There’s Been Some New Developments In The Legal Dispute Over Chris Cornell’s Unreleased Soundgarden Recordings


The ongoing legal battle over Chris Cornell‘s final recordings continues between the band’s surviving members (Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd) and Cornell‘s widow Vicky Cornell with more details and statements having recently spilled over to the press. At the heart of the matter is the recordings Cornell laid down for a new album the band were working on prior to his 2017 suicide.

The physical copies of those recordings are said to be in the possession of Cornell‘s estate and his widow Vicky. If you missed the report on previous developments in the legal war, Vicky filed suit against the band last year, claiming that the group had been holding out on paying royalties owed to the estate in a bid to pressure her to turn over the unreleased Cornell recordings to them.

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The band argued that five of the seven Cornell recordings stemmed from songs the group had written together across various studio sessions. Vicky disputed that claim, insisting that they were solely authored by Cornell while residing in Florida and are thus not property of the band.

She further alleged that she offered to share the recordings with the band under the conditions certain input and attention was given to them, including the involvement of a preferred producer of Chris‘s, but claims they turned that deal down.

She also alleged that the band were uncaring in the wake of Chris‘ death and that past commentary to the press by Thayil about the legal impasse over the recordings put her and her family in harm’s way.

To assert their claim to shared ownership of the tracks via this latest motion, the Soundgarden members have pointed out press clips from various interviews, including one Chris did with Music Radar in February of 2017 that saw him state “We have a lot of interesting songs…”. The band insist the phrasing implies that the songs being worked on were a collective effort, rather than a venture solely undertaken by Cornell.

The motion also finds the band attempting to have Vicky‘s complaint dismissed—or at least transferred to Washington where the band reside—as they claim that its filing in Florida has a lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants.

As Vicky and Chris were shown to have maintained a somewhat disputed residence in Florida (the band are unable to ascertain if they were domiciled in the state), Florida was apparently chosen as the venue for the complaint filing.

Meanwhile, the motion also tells the band’s view of the recordings and royalty dispute, stating:

Vicky Cornell is not the owner of the recordings at issue, which are provably Soundgarden’s and intended for a new Soundgarden album. Vicky Cornell is entitled to distributions from the Soundgarden partnership for Cornell’s share of band revenues, but only on the vote of the partnership which has not taken place. There is no “conspiracy” with the band’s financial manager.”

The motion also provides more details regarding the unreleased recordings and the writing credits for them. According to the band, the songs that were in the works for the album include:

Road Less Traveled” (Cornell/Cameron)
Orphans” (Cornell/Cameron)
At Ophians Door” (Cornell/Cameron)
Cancer” (Cornell)
Ahead Of The Dog” (Cornell/Thayil)
Merrmas” (Cornell/Shepherd)
Stone Age Mind” (Cornell)

Cornell is said to have completed vocals on all of the tracks and shares writing credits with select members of the group on all of the tracks sans “Cancer” and Stone Age Mind“, which are solely credited to him.

In a sad revelation, the band also reveal that they found out about Cornell‘s passing after their May 17th , 2017 show in Detroit, MI via social media. The motion states of that:

“The Band interrupted its April 2017 studio session in Seattle to begin a national tours tarting on April 28, 2017. (Cameron Decl. ¶21.) On May 14, 2017, the Band played in Kansas City, Missouri. After the show Cornell flew home to New York City. On May 17, he flew to Detroit, Michigan to join other Band Members for a Soundgarden concert that night at the Fox Theatre. Following the concert — as was customary — Thayil, Cameron, and Shepherd (the “Surviving Band Members” or “Remaining Partners”) made the late night trip in the Band’s tour buses to their next concert destination in Columbus, Ohio, where the Band had a concert on May 19.

Cornell stayed behind at a Detroit hotel with the plan to fly on to Columbus, as was his normal practice because Cornell was unable to sleep on buses. As their buses were headed to Columbus in the early morning of May 18, the Surviving Band Members learned that Cornell had been found dead in his hotel room in Detroit after midnight (tragically, Cameron first saw a “RIP: Chris Cornell” item on his Facebook page, called Thayil who was on the other bus, who then woke Shepherd, and they and their crew frantically searched news, social media and called friends and family, until they received the awful confirmation from their tour manager).

Thayil, Cameron and Shepherd were utterly devastated to lose their beloved friend, brother, and comrade, and were in a state of shock. As they pulled their buses to the roadside, embraced each other, and struggled with what to do next, their tour manager advised them not to go back to Detroit as it would be swimming with police, press, and other media, and there was nothing positive that could be achieved.

They also had a throng of highly-distraught crew and tour team members already in or headed to Columbus who needed support. So they organized a vigil in a conference room at their Columbus hotel, where they were accompanied by their crew, assistants and friends who hugged, wept and attempted to console each other for many hours.”

In a statement issued to TMZ in regards to the motion, Vicky‘s lawyer Marty Singer responded to the claims put forth in Soundgarden‘s motion:

“We obviously disagree with the band’s blatant mischaracterization of events, and stand by the truthful facts set forth in our complaint. It is disappointing that Chris’ former band members have now sought to taint his legacy by making numerous false allegations, and that they continue to withhold substantial monies from his widow and minor children (despite using those same funds to pay for their own legal fees).

The issue in this case is not who wrote the songs but rather who owns the specific recordings made solely by Chris while he resided in Florida. We are very confident that the Court will vindicate the rights of Chris’ Estate, and that the case will properly remain in Florida, where Chris resided and recorded the songs that are now the lawful property of his Estate.”

The Soundgarden members are seeking a hearing to resolve the various issues, including the jurisdictional dispute and more.

Soundgarden vs. Vicky Cornell by JasonNewman on Scribd

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