Former Manager Sues Eccentric Guitarist
by Cameron Langford, Courthouse News, September 5, 2013
HOUSTON (CN) - The Hawaiian guitarist Makana breached contract by refusing to work "when planet Mercury is in retrograde ... approximately six months per year," his former manager claims in court.
Tom Bunch dba TAB Management sued Matthew Swalinkavich pka Makana in Harris County Court.
Swalinkavich plays slack-key guitar, a style that originated in Hawaii. Slack key refers to the tuning of the guitar strings.
Bunch claims in his lawsuit that he met Swalinkavich through mutual friends after a 2010 performance in California.
One month later, Bunch says, they began discussing a management agreement, which they signed in November 2011.
"Prior to signing the management contract, the parties worked together from July 2011 until the signing of the agreement so that each could see how they worked together and decide if they wanted to enter a long term agreement," the complaint states.
"During that time period, Bunch explained to Swalinkavich that he was only interested in a long-term agreement with someone who is stable, honest, willing to work hard and work regularly. Swalinkavich misrepresented his ability to earn his income, work ethic, past managers, business and personal relationships, how much time he spent on his activist activities, his sexual orientation, personality and just about every aspect of his business, professional and personal life, all of which made it difficult for Bunch to do his job and to close deals."
Bunch says he worked hard for his client. He claims he got producers of the George Clooney movie "The Descendants" to license three of his songs, resolved a dispute between Swalinkavich and a Japanese band, got his songs on iTunes and Amazon, and tried to set up a European tour for him.
But Swalinkavich was eccentric from the start, Bunch says.
"During the first 18 months, Swalinkavich declined almost all the work Bunch commissioned," the complaint states. "Swalinkavich paid any commissions due late, booked his own Hawaiian shows, and regularly disappeared for weeks at a time. Swalinkavich spent most of his time doing his activist work and he refused to discuss his music career. He also refused to work when the planet Mercury is in retrograde, which is approximately six months per year.
"While on stage, Swalinkavich pontificated about 'letting go,' 'going with the flow,' and other new age enlightened perspectives. However, off stage he was generally demanding, rude, arrogant and obnoxious to the people he worked with, including Bunch."
Bunch claims that Swalinkavich gave him fits by taking business advice "from his astrologer, friends and people he met at bars," and disappearing when he was supposed to be completing a song.
In preparation for Swalinkavich's European tour, Bunch says, he and the guitarist agreed to interview 10 or 15 musicians for his tour band.
"Swalinkavich told Bunch that he wants someone he knows from Honolulu, Chris Cease, to be in the band," the complaint states. "On June 7, 2013 Bunch contacted Cease and spoke to him for about 15 minutes. They agreed to speak again in the next several days. ... Bunch called and e-mailed Cease over the next several weeks, but received no response.
"Then on June 27, 2013, Cease returned Bunch's calls and told him that Swalinkavich and he were a two-man band, there would be no other musicians, and it was Swalinkvacih's desire that Bunch deal directly with Cease as a leader of the band."
Bunch says he told Cease "he was 'crazy,'" and shot off an email to Swalinkavich in which he asked: "Who is Cease, why is he so important and what happened to the plan of checking out fifteen or twenty other musicians and putting together the right group?"
Swalinkavich did not respond, Bunch says. Instead, he had his attorney send Bunch a letter terminating their contract, a letter Bunch received on July 3.
Bunch claims Swalinkavich owes him commissions for shows he booked. He also seeks damages for breach of contract and defamation.
He claims Swalinkavich defamed him by lying to "mutual business acquaintances that Bunch misappropriated (his) Kickstarter, Bandcamp and PayPal accounts."
Bunch is represented by Bradley Walton with Messock & Walton of Houston.
A request for comment from Swalinkavich was not returned.
LINK: Lawsuit Text
HuffPo: "Occupy APEC: Makana, Hawaiian Guitarist, Makes Statement At Wakiki Event"