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September 15, 2012
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SJP

Jared Leto brings 'Artifact' to TIFF
By MARK DANIELL, QMI Agency


Jared Leto appears on Much Music's 'New.Music.Live.' in Toronto, Canada, September 13, 2012. (EVE TRAETTO/WENN.COM)

TORONTO - When musician Jared Leto and his bandmates in 30 Seconds to Mars hatched the idea to do a making-of documentary for their third album, the 40-year-old singer was hoping to give fans a bird's eye perspective on the then-untitled record.

But instead of a candid look at the recording process, the film took a sinister turn when, as 30 Seconds tried to amicably amend their contract with Virgin/EMI, the group was sued for $30-million by the record company. Leto, his brother Shannon (who plays drums) and guitarist Tomo Milicevic, were no longer making an album. They were at war.

“I don’t know why they chose $30-million,” Leto said, after arriving in Toronto for the TIFF premiere of Artifact at the Ryerson Theatre Friday night (it repeats Sunday).

The suit was eventually settled, but the ordeal resulted in a film that is both a searing indictment of a music industry fuelled by greed, and an examination of a band coming together to produce one of their biggest selling albums.

Q: The movie isn't just for 30 Seconds to Mars fans, it's for music fans in general. Was that your goal?

A: I hope the film does appeal to people who aren't just interested in 30 Seconds to Mars. If it doesn't, I'll feel like I failed. I set out to do a film about the making of an album… Instead it turned into not just a film about the creative process, but this really tumultuous and chaotic time where we battled an industry, got sued for $30-million and fought until we won.

Q: When did you know that Artifact had potential for a feature-length documentary?

A: I always knew I didn't want it to be just a making-of doc… I wanted it to be something more than that. But examining art and commerce in this way took on a new meaning in light of the economic crisis that happened in 2008 and, with the music business imploding, it made the documentary very timely. I think even if it had been about a band fighting a record company, it is all these other things that make it much more culturally relevant.

Q: You interview a lot of well-known musicians in the film – Serj Tankian from System of a Down, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park – as well as industry people. How did you select the interviewees for the film?

A: I decided on the people I thought were interesting and could help make an interesting film. I wanted people who had experienced problems with their label. I also wanted industry veterans and people in the record business.

Q: Were there other artists you wish you could have spoken to?

A: There were lots of people I would have loved to talk to – Thom York and Trent Reznor and others who have disrupted the old model. It would have been great to get their insights as well.

Q: Why did EMI take you on? 30 Seconds to Mars was one of its biggest artists, why didn’t they just negotiate with you?

A: It’s their business model. It’s how they do it. It’s an unspoken rule that you sign a terrible deal and, if you have some success, you have to try to fight it out to renegotiate.

Q: Did you ever consider saying, ‘Forget this. I’m going back to acting’?

A: There were days when I was so frustrated that I didn’t want to have anything to do with this business. We were all working so hard, fighting this giant corporation. We were a band that had had a tiny bit of success and we were taking on an industry. There were a lot of days where it felt like a lost cause. But it never made me want to stop making music.

Q: Do you think the end product, This is War, was better because of the conflict?

A: The album is really informed by the battle we went through. It’s called This is War for a reason. So it’s important that it happened. I think we made a stronger record because of it.

Q: Do you miss record stores?

A: It was nice to walk into a record store, that part was great… But I don’t miss record stores. There was a lot of bad business going on there. Now we’re heading towards a much more social system; a much more engaging and open way of working… There’s a lot I miss about albums and tapes, though. You used to put it in and you’d have to listen to it all the way through and what would happen is, for a while one song would be your favourite song, then you’d discover another one and sometimes you’d discover a song on the album that no one else was listening to. So I thought that was unique. That never happens anymore. Those deep album tracks that reached maybe a small segment of the population is a dying breed.

Q: So how are things now with the record company? Did they try and block the release of this film?

A: If we don’t hold it against the record company that they sued us for $30-million, they shouldn’t hold it against us that we made a film about the experience.

Q: So where do things stand now with EMI and 30 Seconds to Mars?

A: I don’t have a problem with EMI. I have a problem with an EMI who says we’re millions of dollars in debt after we’ve sold millions of records. I have a problem with an EMI that sues us for $30-milion. I don’t have a problem with an EMI that helps bands realize their goals and dreams and I think they understand that… I’m not anti-record company. I like companies. I think companies are wonderful. It’s when they put profit ahead of fairness, that’s when I have a problem.

Q: Tell us about new music. When's it coming?

A: Hopefully sooner rather than later. We've been recording in India, all over Europe and America... It marks a transformation for us, but it's too soon to describe the sound… It's like looking at a newborn baby and trying to notice the small changes continually taking place.

Q: What about acting?

A: I haven't done anything in a while and I don't see myself returning to it anytime soon.

Artifact screens Sept. 16, 3:30 p.m., Bloor Hoc Docs Cinema

Twitter: @markhdaniell

 




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