Interview: 30 Seconds To Mars

MusicReview caught up with Shannon and Tomo from 30 Seconds To Mars and chatted about the band’s love for South Africa, upcoming shows, the recording experience of This Is War and the future direction of the band.

MR: Hey guys, thank you for your time. Have you thought about buying property here? I mean, you were here two years ago for Cokefest, you have spent some time recording in Cape Town and here you are again… What is the pull-factor of South Africa for you as a band?

Tomo: Funny you should should mention property, because we actually have talked about it…

Shannon: Yeah, it is like a second home to us and we have spent a lot of time here in Africa. We find it a very inspiring place for 30 Seconds To Mars, and each of us as individuals…

Tomo: It’s kind of like a creative vortex for us as a band. That recording studio you were talking about in Camps Bay; we go there and just start vomiting out creativity. Something happens there for some reason. The creativity just flows!

MR: So I take it that this a nice escape from the States for you?

Tomo: This is a nice escape from anywhere!

Shannon: Yeah, it is!

MR: How is your world tour going so far? What has been your most memorable destination to date?

Shannon: Well, they are each different in their own way and there is something different to experience at each destination. This trip right here has been amazing…

Tomo: It is hard to pinpoint one destination, as so many amazing experiences have happened over the course of the last year. But I guess for us, one of the biggest things was Rock Am Ring [in Germany]. That was in the beginning and we played in front of like 100 000 people. Playing in front of that many people was not what was amazing about it, but rather that so many people knew about us and really knew the songs. We weren’t really expecting that… Now we’re coming to South Africa and selling the amount of tickets we’re selling after only playing here once. It is truly remarkable and shows the power of the internet and what people talking can do.

MR: We know that you are heading back to Europe next for another leg. How do you feel your music is received in Europe compared to the United States?

Shannon: They are like two completely different worlds…

Tomo: Yeah, for sure. The American audience, the European and the South African audience are all very different in terms of the people that come to listen to us. You know, in America there is like a scene for each type of music, where in other places in the world it is more about people just liking the music. The crowd is a bit more diverse in other places.

MR: So are you excited to go back to Europe?

Shannon: Absolutely! It is actually our first arena tour and places are sold out. So we will get to show people even more of who we are on a much grander scale.

MR: This Is War took you around 18 months to record. Problems with Virgin, economic uncertainty and an uphill creative battle in studio must have characterised a pretty difficult time for you as a band. Did the eventual release of the album act as a cathartic experience? Did you feel liberated to finally see it come out in stores?

Shannon: That’s a good question. We were so caught up within the mechanics of 30 Seconds To Mars… During the making of the record there were a lot of changes around us and that definitely reflects in the music.

Tomo: The record definitely wouldn’t be what it is without the challenges. We have talked about that in depth with each other. It was a trying time for us. We definitely recognise that that experience made it what it is, because of the fact that we didn’t let it beat us. Then the result was This Is War, and we are very grateful for it.

MR: This Is War has much more of an experimental feel than a Beautiful Lie. Can we expect the next album to follow in the same experimental direction?

Shannon: Who knows? We are slowly dipping into the creative process for the next album, but who knows where that is going to lead?

Tomo: I mean, I would definitely say that we have come into a sound with This Is War; we’ll never repeat ourselves, you can count on that, but we’ve certainly come into a sound that we all feel is who we are…

Shannon: What’s great about life and evolving though, is that things change. You get new perspectives, you get new insights and with that being said the creative process is different each time. We are always trying to push ourselves and push each other…

Tomo: The music that you hear from us is a direct reflection of where we are at that particular point in time. We’re very honest in that way. It is unabashed, this is who we are. So yeah, you can expect that for the next record. How that is going to sound, we’ll have to wait and see.

Shannon: Then again, we might just get some flutes and bongos and just go for it (laughs all round).

MR: How does This Is War translate into a live act? And what can South African fans expect at your upcoming shows?

Shannon: Well, you will all just have to wait and see…

Tomo: Total fucking insanity!

Shannon: It’s blistering, man. It’s like you being in the front lines of something amazing.

Tomo: Something important to note about our live show is that we don’t attempt to recreate our record on stage. We look at the creation of the record and the presentation of it as a live show as two totally different elements. We are not interested in giving you what you hear on CD. We want to make it a different experience. It is much more raw. When you are in studio it is almost like a science project. When we play live though, we strip away all the tricks and play from the gut. It’s kind of punk rock.

Shannon: And that’s how our show comes across. It is a very in the moment, spontaneous and eruptive performance. But at the same time we break everything down and get really intimate as well. It is something that we really focus on.

Tomo: We like to make it feel that even though we are playing in a huge arena here, it feels like you are in a small venue. Jared is a master at making every single person in that room feel like they are right there in the front.

MR: The video for the new single ‘Hurricane’ should be out soon. Can we expect a guest appearance from Kanye West in it?

Shannon: You will never know!

Tomo: You will just have to wait and see. Either way it is going to be great.

MR: Your world tour – it has been a pretty long tour, I’m sure you guys must be pretty tired by now – is scheduled to end in December. What are your plans after that?

Shannon: After that, we are going to do some more touring…

Tomo: Yeah, we only have like two weeks off before we start touring again.

Shannon: We have the States, we have Australia, we have Latin America; and yeah, we will just keep going…

MR: I guess the road is your home…

Shannon: You have to make it your home.

Tomo: What you say is true, we are tired, but we love it and wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.

Shannon: The thing is the balance. Exhaustion can overwhelm you. You need to take mini-rejuvenations. A lot of people get caught up, with “The road, the road, the road”, but you have to find that balance.

MR: Thanks for your time guys. If I had to go rummaging through your rooms, and find your iPods and switch them on. What would be the track that I find? what are you listening to right now?

Tomo: Tough question, I actually haven’t been listening to that much music lately. I have been reading though.

MR: What was the last book you read?

Tomo: I have just finished reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand and that is a book that everyone should read.

MR: And Shannon, your iPod?

Shannon: I’ve been working with this band ‘CB7′, so I’m listening to their stuff at the moment.

MR: Thank you guys, we wish you all the best. Enjoy South Africa!

- Bret Dugmore
- Sergio Pereira
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Written by Bret Dugmore

Bret is MusicReview's founder and editor. He has an eclectic taste in music, but has a particular soft spot for prog rock, punk and alternative. When not listening to music or working, you will most likely find him on his PS3 or cooking.