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Hear And Now

The latest news in music for the week of March 13, 1998

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PLAYGROUND POLITICS How does the saying go, ”Be careful what you wish for….”? For almost three years, Marcy Playground, the New York-based bubblegum-grunge band formed by singer-guitarist John Wozniak, 27, struggled to break through. Finally, on the wings of their modern-rock radio smash ”Sex and Candy,” Marcy Playground’s eponymous debut album is flying up the charts (currently No. 25 on the Billboard 200). So how does the band celebrate? In court, apparently.

About 18 months ago, Jared Kotler, the band’s drummer and Wozniak’s high school buddy, left the group under circumstances that are still disputed. This was after Marcy Playground had been recorded but prior to its February ’97 release. It’s also when interested parties began scrutinizing the agreement that formed Marcy Playground, Inc., the corporation created to handle the band’s business affairs. It turns out that contractually, Kotler and his uncle Jeff White, a wealthy eyewear manufacturer whose seed money was essential to launching the band, claim a two-thirds controlling interest in the company. So even if Kotler never performs or records with Marcy Playground again, he and White may be entitled to a huge chunk of whatever income the band generates in the years ahead.

Not surprisingly, Wozniak and the group’s current manager, Chris Blake, disagree. ”We prefer not to talk about this in public,” Blake says, ”but we’re trying to take the high moral ground and negotiate an amicable resolution.” Kotler’s lawyer, Peter Herbert, also avoids fighting words, saying only that ”we’re hoping to find a mutually acceptable way of putting this matter to rest.”

But sources close to both sides say Kotler is charging that Wozniak and EMI Records colluded to eject him from the band. Wozniak’s camp counters that Kotler and his uncle are trying to extract an unreasonable settlement based on a contractual arrangement they characterize as ”unusual” and believe to be nonbinding. In the end, a judge may determine which side is in the right; Kotler and White are said to be close to filing suit in federal court — and there’s nothing sexy or sweet about that.