Q&A with Shannon Leto, drummer for Thirty Seconds to Mars

Leesa Allmond/The Daily
Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Daily's Leesa Allmond interviews Shannon Leto, drummer for Thirty Seconds to Mars. The band performs Thursday at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City, with guests Anberlin, Neon Trees and New Politics. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Leesa Allmond: “This is War” was released last December and it is your third studio album. It is a change from your previous albums and you all seem to have tried out new sounds with different producers. How was the process with making the album?

Shannon Leto: Basically, we got rid of any old ideas we had about recording and just about that whole process. We wanted to really do something different this time. Then we accomplished that. During the years it took to make the record, we were being sued for $30 million and going through personal growths. Without those things going on, the album wouldn’t sound like it does now. We wanted to always do something different album from album, challenge ourselves and take a risk. Never repeat the same thing.

LA: Did you think your band grew with this album?

SL: For sure. With each album we have definitely grown.

LA: How would you describe the songs and sounds on “This Is War” compared to your two other albums?

SL: They are explosive. They are dynamic. They are very, very intimate and raw, stripped down.

LA: Congratulations on your 2010 MTV VMA Best Rock Video Award for "Kings and Queens." It must be crazy beating out MGMT, Florence and the Machine and Paramore.How was the whole MTV experience with being on TV and being around such well-known artists?

SL: It was great and really fun. We were really surprised with the four nominations we got. Just being nominated with the other bands is pretty amazing. To win best rock video, we all just looked at each other like, “What?” What made it really special is that it was a fan-voted award. So were really humbled and honored to have the fans that we do.

LA: What does such winning such a well-known award mean for you and for Thirty Seconds to Mars?

SL: It doesn’t really mean anything. The thing that is really important is that the fans voted like they did, that we have so many amazing, committed, dedicated family members.

LA: You all are on tour from now until March, hitting up places like Italy and the UK — how is that music scene different than America's? Do you enjoy traveling abroad?

SL: Traveling overseas is cool — it’s different. The same passion is there, but the way they express it is different. We are grateful to be traveling the world and express ourselves. It’s hard to put into words. You have to experience it. To get involved in different cultures and meet and greet all those cultures is pretty spectacular.

LA: You all have done covers of Lady Gaga’s "Bad Romance" and Kanye’s "Stronger." You all also collaborated with Kanye for a different version of "Hurricane," which was later leaked online. How do you all get the ideas to cover these songs? How was working with Kanye and incorporating different sounds into your music?

SL: Kanye is an amazing artist. My brother (Jared Leto) and Kanye met awhile back. He wanted my brother to direct his video and Jared wasn’t able to. Jared showed him a song he had, "Hurricane." Kanye heard the song and loved it. When we’re doing covers, we want to challenge ourselves. We thought those songs were a perfect match and challenge. They’re interesting artists — Kanye and Gaga.

LA: What artists and musicians inspire you and your band?

SL: Artists in general which have their own voice and take risks, think outside the box, do things differently. Someone who is not afraid to be themselves and not lost in the assembly line of all the music out there. Artists like that. That’s what I like.

LA: Have you guys started working on another album?

SL: Not really. We’re still focusing on "This Is War" and the tour coming up. We have a sold out UK European tour, playing in front of 17,000 to 20,000 people a night. We’re concentrating on the production and getting ready. It entails so much. So excited about that. You’re always writing as artists. We’re just focused on this tour right now.