30 Seconds to Mars Interview – Sticking to their GunsPosted February 9th, 2010 At 11:18 am By MTV ASIA
Text and Interview: Madeleine Chong
“It’s important to fight sometimes so you can be free,” Jared Leto tells me in all seriousness. Fresh from attending the Sundance Film Festival 2010 and back in Los Angeles, the 30 Seconds to Mars (30STM) frontman was taking time out for a chat over the phone with MTV Asia.
Putting things into context, Jared was referring to the band’s uphill struggle in 2008 and 2009, especially with the grim prospect of the infamous $30 million Virgin label lawsuit hanging over their heads. It was a period where 30STM declared war, shed past baggage, enlisted an army of fans to leave their imprints on the new album, and basically marched on in a new creative direction.
That the lawsuit has now been settled is good news, and the band is looking ahead to touring and putting the finishing touches on Artifact, the 30STM documentary that they’ve been working on for more than a year now.
In many ways, new album This Is War is a triumphant and ambitious undertaking on so many levels, with myriad album covers, fan summits, a plethora of soundscapes and the handiwork of acclaimed producers such as Flood (U2, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails) and Steve Lillywhite (The Rolling Stones, U2).
Jared talks more about the album, coveting the elusive Obama album cover, turning the camera on Los Angeles for music video “Kings and Queens”, and wanting to tour Asia sometime this year.
Let’s talk about This Is War – Jared, you’ve said before that this current album talks about spirituality, faith, and fighting for what you believe in. Was there some form of personal enlightenment that you gained during the 4 years of making this record, with the challenges, the lawsuit and all?
Yes, it was an intense, soul-searching time and we had a lot going on. It was basically an opportunity for us to take a good, hard look at who we are and what we’re all about – the music, ourselves, personally; we wanted to refine 30STM. It was very stressful of course, but it’s important to fight sometimes so you can be free.
Are there any standout tracks on This Is War that are particularly meaningful to you?
They’re all very meaningful for different reasons. I’m now discovering most of them in the rehearsal room because we’re preparing for our first big tour as part of this new project, so we’ve only played 2 or 3 of the songs live. I’m excited to play the songs live.
This Is War is vastly different from A Beautiful Lie, which is great in terms of musical progression. Did you guys set out to make an epic-sounding, ambitious record from the start – were your goals always so clear-cut, or was it more of a gradual experimentation of ideas?
It was experimentation along the way; it really just is what it is and it was a long journey. I wrote the songs over a period of about 2 to 3 years, and mostly they grew into what they are now.
You’ve pulled out all the stops for this album, any pressure to top this one?
I’m still living with this record, so I haven’t thought about topping this one yet. We just put it out like 6 weeks ago. We’re still excited about sharing it with the world, but when the time comes to make a new record, we’ll figure something out.
Tell us more about the ‘Faces of Mars’ campaign. Was this a random idea that you guys were toying with, and did you expect it to be so well-received?
Well, we hoped that people were going to listen, understand and receive our work, and we’re very grateful for the response that we’ve gotten so far. It’s been incredible; it’s exciting that people responded this way. We did a lot of different covers with a lot of different people – other artists, musicians…most were fans from around the world, and there are some people of note and people who really were kind enough to give us a photograph for the cover of the album.
Yeah, I have some covers that I’m keeping, covers that I like collecting; I’m keeping several of my own covers. Not my own face, we didn’t do any band covers, we didn’t actually do photos of the band but there are a lot of people out there, friends, family and things like that that we are holding on to. Yeah, my mom was on one of the covers. It was pretty fun.
Any chance that you guys might spring another similar ‘social experiment’ on the fans for the next album?
I think it was an exciting thing to do, and we had a lot of fun doing it. It really sounded beautiful at the time – there may be a way in the future for people to contribute, but I don’t want to repeat the same thing, though I’m not really sure of what the future holds. One of my favourite covers so far is the Barack Obama cover. I gotta find that one. That should be a pretty hot ticket, the Obama cover.
It seems 30STM is blazing a trail in the area of fan involvement with the fan summits and the ‘Faces of Mars’ campaign. What drives you guys?
It’s an exciting thing to do. It’s fun. It’s unique. I think we’re just really curious to hear what people have to say and what they have to contribute. It means a lot to us and we’re always inspired by our audience, so it’s a way to bring some of the live show to the album and encourage interactivity.
I understand that a band documentary, Artifact, is in the works – any new updates on the status of the project?
We’re editing it now and I hope it’ll be done soon. It’s about anything and everything; it’s about us making this record and everything else that was happening in the world during 2008-2009. It was such an intense period for all of us around the world. We really documented that.
The music video for “Kings and Queens” captures the C.R.A.N.K. Mob movement in Los Angeles – is there any particular significance in highlighting the lifestyle of this group of riders?
The individuality, the freedom, the unique living – those things were really important and I think the traits were in line with this song as well. Yeah, having lived in this city for so long, it was interesting to turn the camera on it and capture it in a way for a song like that. I have such a personal and specific relationship with the landscape here so I’m glad I had an opportunity to do it.
Jared, I know you probably get asked about the whole actor-turned-musician label a lot, but do you find it a constant challenge to overcome critics’ perceptions of the band because of your involvement?
No, not really – if people like the music, they like the music, if they don’t, then they just won’t go anywhere near it – that’s what’s great about music. There’s a lot of music I love, and there’s music I don’t like. It’s a very personal thing. I think most people judge the band on its own merits and understand that this is a unique situation. I think we’ve transcended a lot of that and I think in many ways I’ve become more of a musician that acts, rather than an actor that makes music.
You guys are about to embark on an European and US tour – can we expect 30STM in Asia anytime soon?
I keep asking when we can come to Asia, but you guys will have to invite us! It’s interesting because bands talk a lot about wanting to (come to Asia), but it’s difficult to go there because there doesn’t seem to be accessible touring infrastructure, y’know? It’s a little difficult and it’s more common to have these sponsored shows. I wish it was different, I hope that someone will work something out so that it makes it easier for bands to go over there. But we certainly will come at some point this year.
Thanks for your time!
Thanks and do spread the word that we’re interested in coming and hopefully we’ll see you soon! You just have to invite us.