When alternative glamsters Placebo hit it big in the late '90s, the majority of British music fans seemed permanently transfixed on their androgynous singer/guitarist Brian Molko. Although they are considered by many as a British band, Molko was born on December 10, 1972 (it's unknown whether in the U.S. or Europe), to American and Scottish parents. Due to his father's profession (an international banker), Molko moved a lot, one of his more permanent residences being Luxembourg where he attended an American private school. As a teenager, Molko wanted to pursue a career in acting, so he moved (against his parent's wishes) to London to attend a drama course. But eventually, rock music became his primary interest, as he became infatuated with the alternative yet guitar-heavy sounds of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and the Swans, among others. He managed to bump into an old schoolmate from his Luxembourg days, Stefan Olsdal, who shared the same musical tastes and happened to play bass. Along with drummer Steve Hewitt, the trio became known as Placebo, and set out to record their first batch of demos in the early '90s. Although the demos eventually landed the trio a record deal with Hut Records (Caroline in the U.S.), Hewitt had to bow out of the band and was replaced by Robert Schultzberg in time for their self-titled debut in 1996. The album was a surprise hit back home in England (featuring the hit singles "Nancy Boy" and "Bruise Pristine") due to the success where the band's Nirvana-esque rock and glam looks, a la Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan, struck a major chord with music fans who had grown weary of the then-thriving Brit-pop sound. But after the tour in support of their debut wrapped up, it became clear that Schultzberg didn't fit in, and Hewitt finally agreed to become a full-time member.
With their sights set on cracking the U.S. market, Placebo issued their sophomore effort in 1998 and first for Virgin, Without You I'm Nothing
, which featured stronger songwriting and was a much more consistent listen from beginning to end than their debut. Despite some heavy duty touring stateside, the trio was only able to create a buzz with the alternative rock crowd (although the lead-off single "Pure Morning" enjoyed a bit of radio/MTV airplay). Placebo struck up a friendship with one of their biggest musical heroes, David Bowie, who re-recorded the title track from WYIN as a duet with Molko (the trio was personally invited by Bowie to play his 50th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden in 1997), and made several cameo appearances live with the band. In addition, Molko and co. had a cameo appearance in the movie Velvet Goldmine, performing T. Rex's classic "20th Century Boy," as they spent most of 1999 and the first few months of 2000 writing and recording their third album, Black Market Music. Although the album was issued in the U.K. in October of that year, it didn't see it's stateside release until May of 2001. With his affinity for outspoken statements in the press (he's never confirmed nor denied the prevalent rumors concerning drug use) and attention-grabbing stage persona, Molko has updated '70s glam for the new millennium.