Slinging their androgyny-coated brand of alternative rock since the mid-90s, Placebo have returned with the impending release of their new album Loud Like Love. Their first full-length release since 2009’s Battle for the Sun, the new album cements Steve Forrest’s place in the line-up, after the departure of former drummer Steve Hewitt in 2007.
Fronted by the always emotive and often angsty Brian Molko, Loud Like Love sees the band successfully interfacing their trademarked Placebo-edged rock with today’s electronic production techniques. Music Feeds got on the phone to Steve Forrest to talk about his widening role in the band, getting his album writing on and geeking out on Green Day’s Tre Cool.
Music Feeds: Loud Like Love has a pretty wide emotional arc, with a lot of relationship-fuelled stories. What were some sources of inspiration for the new album?
Steve Forrest: I think, basically, most of it came from being honest with ourselves. For me, individually, we all pushed ourselves and each other to explore new territories. So when we’re playing, working with electronics and stuff, [at first] as a drummer I was quite stubborn and against that… I didn’t really want to play with loops and things like that, [but] that was one thing we did on this record, and we wanted to step up in a sense.
That, in turn, was very frustrating at times, it was very hard, but because of that there was some great things that kind of sparked up and happened in the moment. I think we’ve created one of the most unique records this band’s ever put out, really. If you listen to it in its entirety, it’s very eclectic with all its sounds and everything.
MF: I have read that Brian used some track ideas he’d saved away from his own solo projects. How did this affect the track writing process? Was it ever daunting trying to turn them into Placebo tracks?
SF: We ended up using three of them for this record and there were moments where we basically didn’t have enough songs. We didn’t plan to write a record, and we started writing all these songs, and now we’re making a record. We kind of hit a moment where we had all these ideas but nothing is really happening with them, so Brian’s like, “Have these songs.” The songs that were presented were in a demo phase, so it worked really well together; it wasn’t hard to take those songs, strip them down and build them up as Placebo tracks.
There was one of them, Too Many Friends, it took some work, but the other two we just kind of sat down and kicked into it and the songs kind of wrote themselves. There are moments like that with us. Sometimes the things that seem to be the hardest will just happen and almost write themselves, and other ones you think will be much easier, those are the fuckers you end up banging your head against the wall for days with (laughs). It didn’t really affect the song writing process with us. We work really well together; if a song needs to be made, we make it happen.
Placebo – Loud Like Love
MF: This is your second album with the band?
SF: Yeah, it’s my second LP. It’s my fourth release, but second full-length.
MF: Was the process at all easier this time around? What’s it like working with everyone who has been in the band longer?
SF: As long as it’s heading in the right direction, you just try not to do anything stupid. I think with Battle for the Sun, I’d just joined the band. I came over in January 2008 and got welcomed into the band, wrote a few tracks for it and pretty much went straight into the studio. So, for me, I think I was spending so much time learning about everything, that with this album it was a lot different because now it’s been six years. We’ve settled in together and we’ve been through so much. This time there was a lot more sitting down and doing everything from scratch.
When I came in for Battle for the Sun… about 8 of the 13 tracks were already sort of written in demo without any drums, so I just came in and simply wrote the drums for all those tracks. I think about four of them we had written from scratch. With this record, about 90% of it we just sat down in a room and everyone grabbed an instrument – it didn’t matter what. There were times where I was on a guitar, Brian was on drums, and Stef [Stefan Olsdal, guitarist/bassist] was on piano. We’d jam out and it was anything goes. There’s no rules to how you make music. There’s definitely a lot more of my personality on this record… definitely.
MF: Is there any stand-out track from the album that you particularly enjoyed writing?
SF: I think that Loud Like Love, the title track itself. Funny enough, it was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. That one kind of wrote itself and we did it in one night. The way it is now, it’s pretty much exactly how we wrote it except it’s a little bit shorter. It was really exciting when we sat down and started adding all the synths and all the sounds and guitars and other stuff, to see it grow.
Really, the whole record was really exciting to get our heads into, because we’ve used lots of old instruments, like old guitars and drums, old synths, but also lots of things like the iPad to get fun sounds and loops. It was a learning process for all of us.