GEOFF TATE Claims QUEENSRŸCHE Bandmates Have Been Trying To Get Rid Of Him For At Least A YearOctober 12, 2012
Singer Geoff Tate wants a judge to deny his former bandmates' request to keep him from using the QUEENSRŸCHE name until their dispute is resolved.
Tate, who was fired from QUEENSRŸCHE in June after fronting the group for three decades, recently sought to prevent his former bandmates from touring and operating under the QUEENSRŸCHE name without him. While ruling against Tate, the presiding judge determined that there was no legal hurdle in Tate also using the name with an all-new lineup of musicians. "I don't see any reason that Mr. Tate can't have the benefit, if he gets other members, of whatever name he uses of using the brand," Superior Court Judge Carol A. Schapira said during the July 13 court hearing. "I think [doing that would be] inherently confusing, although I'm sure the market can get these things sorted out," she added.
On September 2, Tate announced that he was launching his own version of QUEENSRŸCHE with RATT drummer Bobby Blotzer, former QUIET RIOT, OZZY OSBOURNE and WHITESNAKE bassist Rudy Sarzo and former MEGADETH and KING DIAMOND guitarist Glen Drover. Also on board in the new group are returning QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Kelly Gray — who played with the band from 1998 until 2001 and also produced several of their albums — and keyboardist Randy Gane, who has toured and recorded with QUEENSRŸCHE and Geoff's solo group in the past.
In a motion for partial summary judgment filed September 21 in Washington state's King County Superior Court, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield and bassist Eddie Jackson asked that the court declare that Tate "has no right to the QUEENSRŸCHE band name, marks and media assets since he has no grant of authority from the Tri-Ryche Corporation [which controls all QUEENSRŸCHE name and trademark rights. — Ed.] that owns them, unless and until he is able to succeed on his claims to dissolve the QUEENSRŸCHE corporations, and to enter a permanent injunction to the same."
In a response in opposition to defendants' motion for partial summary judgment filed October 8 (see document below; courtesy of The Breakdown Room),Tate and his wife, Susan, QUEENSRŸCHE's former manager, wrote: "Defendants have failed to submit any admissible evidence establishing a sense of urgency or impending harm warranting summary judgment at this time, which would only be proper as a motion for an injunction, not a motion for summary judgment.
"Defendants rely on a single declaration — Scott Rockenfield's — for the proposition that Geoff Tate cannot use the QUEENSRŸCHE name, marks, or associated media assets. In it, Mr. Jackson claims that he and the other defendants, all of whom are oppressing Mr. Tate, have never granted Mr. Tate the right to use the QUEENSRŸCHE name, marks or media assets and that the name is reserved to the 'original band….' Of course Mr. Rockenfield would say this because that is exactly what he and the other Defendants are trying to do: take 30 years of hard work and brand building away from Geoff Tate and keep it for themselves. At a minimum, before summary judgment can be granted on this issue, the Tates must be permitted to depose Messrs. Jackson, Wilton, and Rockenfield regarding these claims. Moreover, Mr. Rockenfield is simply wrong. Geoff Tate is part of the original band and, thus, he too is entitled to use the name, mark, and media assets until this Court resolves the fundamental issue of who owns the QUEENSRŸCHE assets.
"Worse, both Mr. Rockenfield and Mr. Wilton are doing exactly what they ask the Court to stop Geoff Tate from doing: They are both using the QUEENSRŸCHE name, marks, and media assets to sell their individual products — without any formal approval by the companies.
"Mr. Wilton uses the QUEENSRŸCHE name and mark to sell beer — 'Whip Ale' — and branded clothing, coffee, glassware, mini-guitars, and banners. Similarly, Mr. Rockenfield uses the QUEENSRŸCHE name and mark to sell drumming books, drums, posters, drum sticks, a drum track build computer program, a drum clinic DVD, drum loops, 'rockenwraps,' and 'Operation: Rockenfield - The Drumming Of Queensrÿche'.
"The cut-and-thrust of Defendants' motion is that the alleged 'assault' in Sao Paulo, Brazil justifies all of their 'corporate' action under the Business Judgment Rule and leaves Geoff Tate with no defense. First, there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding what happened in Brazil. Before the Court can rule on that issue, the Tates must be allowed to conduct discovery, including deposing the Defendants and their witnesses to this incident. Second, Geoff Tate disputes the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident in Brazil and does not 'admit' he 'assaulted' anyone. In his Declaration in Support of the Tates' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Geoff Tate says Mr. Rockenfield taunted him, saying, 'I fired your wife, I fired your daughter and your son-in-law, and you're next.' Angry, Geoff Tate 'went after' Mr. Rockenfield, but never touched him. If it were, Eddie Jackson would have been fired from QUEENSRŸCHE years ago for assaulting Geoff Tate.
"During the METALICA tour [in 1988], Eddie Jackson came onto the tour bus where Geoff Tate was sitting and, unprovoked, preceded to 'Kung Fu' kick Geoff in the face. As Geoff recounts, 'It was a brutal blow that caught me completely off guard. Two other witnesses, Messrs. Beyer and Rafeal, both of whom provided declarations, corroborate Geoff Tate's memory of this incident.
"If this is the litmus test to justify oppressive corporate action, as Mr. Osinski [Geoff's former bandmates' counsel Thomas Osinski] would have this Court believe, Eddie Jackson should have been fired 24 years ago.
"The real issue before this Court, and for which the Tates have submitted sufficient evidence to withstand this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, is whether Geoff Tate's role in QUEENSRŸCHE as its front-man, its voice, its main songwriter (117 out of 145 songs),its public face, and its brains for 30 years, entitles him to the QUEENSRŸCHE name, brand and assets. This, again, is an intensely factual issue that must be tried to the Court.
"Defendants' actions and statements belie their claim they fired Geoff Tate because of the incident in Brazil. In reality, Jackson, Wilton, and Rockenfield have been trying to get rid of Geoff Tate for at least a year and they are using the Brazil incident as a smokescreen.
"Over a year ago, the Defendants began trying to recruit Jason Saunders to replace Geoff Tate as QUEENSRŸCHE's lead singer. Mr. Saunders worked with QUEENSRŸCHE for years, performing on albums and during live shows. Mr. Saunders played keyboards, rhythm guitar and sings backup and lead vocals. Beginning on August 6, 2011, Michael Wilton approached Mr. Saunders after a show at the House of Blues in Boston and said, 'If Geoff wasn't around, what would you think about doing something?' which was echoed by Scott Rockenfield who commented, 'Yes, think about it!'
"On about September 19, 2011 in Tulsa at a show at Cain's Ballroom, the three Defendants again approached Mr. Saunders. The three of them told Mr. Saunders that Geoff Tate was leaving the band to possibly pursue a solo career and that they didn't want to stop the band. Based on that, Defendants offered Mr. Saunders the lead vocal position in QUEENSRŸCHE for $600 per week touring pay plus 'a cut off of a new CD.' He told them 'I'm definitely interested, but let me think about it and I'll get back to you.' Scott Rockenfield asked Mr. Saunders not to speak to Geoff Tate about the offer just to keep good feelings while we were all on the road. When Mr. Saunders discussed Defendants' offer with his girlfriend, Maureen Fisher, who also worked for QUEENSRŸCHE, she told him that Geoff wasn't thinking of leaving QUEENSRŸCHE. As Mr. Saunders puts it: '[Defendants' offer] left me with an uneasy feeling, seemingly fueled by an ulterior motive. They offered me one-half my normal pay and wanted to get rid of Geoff. It appeared and felt to me like they were trying to keep his share of the profits while paying someone next to nothing to take his place. That way they could all keep more money.'
"On about October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles at the House of Blues, Defendants asked Mr. Saunders if he had given any further thought to the lead vocal/Geoff replacement position? He told them, 'Thank you for thinking of me, but I don't feel I'm the right guy for this project.' He said, 'I wouldn't be opposed to a side project with a bluesy edge if you guys are up for that.' About two weeks later, during a month-long break from the band's tour schedule, Defendants called Mr. Saunders and told him that he and Maureen were fired from the remainder of the 'Dedicated To Chaos' tour."
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