I'm well aware that rock bands and their ilk can come up with the most bizarre of names, but the moniker Thirty Seconds to Mars makes you feel like there's something sinister going on there. And we are still in the dark after the explanation we got.
Jared Leto, the actor-turned-frontman of the American music group, maintains that Thirty Seconds To Mars has little to do with space or the universe as one would think. In fact it's a name that works for the band on several different levels. "Most importantly, it is a good representation of our sound. It's a phrase that is lyrical, suggestive, cinematic, and filled with immediacy. It has some sense of otherness to it. The concept of space is so overwhelming and all encompassing I doubt there is a song written that doesn't fall within it," he says.
Whatever the reason, we won't really have to go by the name as Thirty Seconds to Mars will be right here in Abu Dhabi for fans to find out. The band too is ecstatic about its maiden performance in the Middle East and there couldn't have been a better place than the UAE to start off. "Yes… we've heard so much about the UAE, so being able to play there is amazing!" says drummer Shannon Leto. So what can we expect at the concert? "Expect the unexpected," he says.
Created in 1998, the band shot to fame in 2002 when it released its first album 30 Seconds to Mars. It also has two other studio albums A Beautiful Lie (2005), This Is War (2009) and two extended plays - AOL Sessions Undercover (2007) and To the Edge of the Earth (2008). Its last album This is War has been certified gold in several countries including Germany and Australia, double-gold in the UK and double-platinum in Belgium. The band has the distinction of winning 42 awards, including TRL's Best New Artist in 2007, MTV Europe Music Award's Rock Out the same year and Video Star in 2008 at the MTV Asia Awards. In 2010, it was the Best International Band at The Relentless Energy Drink Kerrang! Awards and picked for Best Rock Video for Kings & Queens at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Now Thirty Seconds to Mars commands a legion of young fans. Its music has certainly evolved since the boys first began playing together and as Shannon says change was imperative to their success. "The world is changing so we change with it. We always aim to do something different from album to album," says the drummer.
If you listen to the tracks of Thirty Seconds to Mars, you observe that the band doesn't stick to a set genre. Though mostly known as an alternative rock band, critics say its tunes could be labelled hard rock, emo, neo-progressive, post-grunge and so on. However, when asked to classify their music, Shannon shies away from the question. "I don't classify us," is all he says.
Managing a band these days, and a successful one at that, is no mean task, so what has been their biggest challenge as a band? "Dealing with the financial angle," says Shannon. Quite naturally in August 2008, the band found themselves in limbo as Virgin Records filed a $30 million lawsuit against them. The group had reportedly refused to deliver three albums as required by a contract. The case has been settled but it seems to have inspired the music group's prized album This is War. At least that's what Shannon says. "The experiences that surrounded us at the time were the influences… being sued for $30 million had a big impact along with the global financial meltdown," he says.
Jared Leto writes the songs, Shannon Leto plays the drums and Tomo Milicevic plays lead and bass guitar. During tours Jared, Tomo and Shannon are usually joined by Matt McJunkins on the bass and Braxton Olita on keyboards, rhythm guitar and backing vocals.
There was a time when music videos were made only to promote albums. But these guys have gone a step ahead and have received a lot of acclaim for their videos because of their creative storylines. Rumour has it that Jared directs the videos but prefers to do so under a pseudonym, however, Shannon prefers to remain tight-lipped. "No comment," he says when prodded.
Shannon, however, acknowledges that Jared does have a strong hand in the creative process. "Videos are another form in which my brother (Jared) expresses himself and he has a lot of passion in the creative process and he shows this in the videos." One such video for Hurricane was banned on music channels because of its explicit content. Jared defends it by saying, "I never set out to make a controversial film. I didn't set out to make a film that would get banned - as it has - from several networks around the world, and restricted to night-time broadcast," he said. "I didn't really have those things in mind, I just set out on this journey and followed my creative instincts to tell the truth."
Thirty Seconds to Mars has formed a street team called Echelon (after one of their songs) for diehard fans. It's meant to pull friends to the band's shows, and prod fans to request local radio stations to air the band's songs, put up posters, post blogs on online forums or bulletin boards, nominate the band for awards and maintain magazines or websites dedicated to the band. "Some people ask us if this is a cult, I say it's something special, it's not for everyone, it's only for those who understand," says Jared. And how does one join the Echelon? "They just need to believe in us," says Shannon.
Going by the band's hardcore fan base, I'm curious to know what they'd want a fan to do for them. "Open their minds and be creative," says Shannon.
That brings us to the question of the very passionate cover of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance that the group had recorded. "Jared brought us the song and it was a natural thing when we played it," says Shannon.
The boys make no bones about the fact that they love touring. It is the support of the fans that gives them a high. "I was always interested in active participation from the audience. We've always been really open and engaged with our listeners," says Jared.
It's no surprise then that on a parting note when asked about the future projects as a band, Shannon says, "To tour, tour, tour..."
Jared Leto is a Hollywood actor best known for his roles in American Psycho, Lord Of War, Girl, Interrupted, Fight Club and Panic Room. He's now the frontman of the band and also plays the rhythm guitar and keyboards. Despite his Hollywood connections, Jared prefers not to use this position to promote the band. He's known to refuse venues that use his name to promote the band.
Shannon Leto is the drummer and percussionist for the band, which started out as a family project. He's Jared Leto's elder brother.
Tomo Milicevic joined the band in 2003, replacing original member Matt Wachter. He's the man who plays the lead guitar, violin, bass and keyboard parts.