Legal Problems Throw Monkey Wrench In Tool's LP Plans

Band recently sued its label to get out of its contract so that it can begin recording.

Fans of industrial art-rockers Tool may have a long wait before they hear the band's follow-up to 1996's platinum-selling Ænima.

The heavy L.A. band, led by charismatic lead singer Maynard James Keenan, recently filed a suit in Los Angeles against its label, Volcano Entertainment LLC, in an attempt to extricate Tool from their contract.

"There's nothing to prevent the band from recording, but we can't record anything right now because we don't know who we're recording for and until this case is settled, we won't record anything," Tool manager Ted Gardner said on Tuesday.

The essence of the "declaratory relief" suit, said Gardner, is that Volcano -- previously known as Zoo, then Freeworld -- did not exercise an option in the band's contract for its next recording in a timely fashion. "We are free," he said.

"We filed a petition, which states that the band needs to get on with their lives and we want the court case brought forward," Gardner said.

Attorney Don Engel, who is representing Volcano, said the case, which he described as "not a routine record industry matter," will be a hard one to try if it does end up going through the courts. "Right now," Engel said, "both sides are gearing up to try this case, which could take a year or more with appeals."

Volcano had originally filed a breach of contract suit against Tool in New York late last year, but a judge recently dismissed that case, stating that the proper forum for the case is in L.A.

A source familiar with the case said that if Tool -- who took three years to release their most recent album, Ænima, following their 1993 full-length debut, Undertow -- are tied up in court until next year, thereby holding up their recording career, it could be difficult for them to regain their momentum.

The timing is unfortunate for the multimedia groove-metal band, in light of the strong sales of Ænima -- which features the title track (RealAudio excerpt), "Stinkfist" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Eulogy" among the 15 tracks -- as well as high-profile slots on last summer's Lollapalooza and the upcoming stint on the powerhouse Ozzfest main stage.

Gardner said the band has no material written or demoed for a follow-up album, but that he and group members have met with more than 20 independent and major labels that he said have shown interest in the group, listing labels such as TVT, Epic, Elektra, Geffen, Virgin, DreamWorks and MCA. "We're focusing on rehearsals for Ozzfest right now," Gardner said of the heavy-metal summer tour, which the band is slated to play.