The success of 30 Seconds to Mars’ This Is War album is as much a tribute to the band’s unyielding dedication as it is to their general insanity. After all, they were, for a long while, a band without a home — having been famously sued for $30 million by their label, Virgin Records — or a plan (Jared Leto told MTV News that he intended to sell their still-unfinished album “door to door”) if the band couldn’t rectify things with Virgin).
Of course, we all know how the story ends. After a long wait, War hit stores in December, spawned two hit singles and served as the launching pad for 30 Seconds to Mars’ ever-growing world tour. Perhaps as a tribute to their unwavering commitment, the band was honored with four nominations at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards , including nods for Best Rock Video and Video of the Year. (Nominations they promise to celebrate with a very unique arrival at the show on September 12 .)
It was a pretty nice reward for all their struggles, and though everything is right in the 30 STM universe these days, that wasn’t always the case. So with the VMAs just around the corner, we decided to take a look back at the band’s long and bloody battle for their future. There’s a reason they decided to call their album This Is War, after all.
In 2009, things were pretty bleak, but rather than be deterred by a mega lawsuit and an uncertain future, 30 Seconds to Mars never backed down . Instead, they pressed on with the album bringing in Kanye West , holding fan-only recording sessions , importing Tibetan monks . They made This Is War bigger and badder, despite the very real possibility that it might never see the light of day. It was either a labor of love or an exercise in lunacy. Maybe both.
Eventually, things reached a breaking point. In the spring of 2009, 30STM’s lawsuit was settled, in an effort to “make peace, to move ahead and begin again.” And work began on finally bringing This Is War home. Of course, just because they’d made peace with their label, that didn’t mean they were going to change the way they’d operated throughout the creation of their album … quite the opposite, in fact. Emboldened, they set out to make things even bigger than before.
In October 2009, with the release of War still some two months off, they began working on their epic “Kings and Queens” video , a massive, sprawling thing that saw the band — and an army of their Critical Mass cohorts — take over the streets of Los Angeles, riding en masse while the city slept. It was a project of such scale that Jared Leto (who directed under his “Bartholomew Cubbins” alter ego) almost didn’t finish the thing, and “Queens” was literally in the edit room until hours before it premiered.
His hard work would be rewarded, as the song — and video — would both hit big, and, in February 30STM prepared to launch their Into the Wild world tour . In April, with the North American leg of the jaunt just around the corner, they shot another epic video, for the album’s title track. Featuring Leto and his mates in army fatigues and body armor, “War” looked like a suitable follow-up to “Kings and Queens.” Only, months passed, and to date, the video has yet to premiere .
By this point, of course, the band was practically impervious to struggle, so rather than continue to wait for “War” to be completed, they decided to shoot yet another video, a downright spiritual live clip for “Closer to the Edge.” . They just set off across North America once again, and there are plans to release a pair of films — one documenting the making of the This Is War album, and a second about the Into the Wild tour — in the near future.
And, yes, Leto says that someday, the “War” video will see the light of day. No matter what it takes to get it done. Conflict is nothing new for his band, after all. As their success seems to prove, they practically thrive on it.
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12. The party starts with MTV News’ VMA Pre-Show at 8 p.m., followed by the main event at 9 p.m. ET.