PLACEBO are back. A little older and a lot wiser. Frontman Brian Molko has toned down the make-up and finally kicked his addictions into touch.
“We’re a lot more civilised now,” reveals the Scots-American singer, whose band visit the HMV Picture House on Wednesday night.
“After the show it’s all about chamomile tea now and trying to source the best chamomile with the most flowers in it.
“We usually go back on the bus and have a little tea party,” he adds.
Placebo are a band who have divided opinion since they first burst into the charts in the mid-Nineties.
Some still can’t get enough of angst-fuelled alt-rock anthems such as Nancy Boy, Pure Morning and Every You Every Me; others have long since written them off as little more than ‘pantomime goths’ with a lead singer whose tortured outsider persona is as irritating as hell.
Whatever you think of them, the cosmopolitan trio comprising Molko, Swede Stefan Olsdal and American Steve Forrest are global superstars, with combined sales of more than ten million albums.
Once a man with a reputation for throwing tantrums at the drop of a hat, Molko now admits that he struggled to curb his addictions because he feared it would spell the end of the group.
“I’m a weirdo magnet, but I’m handling it better than I used to,” says the gender-bending singer.
“I would get over-emotional and shout at fans for invading my personal space. But a lot of that was brought on by alcohol.
“I used to fly off the handle in everyday life, but I’m a little calmer now.”
On his past reputation as a tough interviewee, the 5ft 6in singer shurgs, “It was who I was at the time. I had a great deal of arrogance and a great deal of bravado, but I think the bravado was brought on by a huge insecurity.
“I did get a reputation for being a beast as well. I was called a ‘drug- crazed sex dwarf’ at one point. In every exaggeration there’s always a grain of truth, I guess.”
The son of an American banker and a Scottish, born-again Christian mother, Molko, who once referred his mother’s home town of Dundee as “where I grew up”, admits he was hiding himself through alcohol and drugs.
“I always enjoyed drugs, but I started to realise that I wasn’t immortal, that I had to stop before it was too late,” says the 39-year-old. “It was less a lifestyle and more a physical imperative.
“I had a responsibility to myself as well as to my fans and bandmates. I realised that throwing it all away would be pretty f****** stupid.”
Molko, who reckons he was partially responsible for setting the trend in men wearing eyeliner, confesses that Placebo’s huge success, coming after a troubled adolescence when he’d been the frequent target of attacks because of his ‘effeminate’ appearance and bolshie attitude, went straight to his head.
He realised it was time to change when, after one particularly wild US tour in 2007, he read a magazine interview he’d done and didn’t much like the obnoxious, self-obsessed rock star who came across.
“It was a time of identity crisis for me,” he says. “The extreme side of my personality, which I chose to sort of display, was snowballing and getting a life of its own. It was like looking in a mirror and not recognising myself.”
Even to this day, each gig Placebo play is packed with hugely devoted fans and it has to be said that some are more than a little obsessive.
“I’ve been scared in some situations where people have thrown bullets on stage, and scissors,” says Molko. “And coins hurt as well - you wouldn’t think it, but they hurt.
“It’s an interesting form of appreciation - it’s complex and sophisticated.”
Placebo, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Wednesday, 7pm, £28.50, 0844-847 1740