Shannon Leto's drum setup in pictures
Back in 2002 when Thirty Seconds To Mars were slogging round playing club gigs, adoration was thin on the ground, with the LA band widely dismissed as a vehicle for Hollywood heart-throb Jared Leto to live out a second schoolboy fantasy as a rock frontman. But nobody is sneering now…
30STM's third album, 2009's This Is War, is a death-or-glory classic written as the band battled a lawsuit from their label, which bottles all the fury and defiance and features Jared's brother Shannon's most combative drumming to date.
Rhythm caught up with Shannon last year to take a closer look at his massive Sonor SQ2 setup, and find out what it takes to play that album live. Here - among the shots of the aforementioned kit you'll see in this gallery - are snippets from the interview, rounded off with a word from Shannon's drum tech, Kentucky.
First up: Shannon Leto's drum setup…
Sonor SQ2 Maple/Birch Hybrid Eco kit in ‘Echelon’ finish: 20"x19" kick; 8"x8", 10"x8", 12"x8", 14"x8" rack toms; 16"x16", 18"x16" floor toms (all with chrome hardware)
Sonor: 14"x8" 23-ply hybrid maple/birch snare (with chrome hardware); 14"x6" Bronze artist series snare (with black chrome hardware); 13"x5" 28-ply artist series Beachwood Camo finish snare (with gold hardware)
Sabian: 21” HHX Raw Bell Dry ride; 20” AAX Stage crash; 19” AAXplosion; 19” AAXtreme Chinese; 14” AA Rock hats; 14” AAX Mini Chinese; 10” AAX splash; 8” Chopper; 8” AA China splash
DW: 8002 double kick pedal, 8000 hi-hat, 8000 single kick pedal for E-kick, custom-designed 9000 rack system with 9000 cymbal booms and no leg snare baskets, and mic stands; Roc-n-Soc throne
Roland electronics (8 x PD-8 drum pads, KD-7, TD-12), (Alesis DM5, Peavey CS-3000, DDrum Kick Trigger used to run the Buttkicker)
Heads, sticks and extras
Heads, sticks and extras
Vic Firth 5A Nylon sticks, Remo heads, Treehouse chimes; Buttkicker Concert shaker; Woodshed Percussion, Westone ES3X custom ear molds, Crystal Tibetan singing bowl, Shure microphones, Dragon Custom road Cases
The tom intro to Night Of The Hunter is amazing…
"That’s one of my favourites too. It took me 10 days just to come up with that tom sound that you’re hearing. I had the sound in my head, and it just wasn’t… right. I didn’t want a Peter Gabriel-type gated thing, or a typical ’80s gated tom thing, it was a little dirtier than that. It just took time. And I wanted it right.
"I was very specific in what I wanted and [producers] Steve Lillywhite and Flood knew how to get there. Some tracks took months and months just to figure out what I was going to do. And then the beats would change.
"This Is War took a little while. Whereas Alibi was really easy."
Tuning and mic'ing
So what’s the secret to your huge sound?
"It’s just taking the time. I tune ’em the way I want ’em. I choose the drum heads and the tom sizes, then we mic it a bunch of different ways. We mic windows, we mic hallways, we mic the drums themselves, we mic in the next room, we even mic outside to get that ambience.
"We mic the hell out of it. And my drums are high in the mix. It was intentional."
The beats on tracks like Hurricane sound futuristic… how did you manage to achieve that sound?
"It’s all organic, man. All the samples I use to help the drums to pop through those choruses that are full of guitars and keyboards, I made them all. I made them in a kitchen, basically.
"I had a snare, and the acoustics in the studio kitchen were amazing, and they helped create that ‘pop’ I needed. Then I put that on top of my snare for certain parts, and the rest is history."
Your Sonor ‘hybrid’ drum kit must play a big part, tonally?
"It’s a maple/birch combination - like seven or eight ply - and it’s the first one that’s ever been done by Sonor. And the glue and the stain and where they got the tree is all eco-friendly, which was really important. I also had the fans - the Echelon - send in their pictures and they’ve been wrapped around my kit, as a kind of a thank you.
"My first snare drum was a Sonor when I was a little kid, so I’ve always stuck with them. I’ve never owned anything else, but I have messed around with other drums and for some reason, Sonor works for me. They sound the best.
"As for the Tibetan singing bowl [on the track L490], I was in the mountains of Utah doing some meditation, and someone had this singing bowl, and it was amazing. It’s like sound therapy. They bring the cancer patients and they do sound therapy to help shrink it. So I purchased one of those and started messing around with it, and I thought, wouldn’t it be an amazing idea to put this on the album? So I did."
Has it been a challenge to recreate the new album live?
"No, in fact it has been translating really well. But the studio and live are two different animals, man. You don’t try to mimic exactly what was going on in that recording process - you will kill yourself trying to do that. Live is an interpretation of the recording. Each time I play is a different experience.
"I have the general beat that I play, but I kinda dance around it a little bit, and that makes it exciting for me, and more spontaneous. Otherwise I just feel like a robot. The Kill, I’ll dance around on that. And I’ll dance around on The Fantasy, off our old album.
"I’ll stick to the heart of it - I don’t dance so much that I lose people, or myself - but I will play around with it, add a couple of things here and there, so that I don’t get bored."
How about the electronic sounds - how do you tackle those?
"All the sounds that you hear on the album are gonna be played live. We’re not going to be playing to a tape or anything. We have keyboards and trigger pads, and I have nine pads throughout my kit, so I’m triggering a lot as well. What we did was just break up those sounds and assign them to each pad."
Shannon's drum tech Kentucky on live sounds
"The challenge is reproducing the different sounds and doing them justice live. Some things are in the hands of the front-of-house engineer. With other things, Shannon and I have little tricks, like dropping snares off while he’s playing a fill to go into a part where strands aren’t used on the snare, then flipping them back on.
"The record is very electronic and synth-heavy, so to play all these sounds we brought a bunch of V-Drum pads in to give us versatility. A song like Hurricane has three different snares and three different kick sounds, as well as other one-hit sounds, so currently Shannon is playing a nine-piece kit, with nine electronic pads, chimes and a mess of cymbals.
"But Shannon’s sound is his technique. He’s an animal behind that kit, so I love giving him tons of things to beat up!"
Liked this? Now read: Drum kits of the pros: stars' live and studio drum setups in pictures
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