Complete Connection

Thirty Seconds To Mars Reinvents Sound

By Alan Sculley

Lots of bands talk about wanting their concerts to be a shared experience with an audience, where the fan feels connected to the band and as much a part of the show as the musicians on stage.

Few groups have achieved this goal as fully or as clearly as Thirty Seconds To Mars.

Prior to recording the current hit CD, This Is War, the band’s singer/guitarist Jared Leto invited about 1,000 fans from all over to Hollywood’s Avalon Club, where he recorded them humming, shouting, screaming, clapping and otherwise making noise. That event prompted Leto to hold eight more of these “summits” in cities across the globe, and later invite fans to submit recorded sounds through
the Internet.

The results of this experiment can be heard throughout This Is War as arena-size vocals from fans accent several songs. Now concert audiences have been taking the cue from the This Is War CD, chiming in with their hands, voices and feet at all the right times.

“They’re like stomping, chanting and clapping, just like the recording,” drummer Shannon Leto said during a late-August phone interview. “So it’s definitely an experience that’s exciting to be able to share.”

As for the band’s own performance and stage production, Leto (Jared’s brother) likes how things have come together on stage as well.

“The show is really, it’s chaotic, it’s energetic, it’s madness,” he said. “I mean, it’s like my brother used to say, it has the energy of the Sex Pistols with the grandiosity of Pink Floyd. I always liked that.”

The Leto brothers and the other member of Thirty Seconds To Mars, Tomo Milicevic, deserve to be having fun these days.

The couple of years that preceded the release of This Is War weren’t always pleasant. One source of discontent involved the band’s relationship with its label, EMI/Virgin Records.

The label sued Thirty Seconds To Mars for $30 million dollars, alleging that the band had failed to fulfill its contractual requirement to deliver three CDs to the label.

The suit was settled out of court in 2009, but not before both the band and the record label hunkered down for an all-out court battle. As part of the settlement, the band is forbidden from discussing details of the settlement or the issues that caused the dispute. Leto did, however, deny that there was any dispute over royalties, saying that “we just weren’t being treated fairly” and “we just had to stand up for what we believed in.”

In any event, it’s clear the dispute took a toll on the three band members, and the This Is War title of the latest CD relates in part to the lawsuit – although its meanings go well beyond that for
the band.

“We were being sued for $30 million. The world was melting down financially,” Leto observed. “There were a lot of changes going on and a lot of challenges, obstacles, and we were at war in a sense.”

On top of the dispute with Virgin, the three band members were also attempting to essentially reinvent the Thirty Seconds To Mars sound on the This Is War CD.

Working out exactly how the music was going to evolve was not an easy or entirely peaceful process.

“When you’re trying to push yourself and trying to do something different, you know, there are emotions and feelings that pop up,” Leto said. “The record encapsulates everything that we went through.”

That said, there were plenty of good times during the recording sessions as well, Leto said. And getting to work with the primary producer on the album, Flood, was another highlight for the band. Flood, as many know, has produced U2, as well as Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails.

The sound that Thirty Seconds To Mars and Flood crafted on This Is War is a notable shift from what the band has presented earlier in
its career.

The band’s self-titled 2002 debut CD introduced a group that blended edgy yet melodic guitar rock with electronics, resulting in a somewhat futuristic feel. On the 2005 follow-up, A Beautiful Lie, though, the group scaled back on the electronics and employed a leaner guitar-centered hard rock sound.  The new sound connected as “A Beautiful Lie” went platinum and spawned two hits, “From Yesterday” and “The Kill (Bury Me).”

Now with This Is War, Thirty Seconds To Mars has reinvented its sound once again, scaling back on the gritty guitars and aggressive beats, employing a good number of synthesizers and other electronic candy and going for a more spacious, anthemic – and yes, U2-ish – type of sound. The sound works well, and “This Is War” is becoming the band’s biggest CD yet, with “Kings And Queens” and the title song both having topped the alternative
rock chart.

The emotional ups and downs that went into the album is making the current success that much more sweet, Leto said.

“It feels really, really good because you never know what is going to happen,” Leto said. “We were just kind of doing what we’ve done. And what’s really nice is when you do that and it’s successful, the feeling is something that’s, it’s special.”

Thirty Seconds To Mars will perform Sunday, October 3 at The Egyptian in Indianapolis, Thursday, October 7 at the LC Pavilion in Columbus, and Saturday, October 9 at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley
at contactus@

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