Friday, July 18, 2014

30 Seconds to Mars and that Deep Dark Place

Back in Arizona, probably for the rest of the year. I really struggle here. I don't like AZ. I never have. And now, after living in Utah for several years, it's jam packed with negative associations that make me like it even less. So I just do my best to stay positive and remind myself that I don't have to stay here forever. My reasons for being here will change as my kids grow up and move out. But in the meantime, the struggle is real.

I think I've realized that I'll fight varieties of depression my whole life. That's a strange thought, isn't it? I've realized that I'm one of those creatives that has to maintain a pretty delicate balance of mental health.

One of the things that's always helped me through is music. But since around 1996, I've had a hard time truly connecting to music and feeling about it the way I did in high school. More on that later.

Lately I've rediscovered 30 Seconds to Mars, who signed with EMI waaaaaay back around 1999. If you know anything about this band, you'll know that frontman Jared Leto is a multi-faceted artist. I dig that, because I have the same thing. I've always found it hard to pin down what I'm best at, or what I'm most interested in. Am I a writer? A painter? An illustrator? A photographer? Should I pursue music more seriously? And what about my intense interest in the art of film? Eventually I decided, why pin it down? Why not just do what I do? All the things I do. And create a world that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for me.

30STM doesn't release albums very often, part of the reason being that Jared Leto is also a professional actor. Here are a few images from some of the roles he's played over the years (yes, they're out of order):

That last photo was taken during the shooting of Dallas Buyers Club, in which Leto's graceful, sensitive, and searing portrayal of the ailing and beautiful transgender woman Rayon earned him an Academy Award.

Besides being a chameleon in front of the camera, Leto is also an artist behind the camera: a film director, creating breathtaking short-film music videos for 30STM as well as documentaries.

And he's a musician. And a visual artist. And a poet.

I admire Leto. I admire his dedication to his craft. I admire the tenacity with which he pursues his vision. I admire his rise from humble beginnings to create a life for himself. I admire his loyalty to family. (He admits that the cohesiveness of 30STM comes from his relationship with his brother, drummer Shannon.) I admire his ability to cast off negativity, to come up with new ideas for creation, marketing, and branding, to interact so closely with 30STM's fan base (The Echelon), to publicly express gratitude for his blessings, and to advocate a life well lived. Mostly I admire that he doesn't allow anyone to pin him down or pigeonhole him. He is what he is and doesn't make apologies for that.

Just a side note about their new ideas for creation and marketing. Did you know their video From Yesterday was filmed entirely in The People's Republic of China? That their video for A Beautiful Lie was filmed 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle? That they incorporated thousands of voices of The Echelon worldwide through a series of collaborative recording sessions called Summits for their album This Is War? That they set an official world record with their Into The Wild tour, playing 309 shows in a little more than two years? That they launched the first single (Up In The Air) from their fourth studio album (Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams) into SPACE, so that it was heard for the first time broadcast from the International Space Station with a live feed for fans to watch?

Nasa Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn talks to Jared Leto
and gets ready to play the single.

Besides all of that, I enjoy the music of 30STM. And when they cover a song? DAMN. Admittedly, I'm a big fan of covers. I love when a band will take something previously written and make it their own, but 30STM does a phenomenal job with this.

30STM started as progressive metal, and have evolved to include symphonic, electronic, vocal, and unconventional instrumentation that give rise to a very experimental sound within the rock genre. They also perform various acoustic versions of their songs that really highlight Leto's unique voice.

Two things I love about their music:

1. These songs are VERY sticky. After hearing them once, they'll be with you for a while. It's a mission of mine to find the magical formula to make my creative endeavors as sticky.

2. The lyrics aren't profound. But they are. But they aren't. Maybe they're profound in their lack of profundity. I think the ideas are profound, but the language isn't, which appeals to me in a way I didn't expect.

For instance, take The Kill, which became my song for the 3rd draft of The Angel Room. (Makes sense when my book is all about confronting the reality of the other side of yourself, no matter how dark it is.)

Here's the second chorus and the bridge:

Come break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you
Look in my eyes
You're killing me, killing me
All I wanted was you

I tried to be someone else
But nothing seemed to change
I know now, this is who I really am inside.
Finally found myself
Fighting for a chance.
I know now, this is who I really am.

Simple words, but the idea pursues ever deeper layers the more I think about it.

And here are the lyrics from my current anthem, Do Or Die:

In the middle of the night
when the angels scream,
I don't want to live a lie that I believe.
Time to do or die.

I will never forget the moment.

and lines from the chorus and bridge:

Fate is coming, that I know. 
Time is running, let it go.

Here right now, under the banner of heaven,
we dream out loud.

Again, the words are simple, but powerful for what I'm looking at in my life right now. Do I believe the lie (I have to look a certain way to be attractive, I have to accomplish certain things to be successful, I have to do what someone else wants me to do to be worthy of love/acceptance/approval, I have to fit into someone else's conception of what my life should look like), or do I make something, a truth that might be uncomfortable for others but right for me? Do I DO or do I settle on the status quo and let my life pass my by while I wait for. . . I don't even know. Fate is coming. That is, the opportunity to build my own fate. Time is running. Every moment that passes is a moment I'll never see again. How will I want to have spent each one? 

My life is a dream out loud.

Incidentally, the Do Or Die short-film music video deals with this exact subject: the power of music to save those who are broken, lost, or in search of something.

Musically speaking, I've never belonged to such an ardent fan base. And a fan base that seems so. . . trendy? (The Echelon might take offense at that word.) I'm not sure what words I'm looking for. As a geek, I belong to plenty of pop culture fan bases,

 but those things always seemed a little on the fringe. Now they're much more acceptable, as being a geek is trendy in itself. So it's strange to belong to The Echelon, a fan base made up of mostly young people (14-28 generally) who I wouldn't really see as being on the fringe of society, like I was at that age. But maybe they are. Or maybe I like cool things now. And trust me, The Echelon are cool.

Since when did the things I like become cool?

That's very strange to think. But my musical tastes have always been so varied and eclectic, and since 1996, (the advent of my first marriage, up through and beyond its inevitable demise in 2007), I always enjoyed music and it helped, but I seemed to stay on the edges of that love. I think that disconnectedness was/is due to the emotional and psychological trauma I experienced as a result of that marriage. So I've operated out of fear for a while, not wanting to make strong connections with anything other than books. But 30STM has brought me back into those visceral emotional reactions to music, those epiphanic moments listening to a song. The way music can pull me out of that deep dark place.

It's always nice to realize other members of the human race know how it feels.

So thanks, Jared and Tomo and Shannon. 30 Seconds to Mars has changed something inside of me. And Jared: your creative pursuits and your success, which I think spring from how you chase your passion, have inspired me.

Jared says: You're welcome.


  1. I love this band too.ECHELON forever!!!


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