Being the sweetest lady ever, Fiona Brice, Placebo’s strings arranger for their last two albums and side member for their Battle for the Sun tour, was nice enough to give us an interview regarding her journey with les enfants terribles of alternative rock. A special thank you goes out to her for doing this.
Niki Phaser: Battle for the Sun is the second Placebo album, that you’ve worked on, after Meds. How did you first meet the band and got to collaborate with them?
Fiona Brice: I have known the band socially for many years because we have several friends in common in London, and we used to meet at gigs before Placebo became hugely successful and their tours took them away for long periods. Brian remembers seeing me playing violin with Michael J Sheehy about 10 years ago at the 12-bar club in London. At the time I was playing and writing with various bands, including Dream City Film Club. Coincidentally I was also in the band Tram for a while, and Bill Lloyd was in this band before me! Small world… But our musical paths didn’t officially merge until the band decided to use strings on the Meds album. They asked me to write with them, and we found musical material and a sound that could add something to the songs without overpowering them. It worked well and after this I collaborated with Stefan on the strings for the Hotel Persona album.
NP: Are you satisfied with how the studio sounds have been transposed into live songs?
FB: Yes I am very happy with the way the ‘string’ songs sound live. Our sound engineer is brilliant and has worked hard to ensure that combination of the samples and my live violin sound has a great impact. Using an electric violin helps with this as an acoustic violin would be overwhelmed by everything else on stage.
NP: Are there any songs that you are particularly fond of playing live?
FB: I really love playing Battle for the Sun. I feel this is an important track for the band and it is exciting to perform. Every You Every Me and Special K are amazing too. I become a ‘fan’ again because I have always loved those songs and it reminds me of being in the crowd, rather than being in front of the crowd. It’s important to remember where you’ve come from! Speak in Tongues is also very powerful. I enjoy all the songs in the set for different reasons, and I am constantly finding new things in them to keep me inspired.
NP: Could you name a few highlights, for you, of the tour so far?
FB: The whole tour has really been fantastic so far. The Bucharest gig was wonderful for me. (I am not just saying that for this interview!) We were all in a good mood on that hot summer day, and the audience were so energetic and happy, I could really feel their excitement and love on stage, it was quite emotional. I had a great experience in Mexico City and I also loved the London Roundhouse and 02 gigs. Aside from the gigs, some of my favourite experiences have been from travelling. We visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan (Mexico) which is a truly awesome place. Visiting Tokyo for the first time was exciting, as was arriving in Rouen (France) after midnight and turning a corner to find the gothic cathedral shrouded in mist and lit by moonlight. I fell in love with Lisbon too.
NP: What would be some of your least favourite aspects of touring?
FB: Touring can get tough when you are ill because there is no recovery time. We all get sick occasionally, and it can be hard to perform when you feel unwell. I try to stay healthy on the road to avoid this, but jetlag and exhaustion can get to you sometimes. Airports, flights and flight cancellations can be stressful too. Travelling by tourbus is the best! But really I have absolutely nothing to complain about because I get to play music and travel the world, and I feel privileged to do so.
NP: When you were asked to do the live tour with Placebo, was it a no-brainer, or was there some convincing required?
FB: I did not need any convincing! After the experience of playing at Angkor Wat (Cambodia) I knew I wanted to do the tour straight away. Who wouldn’t want to tour with Placebo? They’re an amazing live act!
NP: Hypothetically speaking, if you were asked to join Placebo as a permanent member, would you agree?
FB: Obviously it would be an honour to be asked to join the band permanently but it is unnecessary because I am very happy with my position in the band as it is.
Once again, thank you to Fiona Brice. Interview by Niki N. Phaser, January, 2010.