Martian Love Fest 

I don’t really think there’s a choice there,” Jared Leto says of his oft-maligned transition from Hollywood actor to frontman
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Mars attacks (with hair products): Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars perform at Sunset Station this Friday, November 10

30 Seconds to Mars
Fri, Nov 10
$20 (+ service charge)
Sunset Station Lonestar Pavilion
1174 E. Commerce
Sunset-station.com

I don’t really think there’s a choice there,” Jared Leto says of his oft-maligned transition from Hollywood actor to frontman for prog-rockers 30 Seconds. “It’s just something I do, whether it’s making films or music.

“My brother `Shannon`’s a photographer and a writer,” he continues, his tone insistent, defiant, and proud. “Everyone in the band has other creative outlets as well. Matt `Wachter`’s an artist and Tomo `Milicevik`’s a fucking cook – he’s a certified chef. But I don’t believe in having to choose or decide or that one has to be better than the other or give me something that the other doesn’t. I’m very proud of the films” — such as Requiem for a Dream, Panic Room, and Fight Club — “I’ve done and I’m very proud of the music I’ve made.”

30 Seconds has caught plenty of flak from critics since an actor with one of the prettiest mugs in Hollywood fronts it; actors, after all, are legally not allowed to rock thanks to Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, Bruce Willis, and Russell Crowe. Even William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have released albums. Neverthe-less, 2005 was a blue-ribbon year for actors who sought to defy expectations with their musical inclinations, from Juliette Lewis (Juliette and the Licks), to Jada Pinkett Smith (Wicked Wisdom), to Balthazar Getty (Ringside). Oh, and Jared Leto, of course. Turns out the dude who made out with Colin Farrell in Alexander is as good with a guitar as he is in front of a camera. Maybe better.

But playing music isn’t something new for Leto; he was nurtured by his prodigy brother who now plays drums for 30 Seconds. “We’ve always had 30 Seconds to Mars as a part of our lives,” Leto explains. “It’s something we used to do as a very prog-rock approach. We weren’t interested in building a following or even having a name. We’d play shows and change our name every time. We weren’t interested in having that completion.”

He’s not ready to reveal any of those names, though. “I’m going to keep those for ourselves, in case we ever want to go backwards for some reason,” he laughs.

“Then we realized there was something when people had ownership over the songs and it became a soundtrack to their lives. Get a bunch of strangers to show up in this public space and share these private experiences, there’s an interesting thing that happens. It’s kind of magical.”

The bands’ naysayers — most of which are feckless hipsters and smug critics who fault Leto because he’s prettier than the hottest chick they’ve ever banged (and has also probably banged hotter chicks than they ever will, i.e. Cameron Diaz, Lindsay Lohan, and Scarlett Johansson) — are finally starting to come around, too. Slowly, sure. But they’re coming.

It makes no sense to Leto, who looks to the early days of Hollywood for inspiration and reassurance. “It was like an extension of Vaudeville, where you were expected to do everything,” he says of an era when acrobats and dancers became leading men and singing comedians became movie stars. “You sang and danced and, if you’re not funny, you better have a magic trick up your sleeve or something. But it was about survival and being well-rounded as an artist.

“I think sometimes painters make very good filmmakers, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes journalists write a great novel, sometimes they suck … And I think there’ve been some actors out there that have made some embarrassingly bad music, but I also think that there are thousands of bands out there that have done the exact same thing. There’s tons of embarrassingly bad music out there. But I would be suspicious `of us` and people have a right to be suspicious, because there’s a precedent that’s been set up. But what I’ve learned from doing this for so many years is that slowly, in a lot of different ways, we’ve become the exception to
the rule.”

And Leto is right, since 30 Seconds-headlined shows are selling out all over the country. That might have something to do with the strength of the band’s sophomore album A Beautiful Lie, which is a more confessional, transparent album than the bands’ debut. The New-Wave overindulgence that hindered the first has been tempered by good, old-fashioned guitar shredding and something that feels almost intergalactic in concept.

“In our country, actors become presidents. I’m just in a band,” Leto points out. “What the interesting thing to try to decipher is why do people want to criticize someone making creative choices? I’m not going to war. I’m making music. If you like our music, come on board. If you don’t, fine. Go listen to something else.”

More by Cole Haddon

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