Considering how far apart Tool and Freeworld Entertainment are on the issue
of the band's recording contract, it's appropriate that Tool and their record label recently filed suits against one another from opposite sides of the country.
At issue is whether or not that thinking person's metal band is still under
contract to Freeworld. The band offers an emphatic no, while the label argues yes.
"They failed to exercise their option and therefore we are out of the
deal," said Tool's manager Ted Gardner. He said that the band's contract stipulates that Freeworld had seven months from the delivery of the group's last album -- the million selling Aenima -- during which the label was obligated to tell the group whether it wanted to produce another record.
When that seven-month window passed in April with no word from Freeworld, the band became free agents, said Gardner. The group filed suit a week ago in a Los Angeles Superior Court, asking a judge to decide if they are bound to Freeworld.
Peter LoFrumento, a spokesman for Freeworld, said the company made several offers to the group in the last "couple of months." "When they first came to us, we approached the negotiations in a very positive way in the hope of resolving the issue," he said. "We provided them with a number of contingency plans that would have met their goals and our goals. All those contingency plans were not accepted. They failed to get back to us on any of them."
Freeworld subsequently filed its suit in New York State Supreme Court seeking $25 million for Tool's alleged "wrongful attempt to abandon its exclusive recording contract" with the label.
While LoFrumento would not discuss specific details of the label's offers,
he said the contingency plans revolved around "the amount of albums that
are owed and the types of albums that are owed. We were trying to work in
a framework that would meet their needs to wanting to do something else,
and meeting our needs in getting what is owed to us."
Gardner conceded that there were options offered the band, but said
they came in only during the past two weeks. He said Freeworld President
Kevin Czinger was talking to the band's lawyer last Friday about
resolving the situation, but the two sides could not come to an agreement.
The manager said that Tool has not yet spoken to other labels about new
contracts. "This isn't about money, this isn't about ego, this isn't about
going to another label," Gardner said.
Tool signed with Zoo Entertainment, which later became Freeworld, in November 1991. The band released its first EP, Opiate, in 1992, followed the next year by the full-length Undertow. After Aenima
surprisingly debuted at #2 on Billboard's album chart last year,
Tool went on to become one of the more crowd-pleasing acts of this summer's
Sources close to Freeworld said the band still owes the company three
studio albums, plus a live collection.
The group is well known in the recording industry for having a measure of
artistic control that other bands only dream of. "They have complete control," said Freeworld spokesman Karl Munzel. "Nothing with the Tool name on it goes out without their approval," he added, citing not only album covers and videos, but also print ads and postcards.
"We look forward to a continued relationship with the band," LoFrumento said. "The band was supported with extensive financial, artistic and
marketing resources to enable them to get to where they are today. It's
been a mutually beneficial relationship artistically, creatively and
financially, and we look forward to that continuing."
Gardner was more blunt in his assessment. "Our position is, you failed to
exercise your option -- end of story. We're free." [Fri., Sept. 19, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]