Jared Leto might be a famous actor and platinum-selling musician, but even he has major record label headaches to deal with. In August last year, EMI sued Leto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars, for breach of contract.
Yet, the band re-signed with EMI before releasing their latest disc, This is War. “We want to be treated fairly,” Leto tells Metro over the phone from Los Angeles. “We did get to a place where EMI addressed the concerns we were fighting for.”
Still, it may seem a bit odd that the group would sign to any big label after all the trouble the majors gave the group. The band does have a massive following, so why not go the Radiohead route? It was something they considered.
“We looked at what other bands did,” he says. “But Radiohead is now being distributed through a major. I started looking at the options and the reality is we’re in a transition time right now. Being DIY still leaves the band having to do what it really doesn’t want to, which is running a record company.”
Leaving all the grunt work to EMI allowed the group to try something completely different on their new record. Dubbed The Summit, the group went to several places around the world — including Toronto and Iran — to record fans playing instruments and singing to their new songs; some of these recordings ended up on the release.
“People did everything from percussion to singing to chanting and stomping,” Leto explains. “We wanted to turn the audience away from the band and toward our fans around the world.”
Working this into their songs wasn’t easy. Leto had to plan for these recordings, even though he didn’t know how they would turn out, while he was writing the album. “I had to leave space for the Summit in a way you’d map out strings for a record.”
The result is a louder, more epic 30 Seconds to Mars. Partly because of the Summit and also thanks to Leto’s love of big stadium sounds, This is War is a cross between distorted, grungy rock and arena-ready U2. It’s brash and energetic, while Leto’s wails pierce through the blistering drums and Edge-like guitar.
There’s no doubt the band’s fans will enjoy the effort, but just in case they need extra incentive to buy their disc, the group solicited its followers to submit photos for the CDs cover art. The group took the best and printed 2,000 covers.
“We did it to drive the record company crazy,” says Leto, laughing. “We all know that most of us, me included, don’t buy these very often anymore. If we’re going to make a CD and go through the trouble of printing out a piece of plastic and putting songs on it, we might as well have fun and celebrate the release.”
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