30 Seconds to Mars and EMI make nice, new album due this fall
Of all the things that can come betwixt band and record label, the gulf that emerged between Jared Leto’s 30 Seconds to Mars and EMI appeared insurmountable. All that seemed to separate the two sides was $30 million or, as Leto once described it on the band’s website, “30 gazillion.”
But reunions are standard business procedure in the music industry, and the actor-musician said today that 30 Seconds to Mars and EMI have reached an agreement. Expect a new album, tentatively titled “This is War,” on the major this fall.
“It was a long battle, and the time came for the fight to end,” Leto told Pop & Hiss. “We’re certainly not experts at this. This certainly was the first time we had been sued for $30 million, and the first time we ever really had a battle with a business partner. We’re not a group of fighters. It certainly is not fun being in litigation. I would avoid it at all costs.“
In a well-covered lawsuit filed last fall, EMI’s Virgin Records filed papers against 30 Seconds to Mars, seeking damages in excess of $30 million. It was widely reported that EMI was claiming the band had only delivered three of five albums due to the label. Leto, in turn, responded on the band’s website, and noted the group had been seeking to cease its relationship with the major long before the suit was filed.
“There was a point after we had sold millions of records around the world, where not only were we never paid a single penny, but we learned that we were millions of dollars in debt,” Leto said. “That brought up a lot of questions for us, and we started to investigate the strange scenario that we were in. That was kind of the beginning of the conflict.”
Leto noted on his website that the band was told it was “millions of dollars in debt.” The local rockers have released two albums on Virgin, the second of which, “A Beautiful Lie,” peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard 200. Worldwide, the album is said to have sold in excess of 2 million.
As for whether the debt has been wiped clean, Leto said, “I can’t get into specifics of the deal, but this isn’t about making a bunch of money. That day is done and over in recorded music.”
He adds, however, that 30 Seconds to Mars is signed with EMI beyond the release of the forthcoming album. In a statement, Nick Gatfield, EMI Music's president of A&R labels, North America and U.K., said, “We are thrilled to have set aside our differences and signed a new agreement with 30 Seconds to Mars. Our relationship has been extremely rewarding and successful, and we’re eager to move forward and put our global team to work.”
The band’s new album will feature guest vocals from rap superstar Kanye West. This last weekend in Los Angeles, 30 Seconds to Mars staged what it called “The Summit,” in which 1,000-plus fans showed up at the Avalon in Hollywood as a sort of live recording for the new album.
“Some of it was very left field, and almost avant-garde, and some of it was the most amazing campfire, kumbaya you can imagine,” Leto said.
Leto said he’s written 140 songs since the release of “A Beautiful Lie” in 2005, and said that 12 will make the record. Much of the new album was recorded with Mark Ellis, who, under the name of Flood, has produced albums from U2, Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins, among many others. Mixing will begin in the coming weeks, and Leto, who will also appear in sci-fi film “Mr. Nobody” this year, said the band still may cut another song or two.
"I’ve always talked about this record in very cinematic terms,” Leto said. “It’s very much like listening to a film. It’s very nostalgic.
"At certain points there’s Giorgio Moroder synths," he continued, referring to the producer known for his new wave and disco electronic sounds. "It's the soundtrack of my youth, and our youth as a band, but it’s a very modern record."
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Jared Leto performs with 30 Seconds to Mars at 2007's KROQ Weenie Roast in Irvine. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times