(Photo courtesy: Maxie T)

Drummer Shannon Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars: “This is a shared experience”

“I think your past shapes you, your past can either hold you hostage or it can set you free. But either way you are going to learn from it; it’s part of your make-up, what you decide to do with all that information is up to you. You have to do everything you can possibly do and a little more. You have to work hard, you can’t just think about it or talk about it with friends; you have to do it and be willing to sacrifice a lot.” says Shannon Leto, drummer and co-founder of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

It’s that tenacious, no-holds-barred attitude that has propelled Shannon, brother/vocalist Jared Leto and guitarist Tomo Milicevic to multi-platinum status, breaking the Guinness World Record for “The Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band” and battling a 30 million dollar lawsuit against record label EMI.  This is chronicled in Artifact their documentary currently available on iTunes.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Thirty Seconds to Mars you are in for a big surprise. Their sound is indescribable, as is evident on their latest album Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams. Where most bands falter by mindlessly repeating themselves, Thirty Seconds to Mars fearlessly and continuously evolves by stepping outside the box; every single one of their four albums is different than the other.

Yet unlike other rock bands, the drums are an integral part in creating and shaping their sound. Shannon, who is known for his speed and entrancing and passionate playing, creates a grand multi-layered orchestration that is the heart of most of their songs.

That heart can be heard on their latest single City of Angels, which is not only a very personal song but as Shannon says, “it’s one of our oldest songs; it took a long, long time to make.  You know Jared is the primary song writer, he’ll bring the bones to us and then we will work on it, we’ll massage it and try to make sense of it.”

Shannon and Jared, whose maternal grandfather was Spanish, were born in Louisiana and were raised by a single mom.  The brothers, who are also Creole and English moved around a lot. And as Shannon says “We were very poor. My mom worked two jobs, leaving us kids alone. What we’ve been through as children not everybody goes through.  Sadly some do, it was hard.  This is a totally different life than we imagined and we are so grateful.”

Shannon, a musical prodigy and multi-percussionist/instrumentalist, credits his mom with encouraging his creative side at a very early age.  “Instruments were always around when I was really, really young, guitars, piano and bongos.  For some reason I gravitated to the bongos and kitchen supplies like pots and pans. There was just something very familiar when I played percussion, it just made sense you know, the groove, the rhythm, it’s very tribal for me.”

When asked about his rapid passionate playing, which has garnered him the name “Shanimal” he says “I couldn’t tell you – I think passion is something that you can’t really explain…I really don’t speak technically about my playing; I just do what I feel.  How I record and how I play live it’s really in the moment – it’s all based on feeling.  There’s a connection we feel when we’re creating music; there’s something that makes sense when we are creating that art.  ”

While the humble drummer admits he doesn’t speak Spanish, he does fully understand it, and states that “there is a definite kinship when we play in a Latino country, there’s just this feeling you know it’s hard to explain.”  He also expressed the band’s interest in recording in his grandfather’s native tongue,   incorporating more Latin percussion into their music and possibly a solo album that “wouldn’t be just a drum album, it would be a full album with guest singers.”

Yet you can’t talk about Mars without mentioning their fierce army of fans known as the “Echelon.”

To that, Shannon replied, “They are Thirty Seconds to Mars, we are the Echelon, that’s our secret, we are one, that’s what makes us.  This is a shared experience. We are not selfish with our art, it’s about a community, about family and that’s the way it’s always been and will be.”

Thirty Seconds to Mars is currently on a worldwide tour http://www.thirtysecondstomars.com

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