He made his reputation as a movie hearthrob. But Jared Leto has arguably turned his back on Hollywood to devote himself to his stadium emo group Thirty Seconds To Mars. He talks about the challenge of balancing music and acting and the decision to literally launch the band’s new single in outer space…
Sitting comfortably cross-legged on a couch in his luxury suite at London’s Soho Hotel, Hollywood heartthrob, alt. rock icon and seemingly decent skin, Jared Leto, is explaining why his band decided to launch their latest single into outer space.
“I wanted to do something that had never been done before,” the 41-year-old says, speaking in a soft and slightly nerdish American accent. “I didn’t just want to throw the song on a website. I wanted to do something unique, something creative, and have an adventure. It’s not just the launch of a single. It’s the launch of the new album, a new tour, and a new chapter of our lives. It’s something that’s really important to us, and it came from a really organic place.”
Album send-offs come in all sorts of budgetary shapes, sizes and surprises, but when your band is called Thirty Seconds To Mars, and your single is titled ‘Up In The Air’ (the first cut from forthcoming fourth album Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams), nothing less than a launch of the NASA variety will suffice.
“I’d been wanting to do something with NASA for ages,” he says. “My grandfather was in the Air Force, so I think that aviation was always a part of our lives. We used to go visit him at the base or hang-out on the tarmac while he was flying around as a pilot. So it all stemmed from that.”
It took a huge amount of organisation, but on March 18, in partnership with the US space agency, the very first copy of ‘Up In The Air’ – a dark, thumping, edgy and energetic SF-tinged rocker – was carried aboard the SpaceX cargo mission to the international space station. The single got its groundbreaking premiere from the astronauts in orbit 230 miles above Earth. It wasn’t quite the Red Planet, but it was fairly impressive nonetheless.
Leto and his two bandmates – drummer brother Shannon Leto and keyboardist Tomo Milicevic – were standing by at Mission Control Houston while the track was played. Afterwards they did a live interview with orbiting astronaut Tom Marshburn. The whole thing was such a big deal that Annise D. Parker, Mayor of the City of Houston, proclaimed March 18 as ‘Thirty Seconds To Mars Day’.
We’re meeting in London just five days after the event, and Leto is obviously still buzzed from the whole experience.
“I made the CD myself,” he tells me. “I scribbled the name on it because the album wasn’t done at the time. So I wrote a note, put it in the CD case and – boom! – sent it up to space! Unbelievably, they wanted a CD – we thought it was gonna be some other format, flash-drive or something. But that’s what they have in the space station, so they shot it up. They unpacked 5,000 lbs of scientific gear and one CD.
“Then we went back to Houston for the next NASA trip which was about a week-and-a-half later. We went into Mission Control which is this giant room like you see in the movies, with all these guys sitting in front of computers and these giant screens – these real-time HD screens – where they’re constantly monitoring the space station and keeping tabs on everything. And then in floats this astronaut, right into frame, he’s right there and we’re talking with him. I’m on this phone from, like, 1962, this old phone, this landline that somehow gets beamed up there. And we have this really great conversation about life in space, and in the middle of it he reaches over and flicks something and spins it around in zero gravity – and it’s our CD!”.. MORE
Today is the big day, the first date on the 30 Seconds to Mars New Tour: 7 May at Boston, the Church of Mars!
30 Seconds to Mars’ Official Twitter left us a lot of Vine short clips with the rehearsals of Mars into the stage. You can listen and see Shannon “on direct” from the clips, a lot of surprises! Ready for the first concert?