Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell has filed a complaint with California’s Labor Commission, claiming his ex-wife and ex-manager, Susan Silver, violated the state’s Talent Agency Act when she scheduled numerous personal and television appearances for his former band, Soundgarden.
According to Cornell’s attorney, Martin Singer, the singer filed the complaint on December 23 on behalf of himself and the other members of Soundgarden’s final lineup: Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd. The complaint claims Silver booked several live gigs for Soundgarden while the band was at its professional height, but didn’t have a license to do so.
“Under California law, when a manager represents a recording artist, an actor, a musician, a writer — any ‘artist’ — and if they go ahead and procure employment without a license to do so, without being a licensed talent agent, that violates the Talent Agency Act,” said Singer, adding that Silver also landed Soundgarden a gig on “Saturday Night Live.” “Therefore, whatever agreement she has with the band is void, and any moneys she made in the last year have to be paid back to the band members.”
As part of the complaint, Cornell is seeking a return of any earnings Silver made in 2005 from Soundgarden album-sales revenues and publishing royalties. He estimated that her earnings could be in the hundreds of thousands. (At press time, Singer had not responded to a request for clarification as to why Cornell is seeking only 2005 earnings.)
According to the statute, talent agents must be licensed before “procuring, offering, promising or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist or artists.” Personal managers may counsel and direct artists, but are not supposed to deal with employment.
Singer said that once a hearing investigator with the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has had time to review the complaint, there will be an administrative trial on the matter.
Singer is representing Cornell in a civil action he brought against Silver in November; the couple divorced in 2002. That lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages. It claims Silver conspired to deflect moneys belonging to him to his former Soundgarden bandmates. The suit further alleges she is holding his library of music and lyrics and his Grammy awards hostage out of “personal animus” toward him.
On a personal note, Cornell has previously described his marriage to Silver as “irreparable” and “totally a mistake from the start.”
“When you’re in a miserable relationship there are fingers pointed all the time, but the point is, that happens,” he said in an interview conducted last year. “You’re young, you meet someone, it ends up that it just becomes extremely dysfunctional, abusive and a horrible idea.”
The couple, who have a daughter together, divorced in 2002.
Silver had no comment on the matter.