Smash Mouth have joined the chorus of artists commenting on the reported destruction of hundreds of Universal Music Group artists’ masters in a 2008 warehouse fire at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Along with many of the 20th century’s most popular musicians, from Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin to Janet Jackson and Nirvana, Steve Harwell and the boys lost physical copies of their original recordings when the vault burned, according to UMG documents detailed yesterday by The New York Times Magazine.
“Uncontrolled fire is always devastating and sometimes the loss is unsurmountable,” the band said in a statement to SPIN when asked about losing their masters. “Our loss can’t compare to the thousands of people who lost their homes, pets, memories and even loved ones over the past few years in the devastating fires in California, both in Southern California and Northern California. Those images are etched in our brains and it is their loss that really weighs heavily on our hearts.”
Smash Mouth were among more than 700 acts whose masters were destroyed in the fire, according to the Times‘ latest report. While the incident was widely covered at the time, UMG claimed publicly that no music recordings were lost. Privately, the company reportedly compiled lists of the vault’s music contents, estimating around 500,000 recordings were lost, and collected insurance settlements and damages in a lawsuit against the warehouse’s then-landlord NBCUniversal. These lists also named The Who, Neil Young, David Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more.
Hole, Soundgarden, and Steve Earle, as well as Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur‘s respective estates filed a $100 million class-action lawsuit against UMG last Friday, claiming the company breached its contractual obligations to protect their recordings and to disclose any income received from settlements in the fire’s aftermath. Hole, among others, have said they were not aware their recordings were destroyed before The New York Times Magazine‘s report.
The E. Street Band’s Nils Lofgren, who was likewise named in the report, responded to the news last night, tweeting, “Damn. This is unbelievable.”
Update (9/16): Smash Mouth have suggested that they did not lose tapes after all. “We would like to thank @UMG @UME @Interscope for securing our master recordings,” the band tweeted. “They just informed us our masters were not destroyed in that very unfortunate fire.”