Soundgarden Demands Chris Cornell's Widow Hand Over Unreleased Recordings

Soundgarden pose for portraits at the Soundwave Festival at Melbourne showgrounds on Feb. 22, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Martin Philbey/Redferns

Soundgarden pose for portraits at the Soundwave Festival at Melbourne showgrounds on Feb. 22, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. 

The surviving Soundgarden band members are demanding that Chris Cornell's widow, Vicky, hand over recordings to what they claim are the band's final unreleased tracks. Band members Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Hunter Benedict Shepherd say they worked jointly on these final tracks with Cornell and that Vicky Cornell has no right to withhold from them what they call the "final Soundgarden album."

The band members raised their allegations against Vicky Cornell in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Florida on Monday. The band's motion was in response to Vicky Cornell's federal lawsuit brought against the members in December, in which she accused them of trying to "strong-arm" her into turning over seven unreleased audio recordings by withholding royalties. Vicky Cornell said in her court papers that the band has no legal rights to the recordings, which she claims were "solely authored" by Chris Cornell and bequeathed to his estate for her and their children's benefit.

However, the band members say after the group's seventh studio album, King Animal, they started to work together on new songs in late 2014. A year later, the group returned to a Seattle studio to continue working on the album. To back up their claims, the band members point to interviews Cornell and his bandmates made at the time confirming they were working together on what would be Soundgarden's eighth album. In addition, Thayil, Cameron and Benedict say they found her allegations that they behaved callously at the time of Chris Cornell's death "patently false and emotionally abusive."

"Thayil, Cameron and Shepherd were utterly devastated to lose their beloved friend, brother and comrade, and were in a state of shock," reads the filing. "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." 

The band members, though, agree with one of Vicky Cornell's allegations that she is owned money. 

"In fact, all of the band members are also owed monies, but none of the band members nor [Vicky Cornell] will be paid until expenses are paid and the partnership shares of earnings can be calculated and distributed," according to a statement from the surviving band members' legal team.

"When a Partnership distribution is made, Vicky Cornell will be entitled to her appropriate payment based on Cornell's share," reads the court papers. 

The band is asking the case be dismissed or transferred to another jurisdiction. The band says it is unclear why the case was filed in Florida, since all the surviving band members live in Seattle and Vicky Cornell, herself, lives in New York. But Marty Singer, attorney for Vicky Cornell and the Estate of Chris Cornell, says the Florida jurisdiction is due to the fact Cornell lived there when he recorded the songs. 

“We obviously disagree with the band’s blatant mischaracterization of events, and stand by the truthful facts set forth in our complaint," said Singer in a statement. "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.”

UPDATE: This story was updated at 6:20 p.m. EST to include Singer's statement. 

 

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