30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview

2nd Dec 2009 | 22:00

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
This Is War: intro
Speaking exclusively to MusicRadar, singer/guitarist Jared Leto introduces our track-by-track guide to new album This Is War (out 7th December)

Jared: "With This Is War, we felt like we were ready to transform as a band, to take that giant leap that so many groups we admire have done.

"Picking the right producer was crucial and we knew that Flood was the perfect choice. He’s able to work with bands and help them become something else, something larger than what they were.

"He encourages artists to reveal more of themselves and to embrace the mistakes they make, because he knows that underneath is a kind of purity that rings of the truth. That proved to be so important during the making of this album.

"And to cap it all off, Steve Lillywhite, another truly creative producer, was gracious to come in at the end and help arrange everything. That was a wonderful gesture on his part and it really paid off. I couldn’t be happier with the record. Hopefully, our fans will feel the same way…"

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Jared (pictured at 2007's Fuse/Fangoria Chainsaw Awards) bigs up The Summit who helped create the album opener

Jared: "This was very interesting for me as a writer in that I sat down with a very pointed and decisive intention. Usually songwriting can be very obtuse and a roundabout way of getting in touch with your feelings. With this one, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew it was going to be the album opener.

"The song is about freedom. It’s about beginning a battle and deciding that you’ve had enough and you’re willing to go to war to fight for what you believe in.

"It was also a great way to introduce The Summit - that’s an event we staged where we invited fans to participate in the making of the record. They sang, played percussion, did all kinds of things - it was very joyous."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Night Of The Hunter
Also speaking exclusively to MusicRadar was guitarist Tomo Milicevic (right). Over to Tomo…

Tomo: "This is a very special song for me because I think it’s one of the most unique-sounding songs on the record, and it’s one which gives our listeners a hint at where the band will be going in the future.

"I also think it’s a great example of Flood at his absolute best. He pushed us to take chances and go from a whisper to a scream here, meaning that dynamically we start out with almost nothing and wind up with the most massive production you can imagine.

"It’s a real experience, definitely one designed for good headphones.

"Jared played the guitar on this one and I played the bass. He did a great job, too. Jared doesn’t get enough credit for his guitar playing. This song might change that."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Kings And Queens
Jared reveals the geographic origins of Kings And Queens, the first single from This Is War

Jared: "In many ways, a cornerstone for this record. Half of (Kings and Queens) was written in America and the other half was written in South Africa, which has proved to be a very lucky and magical place for the band.

"I wrote the first verse just as I was headed out the door for South Africa, and the minute I touched down I finished the rest of it. I took that as a good omen.

"Musically, it was a bit of a beast in that it was originally eight minutes long, so we had to do some trimming. I decided to change the chord structure of the bridge and just let the pieces fall where they may. Steve Lillywhite really helped out with that, figuring out what made sense."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
This Is War
Back with guitarist Tomo Milisevic on rocking out for the album's title track

Tomo: "Jared wrote this song in early 2007, and if my memory serves correctly, it might be the first one he came up with for this album. Because of that, it represents the Thirty Seconds To Mars guitar sound of the past, although I do have to say that I had a lot of fun playing the guitar parts on the chorus.

"Jared played the verse parts. We like trading off in the studio. ‘You take this bit here; I’ll do this section there.‘ I don’t like when guitars sound too ‘samey’ all the way through a song.

"Jared gets pigeonholed as a bit of a spacey kind of musician, but he’s got a real serious rock ’n’ roll side to him. This song shows that he can rock with the best of them - the band, too!"

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
100 Suns
Jared (pictured here at recent magazine launch in NYC) on a hopeful musical moment

Jared: "It’s really a refrain, a segue from This Is War, if you will. I guess you’d call it a mantra or a prayer. My intention is that it be uplifting, but it’s probably a bit dark and nihilistic.

"Hopefully, if you listen closely the notion of hope comes through."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Hurricane (featuring Kanye West)
Tomo again on a song Jared (pictured here at Novo Rock, Austriain 2007) started two years ago

Tomo: "Jared wrote (Hurricane) in Berlin in 2007 and I think it presents yet another side to both his writing and what we can do as a band.

"It’s dark and there’s not much guitar on it, other than some acoustic in the beginning and a little bit in the chorus. Other than that, it’s all keyboards. But that’s cool. We’re not some egotistical rock band that has to dazzle everybody with our shred skills. We just want to do what’s right for the song.

"Plus, we’ve got Kanye West on the track, and he’s really doing some cool singing. People are going to be surprised at how good he sounds. Well, maybe not - they already know he’s terrific. Put it that way: we sound good with him!"

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Search And Destroy
Jared (pictured with the guys at the 2007 Latin America MTV Awards) on "a total pain in the ass"

Jared: "Actually, we were going to throw this song out, but we decided to keep it. It was hard to mix, a total pain in ass, but I’m glad it made the record because I think it fits in with the overall framework of the album.

"The song is a mission, an adventure that takes you on a journey. Maybe that’s why it gave us so much trouble: We had go on an adventure as a band to get it right. Some songs come very easily and other ones fight you.

"Oftentimes, the ones that give you trouble turn out to be the best ones - this is an example of the latter."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Vox Populi
Guitarist Tomo (left, pictured at Lollapalooza 2003) on a song originally called A Call To Arms

Tomo: "This is a love letter to the fans. You can really hear our fans from The Summit singing and stomping and clapping. What you think are drums are really the percussive sounds they’re making.

"The chorus, in fact, is practically all made up of what came from The Summit. I love it.

"Personally, it was a great song to play the guitar to. It’s fun and energetic and uplifting. And it was another track where we tried to challenge ourselves with the guitar sound, going from something that was very processed to a very raw, organic kind of vibe.

"I used a vintage Fender Jazzmaster on it - it’s Jared’s guitar, actually - and it was the perfect choice."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Jared gives props to his brother and founder of the band, drummer Shannon Leto (here pictured at the Guitar Center Drum-Off)

Jared: "Shannon was very adamant that we record this song live. Flood really encouraged us to record things as live as possible, too.

"So on this track there’s very few microphones, me on the piano, Shannon on the bass and Tomo on the guitar. No click tracks.

"Flood was after what Thirty Seconds To Mars sounds like when it’s just three guys standing in a room and playing together, and I think he really captured it. It was great. We’ll definitely be doing a lot more of that in the future."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Closer To The Edge
Tomo (centre, at this year's 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards) on This Is War's 'pop' song

Tomo: "A really interesting track. We call it our ‘pop’ song, but when you really listen to it, you realize that it has a lot of rock glory in it. It’s a song that fools you, and I like that.

"Jared really pushed himself as a songwriter here in that he was trying to reach for a new way of presenting music that was very accessible but not spoon-feed it to the audience. He has a lot of respect for the fans in that way. The guy’s a trip - very inspiring to be around and work with."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Stranger In A Strange Land
Jared in a suitably dark place (the Electric Ballroom, London back in 2007) talks about the band's darker corners

Jared: "That’s the left side of my brain, me in the darkest corner of my soul. It’s a pretty sexual song as well, which is an area I don’t normally delve into.

"When you want to tell a story, you want to explore all the avenues and angles. I felt I needed to reveal more of myself. It wasn’t hard, but it might be surprising for some people.

"It’s an electronic song, and we built all the sounds up from scratch; we didn’t use anything pre-programmed. I think it’s pretty unique."

30 Seconds To Mars: exclusive track-by-track album preview
Closing our exclusive chat, Tomo on drummer Shannon Leto's (pictured) album closer, originally titled Equinox

Tomo: "What most people won’t know is that Shannon wrote this song and played practically all the guitars on it. The only thing I did was I put a little electric guitar melody at the beginning - Shannon asked me to lay that part down.

"Shannon had the song kicking around and we really encouraged him to lock himself in his bedroom and do something incredible. After a couple of days, he emerged with this creation that was very beautiful.

"Even though I had very little to do with it, it’s my favorite song on the album to listen to. It’s a great ’put on the headphones and lose yourself’-type track. And I have to say, the little electric guitar I put down is the best tone I got - that‘s the Jazzmaster again."

Buy This Is War here: Amazon | iTunes | HMV

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