Created in 1998 in Los Angeles, California, by actor Jared Leto and his Older brother, Shannon, 30 Seconds to Mars initially began as a big family project. Matt Wachter later joined the band as bassist and keyboard player. After working with a number of guitarists (including Kevin Drake and Solon Bixler), the three auditioned Tomo Milicevic to round out the band’s official roster. After Wachter’s departure from the band in 2006, the Leto brothers and Milicevic continue on as a trio with additional touring members, including Tim Kelleher on bass.
Initially known for his work as an actor (most notably on the ’90s TV drama My So-Called Life, as well as movies like Requiem for a Dream and Fight Club), Jared Leto decided to flex his musical muscles as he approached his 30s. He enlisted the help of his brother and co-founded 30 Seconds to Mars in 1998. The group made its studio debut four years later, releasing a self-titled album whose post-grunge sound betrayed an affinity for groups like Chevelle and Incubus. Although it only acheived modest success, the eponymous 30 Seconds to Mars still laid the foundation for a healthy career. Moreover, it convinced the bandmates to forge ahead in spite of Jared Leto’s busy acting schedule, which had filled up with roles in Panic Room, Highway, American Pyscho, and Requiem for a Dream.
30 Seconds to Mars found success in the 2000s with a mix of post-grunge, screamo, and melodic hard rock. The band gained a modest audience with its self-titled debut, but it was the platinum-selling sophomore effort A Beautiful Lie that truly opened the flood gates in 2005, securing the band a healthy presence on MTV while paving the way for a series of successful tours.
The band’s third album, This Is War is a major leap forward for Thirty Seconds to Mars, one that cements the trio (lead singer and guitarist Jared Leto, drummer Shannon Leto and guitarist Tomo Milicevic) as a world-class arena-crushing rock band.
The L.A. Times calls This Is War “combative…sinister…the most confident-sounding thing the band has done.” Alternative Press echoes the sentiment, giving it four stars and hailing the album as “an artistic triumph for Thirty Seconds To Mars” and Kerrang! Magazine agrees, calling it the band’s “strongest and most accomplished work to date.”
Jared Leto comments: “It took two years, we went to hell and back. At one point, I thought it was going to be the death of us, but it became a transformative experience. It’s not so much an evolution as it is a revolution. It’s a coming of age.”
To guide their journey, Thirty Seconds to Mars enlisted two of the most influential producers in the world: Flood (U2, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins) and Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel).
“Flood has a karmic ability to work with bands in these intense transformational periods of their creative lives,” Jared says. “We knew we were ready for something new, something different, something unexpected. Flood was the perfect person to help guide us down this path.”
“Sonically it’s a new beginning, a rebirth,” Tomo says. “And as a songwriter, Jared was relentless. He went to a place that I’d never seen before.”
Flood and Lillywhite gave the band the freedom and confidence to explore different sounds, textures and ideas. “It’s a process that requires truth, honesty and a lot of hard work,” Flood explained, telling the press that the band set out to make a classic album by pushing themselves to a place they all knew wouldn’t be easy to go to. He added, “Those sorts of things I find very rewarding.” It was a process that began with Flood at the helm and concluded with the reigns in Lillywhite’s hands. The duo succeeded in heightening the emotional power of the songs, revealing themes of faith, morality, vindication, freedom and resurrection in recording their most personal and politically charged project to date. “Flood began this long journey with us and it was an unforgettable experience. He helped us on this quest to find out more of who we really are as a band and as individual musicians,” says Shannon. “Steve helped us finish, which is often the most difficult part of the recording process. We went to war alongside each of them and came out with love and respect for both.”
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