Thirty Seconds to Mars in Dubai

We caught up with Jared Leto's band before their Comic Con gig

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Unless you’ve been living on planet Mars (no pun intended) then you’ll know that the American rock band from Los Angeles, Thirty Seconds to Mars, is fronted by Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto. The blue-eyed (and now platinum blonde) actor – along with his older brother Shannon Leto on drums and guitarist Tomo Milicevic – started the band almost two decades ago, in 1998.

To date the band have sold more than five million albums worldwide, have a cult-like fan base known as the Echelon and have received numerous awards, including a dozen or so MTV awards globally and honours from Kerrang! and NME magazines.The band gained recognition in the early noughties with their debut, self-titled album, but it wasn’t until the group released their platinum-selling second album, A Beautiful Lie, in 2005 that they found worldwide success.

‘In the beginning, every band has their own different types of challenges. There’s no easy road for any group,’ says lead guitarist Tomo Milicevic. ‘We had to fight really hard and it took a long time to be able to put on the type of show that we wanted to put on. The one thing that I’ve found to be true in my life is that hard work does equal results – no matter what. If you do 100 push-ups a day, six months later you’re going to have a strong chest; you know what I mean? It’s as simple as that.’

While the band admit that starting out was difficult due to Jared’s success as an actor (the 43-year-old achieved fame on the ’90s TV drama My So-Called Life), they feel they’ve overcome that hurdle.

‘When we make music together, there are no boundaries, and there’s nothing that we can’t do, you know? There’s nothing that we can’t do as a band, because we’re creative people: any road that we want to go down, we can,’ Milicevic continues.

Throughout the band’s musical career, Leto continued to climb the Hollywood ladder, winning roles in Fight Club, American Pyscho and Panic Room, while juggling life in the band.

‘Jared writes the songs, but we all work on things together. We’re not very cautious about that process anymore. Whoever has something to say, we want to let them contribute. If it’s good, we’ll work together, and if it doesn’t work, then it’s fine,’ the guitarist explains.

Coming to Dubai on Friday April 10 to perform at the Dubai World Trade Centre as part of the Middle East Film and Comic Con, the trip will be the band’s first show in Dubai but their second visit to the UAE.

For Milicevic, their 2011 Abu Dhabi gig at Yas Island is still one of the top three best audiences they’ve ever had, anywhere in the world. ‘To this day, we talk about the show that we played in Abu Dhabi. There’s kids out there – and people across the board – where all those things that make us different don’t matter, because the thing that makes us the same is that we all love music, and that’s a beautiful thing.’

On stage in Dubai, they’ll be performing music from their fourth studio album, Lust Love Faith + Dreams, which debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2012, the three-piece band recorded tracks all over the world for the record, from Malibu to Paris, Tokyo to India.

‘When we decide to do anything, we want to make sure that the experience itself is part of the creative process,’ says Milicevic.

One particular experience that helped the band’s creative process happened in Jodhpur, India, often known as ‘The Blue City’. Milicevic recalls Jared sitting on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the city while he was playing music. A group of kids heard the music and started to dance. Working on the energy, Jared crafted a new beat there and then on his laptop and portable speakers, which turned into ‘Pyres of Varanasi’, a track on their latest album.

‘There was such a great energy. Jared, being the creative person that he is, and the kind of songwriter that he is, he really tries to think outside of the box. So what did he think? He thought, “Well, I’m in India, so I want an Indian opera singer”. So this guy just comes to the hotel and what you hear on the album – particularly on that song – is him singing, just with improvisation in their style, and it’s just so beautiful, and so different,’ Milicevic explains.

The band are known for their energetic performances and audiences in Dubai can expect tracks such as ‘Up in the Air’, ‘This is War’ and ‘A Beautiful Lie’.

‘For us, to travel around the world – to be able to play shows in so many different countries and to experience so many different cultures – it really does inspire you. If you’re a painter or a photographer, your location will absolutely affect the end result of your art – and the same is true for music.’

The UAE is the last stop on the band’s tour, with Jared due to start filming the highly anticipated DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, due for cinematic release in 2016. For the role, Jared, who will play The Joker (previously played by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight), has undergone yet another drastic hair transformation.

Known for his ever-changing hairstyles, the actor recently cut off his flowing locks and unveiled a bleached blonde look. So what do his bandmates think of all the hoo-hah about his new do? ‘What I want to know is why nobody paid attention to my hair – I got a haircut too! Where’s my press? Nobody’s down to talk about my haircut,’ Milicevic laughs. Haircare aside – although Jared has several social media groups with hundreds of thousands of followers dedicated to just his hair – the band are appreciative of the loyalty of their fans.

‘We’re really lucky. We have what is arguably the greatest fan base on Earth. There is nothing like standing on stage in front of a Thirty Seconds to Mars audience and playing those songs, and just seeing how passionate the connection is.’

So, with a stratospheric rise behind them and a space-inspired name, would the group ever consider signing up for the Mars One Programme, set for 2024? ‘That’s like a double-sided question for me, because part of me is like, “Absolutely, yes, it would be incredible”. But the other part of me is kind of like, “This is my home and it’s probably not my journey to take”. If you’re asking just me, I think that I would say no. I feel like I have more to do here on Earth,’ he decides.

While a trip to Mars isn’t on the agenda, fans can look forward to the Dubai gig with their feet firmly planted on planet Earth.
Dhs295-550. April 10. Dubai World Trade Centre. www.marsindubai.com.

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