Brian Molko

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Brian Molko
Brian Molko in the European Parliament (cropped).jpg
Molko in 2010
Brian Molko

(1972-12-10) 10 December 1972 (age 50)
Brussels, Belgium
NationalityAmerican, Belgian, Scottish
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1992–present
Musical career
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, piano

Brian Molko (born 10 December 1972) is a Belgian-born Scottish-American musician and songwriter. He is best known as the lead vocalist, guitarist, and lyricist of the band Placebo. He is known in particular for his distinctive nasal, high-pitched vocals, previously feminine/androgynous appearance, aggressive guitar style, and unique tunings.

Early life[edit]

Molko was born in Brussels, Belgium, to an American Jewish father of French and Italian heritage and a Scottish mother. He has an older brother named Stuart.[1] Molko's family moved frequently during his childhood due to his father's career as a banker; the family lived in Dundee in Scotland, Liberia, Lebanon, the village of Longeau in Belgium, before eventually settling in the town of Sandweiler, in Luxembourg.[2]

Although Molko was brought up in a strict household that disapproved of artistic expression (his father wanted him to become a banker), he rebelled by assuming an androgynous image, wearing nail polish, lipstick, and eyeliner, and listening to punk music. He initially attended the European School of Luxembourg (ESL), but left because he was bullied.[3] He completed his secondary education at the American International School of Luxembourg (AISL),[4][5] before studying drama at Goldsmiths College in London.[6]


Soundwave Festival 2010

Although Molko and Placebo co-founder Stefan Olsdal had both attended the American International School of Luxembourg (AISL), they had not been friends.[7] When Molko was living in London, he ran into Olsdal at South Kensington tube station and invited him to one of his gigs he played with Steve Hewitt in a group called Ashtray Heart.[7]

Along with Hewitt and Olsdal, Molko had a role in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine,[8] for which Placebo performed the T. Rex song "20th Century Boy". He played Malcolm, a singer of the fictional glam rock band, "The Flaming Creatures", who resembled the early Alice Cooper band.

During Placebo's live performances Molko has played a number of instruments, including guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, harmonica and saxophone.

Personal life[edit]

Molko is openly bisexual, a theme which was reflected in some of his earlier lyrics with Placebo.[9][10] Molko was previously in a relationship with Helena Berg with whom he has a son, Cody Molko, who was born in 2005.[11][12] Cody is now an actor and appeared in the television series The Drowning.[13]

Molko has been open about his use of recreational drugs: in a 1997 interview with Kerrang! magazine he admitted that heroin was "probably the only drug on this planet I haven't tried".[14] However, he later admitted to using heroin as well.[15] Pharmaceutical drugs are also referenced, as evidenced by the band's name as well as the album Meds and its title track. Molko admitted in 2003 that many of his initial excesses were due to his mental health issues; he was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder in his late twenties.[16] He claimed in 2016 that he gave up drugs completely after the recording and release of Meds.[17]

Molko speaks fluent French and English.

In December 2012 Molko received an Honorary Fellowship from Goldsmiths College, University of London.[18]

In March 2021 Brian was featured in Marc Jacobs "Heaven" collection with a campaign shot taken by Harley Weir.[19]


He has performed, as a guest vocalist and with other artists on Placebo's records, on tracks by:

Molko wrote the English lyrics to "Pink Water 3", a song by Indochine from the album Alice & June, released in 2005.[20]

Molko was friends with David Bowie; Bowie sang on Placebo's "Without You I'm Nothing"[21] and on the "20th Century Boy" cover live.


Molko uses a variety of guitars. In the Sleeping With Ghosts era, he used Gibson SGs ("The Bitter End", "Every You Every Me", "Plasticine", "Black-Eyed", "Without You I'm Nothing", "Special K", "Bulletproof Cupid", "Soulmates/Sleeping With Ghosts", "Special Needs", "This Picture"), Fender Jaguars ("Allergic", "Nancy Boy", "Bionic", "Centrefolds"), a Fender Thinline Telecaster ("Taste in Men"), a Fender Jazzmaster ("Pure Morning"), and a Fender Bass VI ("Slave to the Wage"). For amplification he used a Marshall 6100LM.[22]

Through the Meds tour, he used Gretsch Duo Jets ("Infra-Red", "Because I Want You", "Song to Say Goodbye", "One of a Kind", "The Bitter End", "Running Up that Hill", "Special K"), Gibson SGs ("Special Needs", "Every You Every Me", "Black-Eyed", "Without You I'm Nothing"), a Fender Jaguar ("Drag", "Nancy Boy", "I Know"), a Fender Thinline Telecaster ("Twenty Years", "Taste in Men"), and a Gibson Chet Atkins SST ("Meds"). His amplifier was a Fender Twin Reverb.

In the Battle for the Sun tour, he still used Gretsch Duo Jets ("Devil in the Details", "Come Undone", "Follow The Cops Back Home"), a Gibson SG ("Bright Lights"), Fender Cyclone ("Ashtray Heart", "The Never-Ending Why", "Breathe Underwater", "Teenage Angst"), a Gibson Les Paul ("For What It's Worth", "Speak in Tongues", "Julien", "Meds"), a Fender Telecaster Thinline ("Kitty Litter"), and a Fender Toronado ("Battle for the Sun").[citation needed] His pedalboard consisted of a Boss TU-2 chromatic tuner, Electro Harmonix Holy Grail reverb, MXR Phase 90 phaser, two Electro Harmonix Hot Tubes distortion units, Boss DD-3 delay, MXR Distortion + booster, MG Monovibe chorus/vibrato, Electro Harmonix No. 1 Echo delay and a Radial Loopbone effect chain switcher.

In 2010, he signed an endorsement contract to use Orange amps.[23]


  • Velvet Goldmine (1998) – Malcolm of The Flaming Creatures
  • Sue's Last Ride (2001) – executive producer


  1. ^ "Brian Molko sends his regards to his brother Stuart". YouTube. 19 September 2003. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  2. ^ Placebo Interview Hanging Out, MTV 1996
  3. ^ "FHM interview with Brian Molko". FHM/PlaceboWorld. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Role Reversal". Sessions. May 2012. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Extra info about Brian". 22 June 2009. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  6. ^ "The Boy Can't Help It". Guitarist/PlaceboWorld. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Brian Molko's biography". Archived from the original on 25 July 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  8. ^ "Velvet Goldmine (1998) – Full cast and crew". IMDb. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  9. ^ West, Dave (9 April 2006). "Molko: I wish I kept quiet on sexuality". Digital Spy. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  10. ^ "20 Years After "Nancy Boy": How Brian Molko Queered up the 90s".
  11. ^ "Of Meds and Men: An Interview with Placebo's Brian Molko". Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Placebo's Brian Molko on why the nine to five life was not for him". Belfast Telegraph.
  13. ^ "Daniel in the Drowning is played by actor Cody Molko who has a VERY famous musician dad!". 2 February 2021.
  14. ^ "New York Doll". Kerrang!. 18 January 1997. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  15. ^ "I Thought I Was Good At Handling Pussy". Select. Emap International Limited. Archived from the original on 24 March 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2017. Note: copy stored at Placebo Official Website.
  16. ^ "The drugs don't work". 13 June 2003. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  17. ^ Lindsay, Cam. "Rank Your Records: Brian Molko Skeptically Rates Placebo's Eight LPs". Vice. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Brian Molko receives Honorary Fellowship at Goldsmiths". YouTube. 19 December 2012. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  19. ^ "Heaven by Marc Jacobs Returns with a Teen Dream '90s Grunge Collection". 3 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Pink Water – Indochine, Brian Molko | Song Info | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Placebo with David Bowie Chat Transcript – 29/3/99". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  22. ^ " "Brian Molko interview", Nov'97". Placebo Russia. Marshall Amps. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  23. ^ "Orange Amps Signs Over 110 New Endorsees". Ultimate Guitar. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011.

External links[edit]