Tomo Milicevic, guitarist for 30 Seconds to Mars is living every fan’s dream. As the band ends its national tour, opening for Audioslave and Seether, and promoting its newest album, A Beautiful Lie, Milicevic remembers that only three years ago he watched the band from the floor. Now he’s with them up on the stage.
“I was a huge fan of 30 Seconds to Mars, and I had the opportunity to meet Shannon [Leto], seven years ago,” Milicevic said in a recent phone interview. “We weren’t fast friends, but remained acquainted. When they were in Detroit [Milicevic’s hometown] he got me tickets, and I brought people and we hung out.”
Milicevic was in a regional band of the same management when he received a call saying one of the guitarists had quit, and they needed him to come to Los Angeles the next day for a tryout with 30 Seconds to Mars. Milicevic couldn’t believe his luck. He quit his band, borrowed some money from his parents for a plane ticket and moved to LA the next day. He already knew how to play all the songs since he was such a fan and just practiced incessantly until the audition. Five days after the audition Milicevic was on a national stage, playing The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborne with the band.
Hearing Milicevic’s story it is easy to see why and how 30 Seconds to Mars has evolved from its past recordings. The band is tight and organized on its newest sound, with a theme and mission in mind to be heard on the album. The original band consisted of a project including just the Leto brothers, Shannon and Jared. A Beautiful Lie was written over three years, with the inclusion of Milicevic and bassist Matt Wachter. The group went through its growing pains, Milicevic said, but that was to be expected when expanding the outfit.
“Jared writes most of the songs, the lyrics and harmonic concepts, then he comes to us and we collaborate,” Milicevic said. “In the beginning it was difficult. You are changing a formula that was there for many, many years. “Then everyone realized how we could work together and got used to how everyone works. We all had the same goals in mind, and all wanted the same things.”
Milicevic said the band agrees that it has evolved together and that every product becomes different and better. While he said A Beautiful Lie is not a traditional concept album, it is an album that has to be enjoyed as a whole, with all of their struggles and triumphs compiled together.
“You have to listen to it as a whole, it’s conceptual as a theme; an album about struggle and change, rebirth, making choices in life, and how to make those choices,” he said. “We decided as a band on the songs for the album, from a group of 40, on what best told our story.”
As their last tour of the year, 30 Seconds to Mars puts a special value on its live performance. The band has been on tour for over eight months and plans to embark on a headlining tour in February 2006. That will be the band’s first headlining tour, playing at smaller clubs to 500 to 1,000 people. It looks to older bands such as Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Motley Crue for its stage antics; these bands created great songs, but they put on more than just a musical show, Milicevic said.
“We are different from other groups because we put on a high energy show,” Milicevic said. “We’re not just sitting up there staring at our shoes. Seeing bands like that is completely disappointing, they can’t even play their instruments. Kids want more than that. There is no edge or danger in rock music right now. That’s why rock is dying, and we are trying to bring it back. Rock used to be edgy, and now hip-hop has the danger element. Kids want to be rebellious and take risks, not watch shoegazing prettyboys with no attitude.”
For 30 Seconds to Mars it is all about attitude. Milicevic said he is completely comfortable handling the roll of a rock star.
“The term ‘rock star’ is more of an attitude and a personality,” he said. “Fuck yeah, I feel like I am [a rock star]. I’m not a dick or anything, but I know what I want, and what I am capable of and in that sense, being in this band never changed that way of thought for me. I’ve always had rock star mentality; I knew this was what I was going to do one way or another. Now I’m doing what I always wanted to do.”
It’s obvious Milicevic and the band love what they do, and that he has come a long way from the violinist he became at three years old. 30 Seconds to Mars just wants to keep it original and set themselves apart from the rest of the music community.
“Musically we are always trying to do something original, different,” he said. “We don’t use our influences the way other bands might. We try to make the music sound like it stands on its own feet, instead of using other bands as a template. We’ll never make the same records twice, as this one is worlds apart from the first album. A lot of bands are scared to change the formula, but you change and aren’t always the same person. We make music that we love and that we want to hear, if others like it, it’s ok, that’s the beauty of music. If you don’t like it you don’t have to listen to it, if you do, that’s ok, too.”