Grunge band star says studio owner has no right to album master tapes
Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell said Tuesday that the co-founder of a famed Seattle recording studio has no legitimate claim to own the master tapes of a defining album of the grunge era — “Temple of the Dog,” which Cornell recorded with Eddie Vedder and other members of Pearl Jam in 1990.
A&M records sued Raj Parashar, who founded London Bridge Studios with his brother, in March, demanding that Parashar turn over the master tapes. The label says it bought the album — and the master tapes — in 1991. In a statement issued Tuesday, Cornell agreed.
“A&M Records paid for the recordings and the use of the studio,” he said. For Parashar “to pretend he has a right to keep the recordings makes no more sense than the owner of a laundromat claiming he owns the clothes you washed in his washing machine.”
A&M didn’t say in its complaint why it wants the master recordings, but such tapes can be used in re- issuing albums. Next year marks the album’s 25th anniversary.
Parashar’s lawyer, Warren Rheaume, said Tuesday that his client does in fact own the tapes. Raj Parashar helped engineer the album’s production, was never paid for his efforts, and was not part of an agreement that his brother reached with the label in 1993, Rheaume said.
The band Temple of the Dog was founded by Cornell in 1990. He was joined by future members of Pearl Jam, including Vedder, who had just moved to Seattle. The album was recorded in 15 days after Cornell wrote several songs as a tribute to Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood following his fatal heroin overdose.
According to the lawsuit, Parashar’s brother, Rick Parashar, produced “Temple of the Dog” on a verbal agreement with the band. It was released by A&M Records in 1991 to positive reviews, but it failed to chart. The following year, A&M re-released it as a collaboration of two of its most popular acts. The album, with the popular single “Hunger Strike,” eventually sold more than 1 million copies.
The lawsuit said that in 1993 A&M and Rick Parashar signed a contract in which he agreed to turn over the master tapes and all rights to them for US$35,000.
But Raj Parashar was not a party to that deal and had not given up any rights he had to the masters, Rheaume said.
“Raj made the facility available, he wrangled people over the two-week recording period, and I believe he was the recording engineer,” Rheaume said. “Raj has no agreement with A&M.” Rick Parashar died last year. The lawsuit was initially filed in Washington state court. Raj Parashar had it transferred to federal court last week.
In its complaint, A&M said that until 2013 it believed the musicians had the master tapes, but learned otherwise from a representative.
The Parashar brothers built the studio in 1985. Rick Parashar’s credits include Pearl Jam’s seminal album, “Ten,” as well as recordings of Alice in Chains, Blind Melon and Dinosaur Jr.
The lawsuit demands that Parashar immediately surrender the tapes. It also asks for damages and legal fees.