An attorney for ex-SLIPKNOT percussionist Chris Fehn says that he was forced to take legal action against his former bandmates because he was presented with a contract that would have effectively relegated him to "second-class-citizen" status.
On March 13, the 46-year-old Fehn sued SLIPKNOT's leaders, vocalist Corey Taylor and percussionist Michael Shawn Crahan; the band's manager, Robert Shore; and six businesses, claiming they created the entities without his knowledge. He also says that he hasn't been properly compensated for his years of touring and recording with the group.
Attorney Joel B. Rothman told Rock Feed that Fehn was denied access to information about SLIPKNOT and its business during negotiations about the band's upcoming sixth studio album and accompanying tour.
"First of all, the lawsuit came about because in order for Chris to continue to participate in the band and attend recording sessions for the album that the band is working on, he was presented with a very onerous take-it-or-leave-it, you're-not-an-equal-member-of-the-band-type proposal," Rothman said (hear audio below). "And I'm not gonna go into the details of it, but let me put it this way. If you had spent 20 years of your life devoted to an enterprise like SLIPKNOT, where you had given your heart, your soul, your sweat, your blood, your tears to making the band the best it could be the way that so many of its fans love, and then you were told you were a second-class citizen here, I doubt that anyone who's listening to this would feel any differently from the way Chris felt, which was that he wasn't being given the respect that he deserved. And in speaking with his [other] attorneys, what we saw was that Chris, from the beginning of SLIPKNOT, was treated like an equal, and it wasn't until later, after the band had experienced success, that they began to treat Chris like less than that equal. And we looked at that, and we said, 'Well, that doesn't seem fair,' based on the facts as we understood them that he began as an equal partner in the band in the beginning, and he should continue to be treated in that same fashion."
In his 14-page lawsuit, Fehn accused SLIPKNOT's manager and his New York City company, Rob Shore & Associates Inc., of managing the band to enrich Crahan and Taylor "out of proportion to the efforts and undivided interests of the other general partners."
"What appears to have been going on is that management for the band appears to have been doing two things," Rothman told Rock Feed. "Number one, representing individual members of the band while representing the band as a whole where their loyalties to individual members interfere with their ability to represent the whole band, especially if members of the band aren't being treated equally. So we noticed that going on. And we also noticed that information about the band and the band's activities was being withheld by management from some bandmembers, like Chris, but not from others. And as a result of that, we looked not only at whether SLIPKNOT, the group, wasn't being fair to Chris but whether SLIPKNOT's business management, Rob Shore's company, whether they weren't being fair to Chris."
Earlier in the month, SLIPKNOT dismissed Fehn in a statement posted to the band's web site, saying "Chris knows why he is no longer a part of SLIPKNOT. We are disappointed that he chose to point fingers and manufacture claims, rather than doing what was necessary to continue to be a part of SLIPKNOT."
Asked by Rock Feed if Fehn knows what SLIPKNOT was specifically referring to in its statement about Chris's exit from the band, Rothman said: "Not really. The suggestion that Chris did something personally to any member of the band, Chris rejects. The suggestion that Chris isn't up to it musically is absolutely false. In fact, it's our position that the band is going to miss Chris on the recordings it's doing, the compositions it makes. There's a reason why Chris is one of the composers on all the band's work, why he is an important background vocalist and percussionist on all the band's recordings, and for anyone to suggest that he doesn't make a valuable contribution, I think, is gonna be absurd to anyone who follows the band."
Rothman added: "The reason why the lawsuit was filed was, as I said before, Chris was denied access to information about the band and its business and he was essentially being proposed that he would be a second-class citizen in the band. And that, in our view, was not fair, it wasn't equitable, and it wasn't consistent with his role from the very beginning."
Fehn claimed in his lawsuit that he had been told that all the band's income was being funneled through one company that split the profits between the group members. But he alleged that he recently discovered the existence of several other SLIPKNOT-related business entities through which other members were collecting more money.
Fehn specifically accused Crahan and Taylor of shady business dealings and demanded a full forensic accounting done on SLIPKNOT's companies and assets, so that he could collect the damages and profits he believes he is owed.
Taylor addressed the accusations via Twitter, saying: "Try being wrongfully accused of stealing money from someone you cared about, and having a lot of your fans believe it."
Fehn, known for wearing a Pinocchio-style mask, has been performing with SLIPKNOT since 1998 and participated in all the band's albums.