Soundgarden Claim Songs in Dispute With Chris Cornell’s Widow
Soundgarden have responded to a lawsuit from Chris Cornell's widow by asserting ownership of his final recordings.
Their motion to dismiss was filed Monday in response to a legal action brought by Vicky Cornell in December against her late husband's bandmates and their business manager. Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd and Rit Venerus were accused of withholding royalties from the Cornell estate in an attempt to force the return of demos made before the singer's death in 2017.
The new filing claims the unreleased multi-track recordings are actually based on composing and recording sessions that "significantly predate 2017," including some from as far back as 2015. Soundgarden point to public interviews given by both Cornell and Thayill in which the ongoing project was mentioned, as well as "emails between the band members (including Cornell) exchanging audio files and lyrics, file metadata through Dropbox and other tangible evidence such as full 'live' audio recordings of the band working on and performing the songs at its Seattle studios."
They deny withholding funds, stating that no member is getting paid royalties at this time. Expenses have to be dealt with first, then partnership shares will be calculated and distributed, according to their filing. The band also has jurisdictional questions, since the original lawsuit was filed in Florida – not in its Washington home base. Finally, they say Vicky Cornell's complaint was initiated without notice.
Her suit argued that these seven songs were basically solo recordings, saying there was no explicit ownership agreement with the band. She said she consented to share the songs for a future Soundgarden release, as long as they used a "trusted producer" and involved her in the posthumous marketing strategy. The band instead brought in a different person to oversee the sessions and refused to approve "any type of approval process," according to Vicky Cornell's court filing.
"We obviously disagree with the band's blatant mischaracterization of events, and stand by the truthful facts set forth in our complaint," Cornell attorney Marty Singer said in a news release. "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."
In the meantime, Vicky Cornell has decided to hold onto the master recording files, halting plans for a final album with Chris Cornell. "We don't have possession of our own creative work," the band said in a separate statement.
Soundgarden's most recent album remains 2012's King Animal.