Placebo’s Stefan Olsdal Shares His Musical Memories

Placebo have once again been securing themselves in the affections of a fanbase and critical guard who have been spinning the latest album; A Place For Us To Dream. Here is a retrospective of Placebo’s twenty-year career, and as such it stands as a document of the evolution of fierce, punky sound, and also the enduring sentiments of a band who continue to represent a truly alternative vision in the world or rock, electronica, and raw emotion. 

Known for an unwavering voice of confrontational compassion and independent spirit, Placebo have been touring on the retrospective album, and putting in some of the most captivating shows of their career. It seemed a good time to catch up with Stefan Olsdal, founding member and co-conspirator of Brian Molko, and ask the bassist/guitarist and Dj to share some of the musical memories that informed Placebo and his side project Digital 21 + Stefan Olsdal.  

First single I bought…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgk39i2cUj4

 ‘Love Missile F1-11’ by Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I was fascinated by Martin Degville and his electro punk look. This was also the beginning of my love of electronic music which led me onto Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and later on Suicide.

First live show I attended… 

Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 1987 in Luxembourg. The audience were so unresponsive that Neil smashed his guitar in frustration! Luxembourg was a bit of a cultural black hole in the 80’s. Chosen track: ‘The Needle and Damage Done’

First song I learned to play: 

‘Somebody’ by Depeche Mode. I was drawn in by the simplicity and directness, which made it a perfect first song to perform. I learnt the chords on a guitar (original is on the piano) and sang it in front of students on an exchange trip my school made with Estonia when it was still a Russian state. We brought over food in bags as the families we stayed with barely had enough to survive.


The song that encouraged me to learn my instrument of choice…

I was into hard rock as a kid and listened to Iron Maiden and Metallica, but the most satisfying song to play on the electric guitar was by Black Sabbath. The riff to ‘Iron Man’ is heavy and simple, which was encouraging as I felt for the first time that I could actually play!! 


The song that reminds me of home… 

Charles Aznavour ‘Comme Ils Disent’. My parents played a lot of the 70’s crooners like Barry White and Jacques Brel. This song is about a male stripper, and has been translated into English under the title “What Makes A Man A Man”


My guilty secret track… 

Aphrodite’s Child “The End of The World” Demis Roussos progressive rock band from the 1970’s go dramatic ballad with this piece of perfect cheese.


The song I wish I wrote… 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTAASV_Rjl0

Bach ‘Suite No.2 in D minor. Prelude’ for Unaccompanied Cello. A perfect melancholy piece performed by one instrument, but fills so much more space. Each note carries weight and there is no excess making this one of the most perfect instrumental pieces ever written.


The finest song from my all time hero… 

It’s hard to chose but the first song that spoke to me was ‘Quicksand’ by David Bowie. This is how I feel like many times, and listening to it now makes it even more poignant. I got into Bowie quite late, and this track along with the whole of ‘Low’ quickly became my favorites.


The song I’ve written of which I’m most proud… 

‘Bosco’ from Loud Like Love. It’s the most timeless and emotive Placebo have been. I remember presenting Brian with the recorded piano and he came up with the some gut wrenchingly beautiful lyrics. It’s a track we only performed live once, at our MTV Unplugged, as we feel it needs an orchestra to do it justice.


The song that should be played at my funeral…

Dancing Queen by Abba. Lets keep it a celebration!


My favorite track from my most recent project… 

“War” by Digital 21 + Stefan Olsdal. As far away from Placebo as possible, this is electronica meets a string quartet in a world of struggle. This instrumental track states our musical mission pretty clearly. The album is on its way and will be out in spring 2017.

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