, to make her enter into the music world. She was petrified in the studio, but I'm very proud. I forced her a bit to do it, but it was a good experience to do. It was nice to do that, it was an emotional day.
We really feel that this album is a way to say 'here I am, Steve Hewitt, and this is who I am today "...
Yes. My point exactly. But it is also a therapeutic experience, to bring out all these things buried in me, everything that happened with Placebo. And also a way to remind people what was my role in Placebo, to what extent I took part in it. People think that it’s only Brian, but no, it was him, me and Stefan, and that's what made Placebo sound so well in my opinion. But people were only focused on one person, and it was important for me to show that I am a songwriter too.
We can feel a lot of influences like New Order, The Cure or Queens Of The Stone Age. Was it your goal to mix all these influences and to make them yours?
I think it's important to try to create his own sound. But clearly, even as music’s worshiper, other bands’lover, you have to go further into what you do. I always put the music away, I don’t listen to albums when I record or when I write because I don’t like to be contaminated by other people’s ideas. This way when you work on the record, you're invaded by your unique sense of creativity. From a sonic standpoint, it’s still under development. For a first album, I think it works very well. It's very varied. That's how I like albums. When I listen to a rock album, I don’t want to hear the same song over and over again, I love being taken to a kind of journey, an escape. It doesn’t scare me to end up with different songs like "So Sad" or "Truth", so that it works perfectly for listeners. Freedom, more space, and treat them with intelligence, not taking them for fools.
There is much sadness in this album, but always with a background of optimism. Was it always with a goal of “contrasts”?
Absolutely. Many songs on this album have a similar message. It's about the break-up, not only in terms of love but also friendship, your close friends, like what I lived with the guys from Placebo for years before being laid aside, and living aside many questions that remain unanswered. What makes you angry, what makes it hard for you to look at yourself in the mirror. But there are ways to make it a positive or negative thing, to control what you want to make of your future, and not keeping pitying yourself. It's very dangerous to stay too long in this state of self-pity, you're never going forward, and you stay stuck in anger, which I think can only bring you problems. You have to be positive and believe in yourself again, and things will become brighter.
The best pop-rock groups are always English ...
It's a French saying that ... and you're right! (Laughs) There was always something special for good music. I don’t know if it comes from the language ...
The rain maybe?
(Laughs) Yes, it allows people to have time to make music, of course! It’s true that we are lucky to have good music for years, so are the U.S. actually. But I think it also flows in Europe now, as in Germany, and France too. I don’t think it’s specific to the United Kingdom. From one point of view, I would even say there's too much music in the United Kingdom. So much that good things can be lost, and that's a downside. But in the positive side, now we have internet, everything is easily available, and thanks to it all barriers can be crossed. People have more choices.
Would you say it is easier for an artist to create when he is sad or angry?
I would not necessarily say sad or angry, but I think a crisis is always a perfect vehicle to motivate someone to write, and speak out. Whether a good or a bad crisis. But yes, we need something to happen so that things can happen.
How do you compose in the band now, is it only you, or do you jam together?
For the album in England, it was just me, but now it’s the band together. We write differently. I allow everyone to bring their ideas, and we can really begin to be a band. Even if this album is under the auspices of Love Amongst Ruin and can be considered as a solo project, it’s not, because other people were involved and it's not just me . If it were only me, I'd be alone with an acoustic guitar. I think the future will be bright, the band's sound will change and grow, it promises to be a very exciting trip. Let's see how it works. But anyway in the end it is I who will make the decisions (laughs).
The song "Blood & Earth" is the most powerful of the album. How was she made?
Yes, it was created from the guitar riff. This is probably the most straightforward song, the rockest of the album. It's a great big rock'n'roll guitar riff, which goes straight, with a good bass direct line and vocals with effects on it. The song "Heaven & Hell" and "Away From Me" came from the drums and the bass. They had a nice groove. The songs came like that. I write in many ways actually. I find interesting that you can begin from different things, guitar, lyrics, that can bring an idea.
What is the idea behind the guy a bit crazy dancing in the video for "So Sad?
Again, "So Sad" speaks about how the relationship can go wrong, it's what's in the lyrics. This is a song of love-hate. You held a grudge again the person because of what happened. You feel the melancholy, the sadness, you're hurt, that's how it is. This guy dancing is an expression of how you feel when you want something, but you know it's going to be taken from you. In the middle of the dance, you can feel that I think.
Finally, why were you fired from Placebo?
I don’t know why! We had just finished the album Meds, and we had toured for 18 months. We came back from America, we said goodbye, and 2 weeks later I had an email from our manager telling me I was fired. And that's all. I’ve not seen them since the 02nd of September 2007 at the Heartrow airport. I haven’t heard of them, I didn’t speak to them, we didn’t see each other, they gave me no reason ... It's very strange. But hey, I'm here now, and I'm fine.
Steve Hewitt, www.waxx-music.com, October 2010
Source : www.waxx-music.com
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