What’s Really Going on in the Slipknot v. Chris Fehn Lawsuit?
It’s difficult to know what’s what in the lawsuit between Slipknot and now-former percussionist Chris Fehn, which is currently unfolding publicly in a very ugly way, as lawsuits tend to do when they’re put on blast for all to see. But there’s a fundamental misunderstanding I’ve witnessed in both the media coverage and fan reactions that I’d like to clear up today, namely this: everyone is treating this case as black and white — one side must be right, the other must be wrong — when the reality is likely way more complex and nuanced.
On one side we have Fehn, who claims he was presented with an unfair contract before being allowed into the recording studio with the band, then denied access to the group’s accounting — despite allegedly being an equal partner — only to discover that he was purportedly being left out of several of Slipknot’s income streams from various band-related business entities he never knew existed. Fehn has yet to speak publicly on the matter, allowing his legal team to do it for him… and that legal team has been quite vocal, with two different lawyers on the case speaking to the press.
On the other side, we have Slipknot who claim… well, not a whole lot. Slipknot issued a brief statement in which they denied Fehn’s accusations, saying Fehn has chosen to “point fingers and manufacture claims, rather than doing what was necessary to continue to be a part of Slipknot,” and frontman Corey Taylor issued two tweets from his personal account, one saying he’s been “wrongfully accused of stealing money from someone [he] cared about,” and the other simply stating, “Just you wait ’til the truth comes out.” Not a whole lot to go on there; boilerplate denials.
This dynamic — a very vocal plaintiff and a mostly silent defendant — is common in such lawsuits. Fehn has nothing to lose by openly bashing Slipknot: he’s already been kicked out of the band, and any attention he brings to the case by trash-talking his former employer will ultimately work to his benefit by a) making the band look bad, and b) forcing them into a position where they simply want to make it stop by offering Fehn a monetary settlement. That’s Fehn’s hope, anyway, under advisement from his legal team. No one wants to go to court — ever — and I have to imagine a hefty settlement with an edict attached to go the fuck away is what Fehn is after here. The squeaky wheel gets greased — that old adage — and Fehn’s legal team hasn’t been shy about making sure that wheel is extra squeaky.
As much as it might bruise his ego, Fehn must also know on some level that he’s expendable; member of “The Nine” from the beginning or not, very few fans — if any — are going to stop listening to their music and buying tickets to see them live because the pointy-nose guy isn’t there. So, make as much noise as possible, get paid to make it stop and go away, then happily go the fuck away. That’s his plan. Ask David Silveria how that worked out with Korn and you’ll get an idea of why Fehn and his team are taking this approach. Whether Fehn’s claims are legit or not doesn’t even matter; in his mind I’m sure he’s convinced of it, but the truth is likely way more complicated. What matters is that by causing a stink, Fehn can capitalize on what he views as an unfair situation.
Slipknot, meanwhile, have everything to lose by dragging this out. Whether Fehn’s allegations are true or not, merely having those accusations out in the world will be enough to make some of their fans take his side, or at the very least call their integrity into doubt. While a behemoth like Slipknot certainly aren’t going to be brought down to the ground by a money dispute with an ex-member, no one likes having their name dragged through the mud publicly, and as such it’s in Slipknot’s best interest to get this thing over with as quickly as possible. Speaking publicly on the case, meanwhile, would be a surefire way for Slipknot to self-sabotage that goal. Not only would doing so perpetuate headlines and draw more attention to the lawsuit, but doing so could put the band in a more dubious legal position (“See?” Fehn could say, “They treat me like shit.”). I can only imagine how fuming mad the remaining members of Slipknot must be to have what they view as false claims aired publicly against them to the extent that former members of the band come out in support of the plaintiff without knowing any of the facts.
And this brings me to the main point I’d like to make: there is almost surely some very important information crucial to understanding this lawsuit that has not been made public. The nature of that information is anyone’s guess.
It could be the case that the band’s business arrangements are way more complicated than can easily be explained, and that Fehn is grossly oversimplifying the situation. In that case, it certainly doesn’t look good for Slipknot that Fehn’s request to view the band’s books were denied, as Fehn is alleging… but then again, we have no way of knowing what kind of formal agreements exist between Fehn and the other members, and therefore we don’t know whether he’s even entitled to view the books under any such agreement. As an example: Fehn may feel that he’s entitled to certain publishing revenue for writing credits due Taylor and Crahan under the assumption that everything was to be split equally.
The unknown information could also be something personal that’s going on with Fehn, members of Slipknot, or both, unrelated to the monetary squabble, that neither side wants getting out into the open. I’d put money on this being true to at least some extent. Out of respect for both parties, I’m not going to conjecture what that might be, but one can easily imagine the kinds of things that could lead to trouble within a band, as we’ve seen time and time again in the history of rock n’ roll (including in Slipknot).
It could also be the case that Fehn has indulged in his own shady business dealings in the past, or isn’t pulling his weight in some other area (“rather than doing what was necessary to continue to be a part of Slipknot” said Taylor).
It could be anything! Point being: lawsuits are rarely as simple as the information presented publicly would lead you to believe, and that is surely the case here.
Taylor hinted at that in one of his statements: “Just you wait ’til the truth comes out.” Most fans read that and assumed “the truth” referred directly to the monetary disagreement. But I didn’t take it that way. I took it as “There’s some fucked up shit that’s been going on between us and Fehn for a while now, and we can’t say what it is while the lawsuit is underway, but if you knew the truth about it everything would make sense.” Corey won’t say that, of course; he won’t say anything, under advisement of his lawyers. And it may be that “the truth” never comes out, especially if both parties reach a settlement before the case goes to trial (which is absolutely the goal) and sign an agreement that includes keeping certain information under wraps. But you can bet your ass there’s information here we don’t know about, and that information is crucial to understanding what’s truly going on. This case is about way more than meets the public eye.
The takeaway here is this: we don’t know all the details surrounding this case, and we likely never will. Take everything you hear — from both sides, but especially Fehn’s, IMO — with a grain of salt. More nasty things will be said, the end result of which will accomplish nothing but dragging both parties down. Here’s to hoping that both sides can come to an agreement as quickly as possible and that the issue is settled in a manner which both sides feel is fair. And hey, and if full truth ends up coming out publicly, we’d be really interested in learning that, too.