Leto’s Thirty Second to Mars lands in Austin

By Brian T. Atkinson
Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “This Is War” has delivered hits both poignant (“Kings and Queens”) and provocative (“Hurricane”). The recent Video Music Awards winners (best rock video for the former) are eager to support the album’s new deluxe edition locally.

“We’re happy to be coming back to Austin finally,” says Mars singer and actor Jared Leto (“Fight Club,” “Chapter 27″). “We’ve played Stubb’s a few times. That’s a fun place with good food, too.” Thirty Seconds to Mars performs Tuesday at Austin Music Hall.
American-Statesman: You’ve described (‘This Is War’) as a religious record.
Jared Leto: Well, it was a pretty intense time. We had a $30 million lawsuit lobbed at us from our label (Virgin Records). We had recently completed three years of touring at that point. There were some pretty intense personal battles going on. For us, it was a record as much about belief and determination and faith as anything else. As an artist (in that situation), it’s easy for things to take on some quasi-religious aspects.
Does the album’s title refer to the lawsuit?
I think it’s appropriate to interpret that as a title that covers the gamut. The lawsuit was a big part of the experience of making this record. It was actually a blessing in disguise to have this dispute with the record label. That gave us this incredible amount of space and time to do what we intended on doing, which was making a record that was transformative and represented where we were in our lives creatively and personally.
How did the song ‘Hurricane’ take shape?
I wrote “Hurricane” in Berlin in the winter. That part of Europe can be bleak. It gets dark about 3 p.m. At the same time, it’s really inspiring with a long history of art and is an interesting place to work. I demoed the song in Berlin and worked on it in the States and invited Kanye West to sing on it. He had originally asked (me) about directing a video for him, and I played him this song. He liked it, and the rest is history, I guess.
What was it like to work with Kanye?
It was really easy and fun and open and collaborative. I had a really great experience working with him.
Are you surprised at the controversy over your new short film (‘Hurricane’)?
I was pretty surprised. (Maybe) I’d just gotten a bit numb to the material. I was originally planning to have (an edited) version for broadcast because there’s obviously some very explicit material that can’t be shown on certain networks. I thought I had addressed most of the problems in advance. I was pretty surprised that a lot of the censors had issues with the edited version, and I found it interesting that they had more issues with the sexuality than the violence.
What have you learned from the experience?
I didn’t think it was going to get banned from networks around the world. Getting banned was interesting because it created a dialog, a debate. I think it’s always healthy to weigh the importance of protecting certain people from what others might deem inappropriate and (consider) the right that we all have to share our point of view and art with the world. Thankfully, living in the digital age, we have a way to share that project in its entirety, the way it was meant to be.

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