Jared Leto: “Even on the darkest day there’s still a little hope in the world”

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ enigmatic leader Jared Leto takes us on a winding, tangent-filled journey into beauty, darkness, hope, family and how the never-ending passage of time affects his art.

Jared Leto: “Even on the darkest day there’s still a little hope in the world”
Nick Ruskell
Aron Klein, Bartholomew Cubbins

In his room on one of the higher floors of a gigi London hotel, Jared Leto is talking about climbing. There’s a moment where you wonder if he’s suddenly going to open the window and scuttle up the side of the building, sans ropes, as he did at the even more fancy Hotel De Rome in Berlin back in June seemingly just for bants.

“If you’re on a big wall in Yosemite [National Park] and you're climbing 1,000-foot clip, you're not doing it in the rain, you know?”

K!’s eye is once again drawn to the window, noting the nice weather, but it stays firmly closed. All this climbing talk is a result of Jared going off on a tangent – as he often does – digging into the title of Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new sixth album, It's The End Of The World But It's A Beautiful Day. Where there is so much stress and strife and shite everywhere it’s vital, he says, to search for those moments of hope and joy when you can.

“One of the things I love about climbing is it puts you in a beautiful place on a beautiful day with beautiful people, who are usually really fascinating, interesting, and it kind of cuts the digital leash and allows you to be in the moment and forget about your worries,” he says. “Music does that for me [too]. Standing onstage we're sharing and playing shows in service to the audience, which is how we have always thought about it, being there to do that thing with the audience night after night. It’s not mundane – it’s beautiful.”

We join Jared on the day It’s The End Of The World… is released. We also find him in a very good mood. He’s immensely proud of the record, although he says he has – as ever – avoided reading any reviews, not wanting to muddy his own feelings about it.

“I trained myself in the very beginning of my career to do that,” he explains. “It’s intoxicating when people approve of your work and support you. But it's a seductive thing. So I've always stayed away from it. There’s that old cliché, ‘If you believe the good, you gotta believe the bad,' but somehow the good always makes much more sense.”

You kind of expect this sort of thing from Jared. Not a man given to doing things the easy way, or rushing things, or only going half the distance, it follows, then, that such outside intrusions don’t play much of a part in the Thirty Seconds To Mars world. He and drummer brother Shannon are also in the rare and fortuitous position of being able to do music as and when the muse strikes them – helped by the not-inconsiderable matter of Jared’s side-hustle as an Oscar-winning actor – where so many bands start to feel the managerial whip cracking for a new album barely a month after releasing one.

Noting it’s been five years since their last record, 2018’s America, itself a half-decade away from Love, Lust Faith And Dreams, and almost a full one from their breakthrough This Is War, we ask if the difference between albums (It’s The End Of The World… is awash with mellow electronics and calm moments, far away from the arena-rock bombast of This Is War) can be put down to time providing a detoxing distance between writing. That is, coming back with a properly clean slate.

“Yes,” comes his answer with a laugh, after a lengthy, deep consideration. “We average about four or five years [between albums]. We’ve made six albums in 25 years! Even our first album, when we got signed in ’98, we didn't put the album out till 2004. Who does that?!

“We do take a long time. And the nice thing is, like, you change as the world change changes, your interests change. So, yeah, it's a great way to reset everything. And if you're not changing, I mean, that's an interesting thing. Some visual artists look the same for their whole career, some change over the decades.”

He points to The Cure as an example of a band without walls – “I don't think there's ever been a band who could write one of the darkest songs in the world, and then also Friday, I'm In Love” – and also one that has the same ideas as It’s The End Of The World… That is: there’s always hope.

“I like that you’re not listening to the same song, album after album after album, and that, even on the darkest day that there's still a little hope in the world. That's where I'm at in my life, and it's nice to explore different avenues.”

This is how it was in the beginning as well – Jared and Shannon, together, making music, realising that most things would be better if they took care of them themselves. They’re miles away now in one sense, but it always comes back to the pair of them. They are the one constant in the Thirty Seconds To Mars story, its hub. Though Jared notes that plenty of musicians and collaborators have passed through the band and traversed its orbit, he’s also deliberately clear and unambiguous that, “from beginning to end, it’s been Shannon and it’s been me.

“It's a very personal project. It's my brother and I, so it's a family affair. There’s been great people we’ve worked with, but the two of us are…”

The heart?

“Yeah, or we could be the armpit!”

But when you strip everything else away, do you feel like much has changed in that sense?

“In the beginning, there was a lot more pressure,” he says. “We were in a different spot, fighting for our creative lives and hammering it out in a little garage where it’s 110-degrees outside. Tensions would be flaring, but we really loved the process of writing and recording. We always have loved it. And it's something we just were a bit were obsessed with.

“I don't think we knew any different,” he continues. “I can't even tell you how many hours a day we’d rehearse, and the expectations [we put on] ourselves, my brother and I. The responsibility that we needed to have, and the control that we needed to have was a lot. We had an idea of what we wanted to do. And there was a way we thought things were supposed to be. And the great thing about that is we took on all of this responsibility, and we took on that burden. And you have to learn a ton. So you push yourself an unreasonable amount, you fail even more than you probably would if you weren't saying, ‘Hey, we're going to do this, I'm going to do this on my own,’ and do everything else that we can in this really insular way.”

And that’s partly why Thirty Seconds To Mars move at the pace they do, and why the results sound as they do. For Jared and Shannon Leto, this is very much a life’s work done entirely on their own terms. They may not be the most prolific band, but for Jared, that’s all part of it.

“Yes, we do take our time between records, but there is a beautiful part of that,” he smiles. “Your fingerprint becomes more defined.”

It's The End Of The World But It's A Beautiful Day is out now – get your world-exclusive limited-edition cassette

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