Exclusive: With Legal Obstacles Out of the Way Tool Are Again Hard at Work

In mid-February, Tool guitarist Adam Jones posted a short film on his Facebook page in which Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee walks into the lounge of a studio where both bands are working, and asks Jones what he’s doing. The guitarist offhandedly replies that that Tool is working on “some tunes.”

Indeed, it is, and now that a soul-draining lawsuit that dragged on for eight years has been settled in the band’s favor, Tool is feeling more inspired to create than it has in a long time.

“When you try to be ethical and sleep well at night and try to do the right thing, and people around you are not doing the right thing and trying to take advantage of you, it really affects your creativity and your sleep and your relationships with people and everything you do,” Jones reveals in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Music. “We would have had an album out a long time ago, we would have been taking more tours. But we’ve been discouraged and distracted by this major lawsuit, which is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. It reminds me of one of those ads you see on TV where a guy goes, ‘Have you been in a car wreck? Call us!’”

The Kafka-esque scenario, which wrapped up the week of March 2, began in 2007 when one of Tool’s employees claimed he created artwork for the band and wanted credit. Jones insists there was no merit in the man’s claim and the band assumed its insurance company would take care of the matter. The company refused, and when Tool disputed the legality of their refusal, the company filed its own suit against the band.

“It got really ugly and shameful,” Jones says. “This is a real simplification of the matter — but imagine paying auto insurance, getting into a wreck, and expecting the insurance company to cover you. And they come back to you and say, ‘Well, you drive an SUV and we don’t consider that an auto so we’re not going to cover you.’ And then they turn around and sue you because you want them to cover you. It’s crazy.”

For years, L.A. courts delayed the case and, according to Jones, Tool dealt with a creatively crippling series of depositions, briefs, litigators, and judges. Then, late last week, the case was finally settled in the band’s favor, leaving Tool feeling like wrongly accused prisoners who were finally exonerated.

“I had a real feeling that things were going to go in our favor because the day the trial was supposed to start, the venue was changed on us,” Jones says. “We moved over to a North L.A. courthouse and we had a brand-new judge, who was fantastic. You know what his name was? Randy Rhodes! I knew the power of metal, and my appreciation of metal was someday going to be like a guardian angel. But he was great. He came in and took over, and he’s the reason the whole thing is finally over.”

In addition to dealing with seemingly insurmountable legal obstacles, Tool has been affected by previously undisclosed health issues, which impaired its progress. “I’d rather let the person who dealt with the illness talk about it out of respect,” Jones says. “But one thing was a really scary do-or-die, serious illness and that was really scary. When you’re trying to write music and you have that eating away at you – this person you’re married to and you love and hate at the same time has something they’re dealing with that’s out of their control – it’s distracting.”

Tool fans that have eagerly waited nine years for the follow-up to the band’s last album, 10,000 Days, should be thrilled to find out that the band is on the mend and creating again. At present, Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey have finished one yet-untitled track and have more than 10 songs in various stages of completion.

“Our greatest strength is jamming and coming up with stuff,” Jones says. “We’re doing that really well now and I’m excited about everything we’re working on. Some of it’s really heavy, some of it’s complex and some is more atmospheric, but it’s definitely Tool. I think having this lawsuit out of the way should really speed of the progress of getting the album done.”

The next step is making plans for vocalist Maynard James Keenan to come in and start tracking vocals. In a post on his Facebook page, Keenan wrote, “I’ve been making regular trips to check on the writing progress of my Tool brethren… I’m as anxious to get this album completed as everyone else, but as history will show, you can’t rush these gents.”

There was once a time when Keenan would enter the studio with his bandmates and sit around while they worked out parts for songs. But as soon as he came up with a complimentary vocal part they’d change the rhythmic structure of what they were working on and what Keenan composed no longer worked. That’s the point when he decided he would leave the studio and allow his bandmates to finish songs before he came in to add vocals.

“We’re like painters that all work differently,” Jones explains. “Some painters can paint in a day. That’s kind of like Maynard. He’s so good at coming up with melodies and lyrics almost instantaneously. I’m the kind of painter who likes to paint one area and then sand it out and try something else. And then I’ll try different palettes.

“We all work differently and we’re all very respectful of each other’s process. We’ve really come to realize that as you get older, you really have to work at your relationships. Your bandmates change and you change, and you have to work to keep the relationship positive and the communication alive.”

Jones hopes the next Tool album will be finished and ready for release before the end of the year, but he emphasizes that the band won’t rush anything just to hitting an arbitrary deadline. Such statements leave certain fans skeptical that they’ll be hearing another Tool record any time soon.

Some have even posted amusing memes, one of which features disgraced and discredited news anchor Brian Williams and the words, “So there I was listening to the new Tool album…”

Another depicts Christopher Lloyd’s character from Back to the Future and the text, “I’ve been to the future… The New Tool album is amazing!” A third features an image of a skeleton slumped over a studio board and the caption, “I’m going to be mixing the next Tool Album.”

“I like some of the negative stuff that makes fun of us,” Jones says. “Anyway, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and everyone has a voice now. So that’s great. But the priority for us is not to dwell on any criticism or to worry about scheduling, and instead to just do a good album that we’re really happy with.”

In addition to taking time to ensure the songs they compose meet their rigid standards, Jones admits that Tool doesn’t feel the same sense of urgency to finish the record that the band used to experience when it entered the studio.

“We’re older guys now,” he explains. “Everyone kind of has their own life, and the fire that burned in us when we were in our 20s isn’t there anymore. There’s still a fire, it’s just a different kind of fire. So of course, we’re writing and working hard, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’re relaxed and we’re meeting occasionally to get the writing done instead of every day. But I feel like every day we work on the songs is a productive day and we’re getting closer and closer to finishing them.”