QUEENSRŸCHE members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Parker Lundgren announced on June 20 that they were parting ways with singer Geoff Tate and recruiting powerhouse vocalist Todd La Torre of CRIMSON GLORY as his replacement. The new QUEENSRŸCHE lineup has already performed live, having played two shows in their home city of Seattle under the name RISING WEST.
Tate revealed in a recent interview with RollingStone.com that he and his wife, Susan, who has been managing the band for the past several years, filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates on June 12 in King County Superior Court in the state of Washington in order to “sort out who is what, and who owns what, and that stuff.” Tate is also attempting to get a court injunction against Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield that would prevent them from using the name QUEENSRŸCHE for their new group.
On Monday, July 9, Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield filed a response to Tate‘s motion for preliminary injunction and included individual declarations from all of the defendants supporting their position that Tate‘s motion should be denied.
In a “reply memorandum in further support” of his motion for preliminary injunction — which was filed this past Thursday, July 12 in the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington and obtained by BLABBERMOUTH.NET — the Tates‘ attorney, Benjamin J. Stone of Veris Law Group PLLC, writes, “In their initial motion papers, plaintiffs Geoff and Susan Tate explain why defendants Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton, and Eddie Jackson should be enjoined from touring as QUEENSRŸCHE during the pendency of this litigation. Rockenfield, Wilton, and Jackson oppose the motion but, as explained below, their arguments are vague, speculative, and contradictory and fail to overcome the compelling reasons why the preliminary injunction should be issued.
“Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton admit they did the things that the Tates argue were oppressive. They claim that, as owners of 75 percent of the QUEENSRŸCHE companies, they had the right to do what they did and that their actions are protected by the business judgment rule because Geoff and Susan had usurped control of the band. But this argument is flawed and, thus, the business judgment rule does not protect their oppressive actions. Indeed, on its face, the argument makes no sense and is utterly contradictory. Since Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton owned 75 percent of the QUEENSRŸCHE companies, clearly Geoff and Susan (who is not even a shareholder) cannot usurp control of the band. Instead, Geoff wrote the songs and Susan managed the band because Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton agreed with the direction of the band or did not care. Either way, this cannot justify what they have done now. Other reasons — resentment of Geoff and the money he made as the leading songwriter for QUEENSRŸCHE — motivated Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton to oppress Geoff. Their argument that Geoff was taking the band in a different direction against their wishes is also belied by the facts. Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton allege, for example, that Geoff refused to play the band’s older songs at shows. This is untrue and Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton cite no show where this occurred. Like them, Geoff loves the older songs — he helped write them — and enjoys playing them for fans. Within the last two years, for example, the band played the entire second album ‘Rage For Order’ for one show and, at another show, played the entire ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ album. Set lists from other recent shows confirm that QUEENSRŸCHE played a cross-section of songs at shows that included a number of the older songs.
“Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton also argue that the later albums were unpopular, but the record sales they cite are not relevant. Record sales are due to a number of factors. Indeed, file sharing, a way fans can share songs over the internet for free, has caused record sales to plummet across the industry since 2006, the year the first album cited by Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton was released. Another reason for falling record sales during these same years is that one record company QUEENSRŸCHE worked with went bankrupt, one went out of business, and another is in the process of going under. As a result, record sale numbers are no longer the benchmark for determining the extent of a band’s success. Instead, touring, merchandising, and promotions are more common measures of success. And during this time, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton have each done well, netting between $109,000 and $340,000 each per year, under Geoff‘s leadership and Susan‘s management.
“Also false is Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton‘s contention that Geoff ‘installed’ Susan as manager. They don’t explain how Geoff could do this since they are three quarters of the band and the QUEENSRŸCHE companies. Instead, Susan could become the band’s manager only with the approval of Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton, which is in fact what happened. Susan became manager after the band fired one manager for failing to do his job and misrepresenting to the band whether he had spoken with the managers of two headlining metal bands (IRON MAIDEN and KISS) regarding a tour with QUEENSRŸCHE, and after the second manager (Lars Sorensen) quit.
“When Susan contacted Rockenfield and informed him that Sorensen had quit, Rockenfield agreed that Susan could be the manager so long as she agreed to accept half of what other managers earn, which she did. Susan also had years of experience managing QUEENSRŸCHE, having served as assistant manager and before that fan club and merchandising director. Equally baseless is Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton‘s claim that Geoff engaged in ‘self dealing’ when he was paid for the story for the ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ animated film. Geoff came up with the idea of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, wrote the story and owns the copyright. Indeed, the long-time attorney for the QUEENSRŸCHE companies concluded that ‘Geoff Tate was the sole owner of the copyrights in the story and remains the sole owner today’ and thus directed the studio interested in the story to pay Geoff for it. Additionally, Rockenfield, Jackson and Wilton were aware of this as early as February 2012, As a further example of how Geoff‘s leadership and Susan‘s management of QUEENSRŸCHE benefits the band, as part of the negotiations for the animated film, Susan got the studio to agree that the entire QUEENSRŸCHE band would be paid $250,000 for the score for the movie. Susan knew that Rockenfield was interested in writing scores for movies and he told her he wanted to write the score for this movie.
“The only event raised by Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton that actually occurred was the one in Brazil. But Geoff admitted at the outset that he hit Rockenfield and Wilton so there is no reason to further belabor the point. Moreover, contrary to what Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton allege, Geoff is a mild-mannered and easygoing guy who has not been violent with Rockenfield, Jackson, or Wilton or anyone else. This one isolated event does not justify kicking Geoff out of the band and demanding that he sell back his shares in the companies after 30 years of work. They are simply using it as an excuse; if their allegations were true, why would they play the show in Brazil and then play two more shows with Geoff? The fact that Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton never pursued the matter until now, and began taking control of the band and the companies in February shows that’ they intended to fire Geoff before Brazil. The incident provided them with a convenient excuse to justify it.
“Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton claim that they will likely be awarded the band name because they collaborated in songwriting. This is simply not true. Except to a very limited extent, as evidenced by the songwriting royalty spreadsheet, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton did not participate in songwriting. Instead, Geoff has received 81 percent of the songwriting credit and for the past 30 years has been the face and voice of the band. Indeed, in their efforts to prove their other points, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton even admit that, for years, they did not play a role in the creative or business aspects of the band.
“It is also clear that Geoff is the only one who truly cares about QUEENSRŸCHE and its fans. After kicking him out of the band, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton canceled the remaining QUEENSRŸCHE shows, burning the promoters who booked the shows and the fans who bought the tickets. This has clearly alienated promoters and the fans who had bought the tickets to see QUEENSRŸCHE. To prevent this damage from occurring to the show in Utah, Geoff flew to Utah and played with his acoustic band.
“A particularly incredible claim by Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton is that the bond for the preliminary injunction should be at least $10 million. They rely entirely on Paul Geary, their manager, who, in saying what he believes the band will earn, is merely speculating on whether promoters — who are the ones who actually book the band — will be interested in QUEENSRŸCHE without Geoff Tate and, if so, what they are willing to pay for the band to play. Mr. Geary gets paid more the more promoters pay for the band and thus he has an incentive to inflate his figures.
“The letter from Sullivan Bigg cited by Geary is equally irrelevant since. Mr. Bigg is not a promoter, but an agent. Also, Mr. Bigg‘s statements are not credible since he does not identify the promoters who are allegedly interested in the new QUEENSRŸCHE, where the shows will be held, or how much the band will be paid for each show. Indeed, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton are not even hiring Mr. Bigg or playing the shows he mentions since Geary states that they are hiring another agent. And a third agency not mentioned by Geary — Paradise Artists — previously claimed to be representing QUEENSRŸCHE.
“In sum, Rockenfield, Jackson and Wilton do not have an agent, and do not have any commitments from promoters for shows. The only thing they appear to be doing is burning bridges with agents who apparently believe they represent the band. In fact, the only promoters to opine in this case confirm the Tates‘ position that promoters and fans will have no interest in booking QUEENSRŸCHE without Geoff Tate and, if they do, it will be in small venues for less money. As Mr. Elko, who has booked QUEENSRŸCHE shows for 15 years, testified: ‘There is no QUEENSRŸCHE without Geoff Tate singing. He is the voice of the band. If the band goes out on tour without Geoff, I would not book the band, and I am unaware of any promoter who would promote that show.’ Also, Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton will not be harmed by the injunction because they can make money playing QUEENSRŸCHE songs as the band RISING WEST. RISING WEST played ‘two sold-out shows and rave critical and fan reviews.’ Wilton testified that, after the show, ‘we received offers from management companies and promoters asking us to bring the show to their cities.’ Thus, only a nominal bond, in the sum of $5,000, should be required.
“The Tates respectfully request that this Court enjoin Rockenfield, Jackson, and Wilton from touring, recording, or using the name QUEENSRŸCHE while this litigation is pending.”