Founding QUEENSRŸCHE drummer Scott Rockenfield has filed a lawsuit against the band's fellow original members Michael Wilton (guitar) and Eddie Jackson (bass), alleging, among other things, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful discharge. Metal Sludge was the first to report on the lawsuit, which was filed on October 11 in Snohomish County Superior Court.
In the complaint, which has been obtained by BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Rockenfield claims that he took paternal leave of absence from QUEENSRŸCHE in February 2017 after his fiancée experienced complications during the birth of their son and had to have an emergency Cesarean delivery. According to the drummer, his leave of absence was approved by the members of QUEENSRŸCHE and he was to retain an equal one-third interest in all QUEENSRŸCHE companies (QR Companies), including Tri-Ryche Corporation, Melodisc LTD., Queensryche Merchandising, Inc., EMS Music, LLC and Queensryche Holdings, LLC.
In Scott's complaint, he claims that "Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson are the remaining members of the band QUEENSRŸCHE, as well as the sole or majority shareholders and members of the entities controlling the intellectual property and contractual rights of said group, to wit the QR Companies."
Scott alleges that or about October 11, 2018, Wilton and Jackson purportedly "voted to dismiss Rockenfield from the QR Companies due in whole or in part to his taking of approved family leave. Rockenfield was informed of his purported dismissal from the QR Companies in a letter dated November 3, 2018."
According to Rockenfield's complaint, since 2017, Wilton and Jackson "have wrongfully withheld from Rockenfield all sources of income from the QR Companies in violation of the various Operating Agreements and Contracts governing the QR Companies for no lawful purpose." In addition, they "have failed to provide Rockenfield with an accounting of the books, records, business and contracts of the QR Companies."
Although Rockfenfield says he has continued to receive royalties from Tri-Ryche since February 2017 for the old catalogue, he claims he has "received no payments from Melodisc since February 2017, and no payments from Queensryche Merchandising since early 2018, and no payments from EMS since February 2017."
Rockfenfield also claims that Wilton and Jackson did not include him in the recording QUEENSRŸCHE's latest album, "The Verdict", "despite his availability and willingness to participate."
During all of 2017 and 2018, Rockenfield claims, he "remained active in all aspects of the QR Companies' business, song writing, licensing options, and communications with the exception of touring.
"During his family medical leave, Rockenfield was in constant and continued communication with the band, participated in writing songs, and prepared for the band's recording schedule that was set to begin in early 2018," the complaint reads.
"In October 2018, Rockenfield participated in negotiating a new extension of QUEENSRŸCHE's 2013 recording contract with Century Media, which would add two (2) additional albums to the recording contract, and continued to work to secure seven very lucrative licensing offers on behalf of QUEENSRŸCHE," according to the lawsuit.
Rockenfield claims to be "owed compensation for lost wages and profits as, as well as an amount equal to the present fair market value of his equity interest in the QR Companies as of his wrongful dismissal, plus interest thereon."
Rockenfield's lawsuit, which also names Wilton and Jackson's wives as defendants, comes nine months after he shot down suggestions that he quit QUEENSRŸCHE or retired from playing music. In January, the drummer shared an update on Facebook in which he said that fans "have not been given the facts by any means" and implied that he would offer more details at a later date.
Scott's January 2021 comments marked the first time he had publicly addressed his status with QUEENSRŸCHE, which has used former KAMELOT drummer Casey Grillo for touring purposes since April 2017.
In May, Rockenfield launched a cryptic new QUEENSRŸCHE-centric web site that implied he was plotting his return to the music scene. A week after Rockenfield went live with his Queensryche2021.com web site, QUEENSRŸCHE singer Todd La Torre announced that he was selling one of four remaining pairs of drum sticks that were used by Scott during the drum recordings of the band's 2013 self-titled album. The following day, Rockenfield returned to his Facebook page to seemingly take a swipe at Todd over the move, writing: "As a corp brand business owner for over 40 years now, I was once asked: if an 'employee/hired hand/sub contractor/or other similar employed individual' is engaging in unacceptable and disparaging remarks towards their so called 'EMPLOYER or BENEFACTOR', then more than likely this person still needs to be educated and nurtured to gain some much needed experience and to hopefully then have some respect and gratitude".
This past February, La Torre was asked during an appearance on "The Eddie Trunk Podcast" if anybody in QUEENSRŸCHE has heard directly from Scott regarding his status with the group. He responded: "Not to my knowledge. All I can tell you is he took paternity leave, saying he would be gone for about six months, and that was four years ago. [Laughs] Casey shows up every day. He shows up to songwrite, he shows up to record, if needed, and he shows up for the live gigs. So that's all that I can tell you. I haven't communicated with [Scott] in years. So I have no idea what he's up to. I couldn't even tell you."
When DJ Eddie Trunk said that he heard from Rockenfield two years ago and that the drummer expressed an interest at the time in telling his story, La Torre replied: "I don't know what story there is to tell. People ask, but, honestly, it is literally like déjà vu. Go play the answer I gave you four years ago, because, literally, nothing has changed.
"As far as I understand, there really isn't communication [between Scott and the QUEENSRŸCHE camp]. And I couldn't tell you anything more than that. Some people think, 'They're not telling us more.' I don't have anything to say, 'cause I don't talk to him; he doesn't talk to me. Casey's been playing with us for four years — going on four years — and he shows up. The guy is doing an awesome job.
"I guess I'd revert back to you," Todd continued. "If you left your radio show saying that you needed six months paternity leave but you never communicated when you were coming back for four years, would the radio station stop running because you quit showing up to work? And keep in mind, you weren't fired, and you didn't give official written notice that you're never gonna come back; you just don't come back or communicate. Does your key still work? Is your name on the door? Or are they gonna find adequate talent replacement to keep things going?
"So I don't have anything bad to say," La Torre clarified. "I don't really have anything to say, other than he asked for paternity leave and just hasn't come back."
The drum tracks on "The Verdict" were laid down by La Torre.
Last year, original QUEENSRŸCHE singer Geoff Tate expressed his doubt that Rockenfield will ever play drums again, telling Metal Rules that Scott "has a lot of medical problems and things like that now." In 2019, Tate told 88.1FM WESU's weekly syndicated radio show "Noize In The Attic" that he was "pretty sure" Scott "didn't leave" QUEENSRŸCHE of his own accord. "I can tell you that there's lawsuits involved; I know that," he said. "He's in kind of a really dark place, and I hope he gets some help, 'cause he's really unraveled, you know? In my opinion. It's too bad — he's an incredibly talented drummer, and unfortunately, he never was happy with that. It wasn't good enough for him."
In April 2014, Tate and QUEENSRŸCHE announced that a settlement had been reached after a nearly two-year legal battle where the singer sued over the rights to the QUEENSRŸCHE name after being fired in 2012. Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson responded with a countersuit. The settlement included an agreement that Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson would continue as QUEENSRŸCHE, while Tate would have the sole right to perform the albums "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Operation: Mindcrime II" in their entirety live.