June 14, 2024
Artists

It’s important to protect creative people, to protect artists


Jared Leto is not one to do things by half measures. From his dramatic on-screen transformations to his extravagant red-carpet looks, the Hollywood star tends to go all in, especially when it comes to his art.

So when it came to creating new material for his band Thirty Seconds To Mars, maybe it should not have been a surprise that he and his brother Shannon created about 200 songs during lockdown.

The collection went on to become their sixth album, It’s The End Of The World But It’s A Beautiful Day, beckoning a new era for the band, which they originally formed in Los Angeles in 1998.

“It was like a forced mini-retirement for him and I too, because we hadn’t stopped in so long,” frontman and lead singer Leto, 52, tells me during a video call as he reflects on the songwriting process.

“It was actually really good for both of us in hindsight. It was a tough time for so many people around the world, but it gave us a moment to breathe.

“And we started working on this music and we wanted to do something different, and not just make something that was expected. And we did that.”

The 11-track record delves into the darker side of the human experience and the world, while still holding on to hope.

This appears to be Leto’s attitude to many obstacles that come his way, and the latest gargantuan challenge facing the entertainment world – artificial intelligence (AI) – has already landed on his plate.

“I’ve had people already send me images, audio of me, that sound exactly like me, look exactly like me,” he says.

“I had someone send a fake song that sounded exactly like me and I was impressed with the technology, and also really concerned at the same time.

“I think that’s probably a natural reaction that one would have. But it’s exciting and also, it’s a wild time.”

 

The Oscar-winner was among the hundreds of thousands who supported the strike by the US actors union Sag-Aftra last year which brought Hollywood to a standstill over a series of issues, including the unregulated use of AI.

It continues to be a major concern for the entertainment industry, with programmes like ChatGPT relying heavily on copyrighted material for their development.

The issue has now made its way to the Government’s in-tray, with MPs calling for interventions to ensure artists receive fair compensation when their work is used by AI developers.

“I have a lot of thoughts on it,” Leto says, on the future of AI. “But I think ultimately it’s an inevitability, period.

“It’s a tool at best and at worst, it’s disruptive. To what degree? No one knows yet.

“I think on the one hand, it’ll help people unlock really creative dreams where they might have not had the ability to do that.

“So you’ll see people making incredible things with the help of AI that they wouldn’t have been able to before.

“But on the other end, it’s important to protect people, to protect creative people, to protect artists.”

MTV Video Music Awards 2023 – Arrivals – New Jersey
Shannon Leto and Jared Leto (Doug Peters/PA)

He feels there needs to be a lot of thought and care taken when approaching the swiftly developing technology, and if it came to a Sag-Aftra-esque strike to protect music artists, Leto will be standing in solidarity.

“I’m in favour of supporting my fellow artists, I think it’s important to do that,” he says when asked if he would support similar strike action by musicians.

“Things are changing so quickly, it’s hard to know even what the issues might become, because it keeps changing so rapidly.

“What we think are some of the problems right now, three or six months or a year from now, it could be completely different.

“But like I said before, at the best it’s a tool, and hopefully it will be and continues to be a tool for artists and all kinds of different people to use in positive ways.

“And that we can, at the same time, keep an eye on things to make sure that we protect people and artists, jobs and creativity, and all of that as well.

“I’m an optimistic person, I think there’s a way to do that.”

While this technology continues to seep into more aspects of our lives, it has not yet replaced the exhilarating thrill of watching an artist perform live. And with more than 20 years of experience on the road, Thirty Seconds To Mars is confident in their ability to put on a show.

They kicked off their Seasons world tour in support of their latest album in March, with plans to light up venues in Latin America, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

They started their UK dates in Nottingham on June 3, with shows in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff on their schedule.

And after taking a five-year break from touring, the band are more fired up than ever, with Leto hailing them as the “best shows of our lives”.

“It is an amazing thing. We’re so f****** grateful. It’s been incredible,” he tells me while pacing around his hotel room,  still on a high from their show the night before.

“And to stand on stage and play two hours worth of music and to have people respond to songs from different parts of your life and their life is just a beautiful thing.”

In their two-hour setlist, brimming with theatrical paratechniques, they dive into their back catalogue, playing hits including The Kill, This Is War and Closer To The Edge. They also feature a number of more recent tracks after receiving requests from new fans and long-term supporters, who have been with them since their 2002 self-titled debut album.

Why does he feel their fans still gravitate towards their music? “Probably, for a lot of people, there’s either an aspirational or an emotional element that they connect to,” Leto says.

“I suppose I’ve poured a lot of my hopes and dreams and fears and failures into the songs over the years.

“You hope that you connect to people in the way that I connected to other artists, whether it was Led Zeppelin or Depeche Mode, or The Cure or U2, or whatever your favourite band is out there.

“And sometimes songs can change us, they can impact us, they can save us, right? And you hope to make that connection with other people.”

Shannon and Jared Leto of Thirty Seconds To Mars (Bartholomew Cubbins/PA)

With a string of tour dates to come and another film in the works, it appears he has no plans to slow down any time soon.

But if he were to venture to pastures new, Leto says he would still stay in the creative world.

“I love photography, I love film. Maybe direct or something?” he muses.

“I love the outdoors, I love to climb and explore. I love taking photographs of people too.

“I remember, I was in India, and I went there and I just was taking photographs of people the whole time, and I really enjoyed it.

“Those brief interactions with people and observing the world. Become an observer, rather than being observed – that’s quite a beautiful thing.

“I must have taken about 2,000 photographs, I never even did anything, they’re just sitting around somewhere.

“But that was a beautiful thing. I like to take photographs, so maybe I’d do that.”

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ album It’s The End Of The World But It’s a Beautiful Day is out now and their Seasons tour is showing in the UK until June 10th.





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