The band is a true international group: singer Brian Molko is half American and half British, drummer Steven Hewitt is British, bassist Stefan Olsdal is Swedish. Brian and Stefan both lived in Luxembourg before moving to England. The band also employed a second Swede: drummer Robert Schultzberg on the first record, after which he was replaced by Hewitt.
Hewitt used to drum on their demos but had no time for permanent membership due to his own band Breed. After the first record, Brian and Robert got into arguments, and Robert made room for Steve who permanently joined the band.
The band states that they are "50% gay." Molko is bisexual, Olsdal is homosexual, Hewitt is straight.
Brian and Stefan met each other in Luxembourg while they both studied there during their teenage years. They later met each other again in a London subway and started a band Ashtray Heart which would become Placebo soon after.
The name Placebo was decided upon because around the time (mid-'90s) several bands were named after drugs. Placebo decided to name themselves after the one drug/medicine that actually doesn't work.
Brian had a very sad childhood and thus has very bad memories of Luxembourg, which he considers a place with nothing to do but making money. The songs "Burger Queen" and "Slave to the Wage" are both about life in Luxembourg and directed to the citizens of this country.
The band has a hidden track on each of their first 3 albums. For the hidden track on Without You I'm Nothing (their second album), the band used a message from a stalker on Brian's answering machine. The voice on the tape was transformed. Brian's name was still in the phonebook then as they were not very famous around the time. He found the message very odd and decided to keep the tape and use it for a song.
Due to his youth in Luxembourg, Brian is perfectly bilingual French-English. Placebo recorded 3 songs in French, all French translations of songs first recorded in English: "Mars Landing Party" kept its original title, "Burger Queen" became "Burger Queen Francais," while "Protect Me From What I Want" became "Protege-Moi." The latter 2 were released as CD-singles in French speaking countries.
Brian started wearing make-up for drama classes during his early teens. He found it suiting and decided to hang on to it. He has been wearing it frequently ever since.
Brian lost his virginity at age 14 to a Swiss girl. He had to lie to his mother, telling her he had a nosebleed in the bed, but his mother never believed this.
Brian's mother is strongly religious, while Brian is not. The song "Blue American" has a few lines referring to this. Although not related to his mother, Brian has written more songs about religion, such as "Allergic (to thoughts of mother earth)."
Brian is good friends with Marilyn Manson and Nicola Sirkis of Indochine. He sang a few lines in a duet with Indochine, appearing on the Indochine album Alice Et June.
The band was discovered by David Bowie, who was very impressed by their sound and called them the most talented new band he saw in years. He took them with him on tour and thus Placebo got into the spotlight. Bowie later sang several songs live with the band, while he also recorded a duet with them: a special version of "Without You I'm Nothing" featuring both Brian's and Bowie's vocals. Placebo covered Bowie's "20th Century Boy."
Placebo were in conflict with Limp Bizkit due to Fred Durst making the audience shout "Placebo sucks" following an argument with Brian. This occurred during a show where both bands had to perform.
Because of the bad memories Brian and Stefan have of Luxembourg, the band avoided performing there for a while. However, since then, they did return to Luxembourg on 2 occasions for a concert. The band also claimed at one point to dislike touring the USA because Brian hates American politics.
Brian lives in London since he moved to the UK at age 17 to study drama and arts. He also has spent lot of time lately in Bangkok, which he claims is one of his favorite cities.
Stefan Olsdal has a side-project called Hotel Persona. Brian has no permanent side-project but did collaborate with Indochine, AlpineStars, Timo Maas and several others for occasional duets.
The band appeared in the film Velvet Goldmine.
Steve has a daughter named Emily. Brian has a son who was born in 2005 to his girlfriend Helena.
Gerrit - Belfast, Northern Ireland, for all above