According to TMZ, the surviving members of SOUNDGARDEN have fired back at Chris Cornell's widow, saying that they are the rightful owners of the band's unreleased songs.
Last fall, Vicky Cornell sued SOUNDGARDEN, claiming the musicians were withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties owed to her and Chris's minor children. She called the move an "unlawful attempt to strong-arm Chris' Estate into turning over certain audio recordings created by Chris before he passed away."
Vicky claimed the seven unreleased songs were "solely authored by Chris; contain Chris' own vocal tracks; and were bequeathed to Chris' Estate" for the benefit of her and their kids.
In their court filing, which can be read in its entirety below, Cornell's former SOUNDGARDEN bandmates, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd insist they had been working on the unreleased songs as a band as far back as 2014. As evidence, they point to a February 2017 article where Chris himself spoke to Music Radar about SOUNDGARDEN's new material. Chris told the web site: "We have a lot of interesting songs." They also claim they last got together in the studio in April 2017 to do more work on the tracks but took a break to go on tour. A month later, Chris committed suicide by hanging himself in a hotel.
Thayil, Cameron and Shepherd also say they've corresponded with Vicky about the songs, and she has admitted they were the band's property, not just Chris's solo work.
The SOUNDGARDEN motion also refutes Vicky's claim that the band was "uncaring following Cornell's death" and includes a detailed breakdown of how the band learned of the singer's passing.
The motion states: "The Band interrupted its April 2017 studio session in Seattle to begin a national tour starting on April 28, 2017. 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 SOUNDGARDENconcert that night at the Fox Theatre. Following the concert — as was customary — Thayil, Cameron, and Shepherd 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 her lawsuit, Vicky claimed that she had offered to share the unreleased recordings with SOUNDGARDEN, so they can be released in a way that respects Chris's wishes — including having his producer involved — but that the band refused. She also accused SOUNDGARDEN guitarist Kim Thayil of putting her family in harm's way by making intentionally misleading comments to SOUNDGARDEN's "loyal, rabid fan base" and suggesting that she is the main obstacle to the band putting out another album. Vicky's suit also alleged that SOUNDGARDEN "has not produced any partnership documents, much less any documentation signed by Chris, supporting their conclusory claims of ownership." Furthermore, it noted that "there is no evidence that the [unreleased recordings]… were ever intended to be anything but Chris' sole and exclusive property."
Vicky later posted a statement on Instagram in which she wrote: "This was not the way I would have chosen to move forward. But I will not be pushed aside for someone else's convenience or gain. I will not sacrifice our children's futures for someone else's greed. And I will not let someone else make me feel shame because the man I loved was taken from all of us too soon. I will do justice by my husband's work and memory; for our children and for everything we stood for."
Last November, Thayil told the satellite radio program "Trunk Nation" that it was "entirely possible" that a new SOUNDGARDEN album featuring the final recordings by Chris Cornell could see the light of day. "We definitely have another record in us," he said. "Stuff that's written, stuff that's demoed and recorded — certainly. All it would need is to take the audio files that are available... We can get the producers we want to make it sound like a SOUNDGARDEN record."
SOUNDGARDEN was working on new music before Cornell's death in May 2017, and the singer had laid down some vocal tracks. Asked if there were any obstacles to completing the LP, Thayil said: "There shouldn't be... other than the fact that we don't have those files." He continued, "I think that will happen. It would be ridiculous if it didn't. But these are difficult things — partnerships and property."
Thayil did rule out the possibility of SOUNDGARDEN touring without Cornell, saying: "I do not see, given the commitments that other band members have, given our sentiments and love for Chris, I do not see us reconfiguring a tour or anything, as other bands have done in the past, without him."
In a separate interview with Music Radar, Thayil was asked what would it take for him, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd to get access to the tapes of what was supposed to become SOUNDGARDEN's next album. "We don't know," he replied. "We've asked nicely, we've suggested that this will benefit all parties, if the band could just have these files, and we could finish the songs we were working on. But there seems to be some confusion amongst various parties as to what that would entail and how that works, and who that would benefit."
Cornell was pronounced dead on May 18, 2017 after being found unresponsive in his Detroit hotel room. SOUNDGARDEN had played a show earlier that evening. The 52-year-old had sedatives and an anxiety drug in his system, but died as a result of hanging himself.
The three remaining members of SOUNDGARDEN, along with METALLICA, FOO FIGHTERS and members of AUDIOSLAVE, performed together for the first time since Cornell's death at a benefit concert honoring the singer in January 2019 at the Forum in Los Angeles.