Are You Experienced, Ltd? opened its doors in 1983, with Douglas acting as point man in charge of everything from new box sets to movie-licensing deals to album-cover designs. On days when he's not running between his cluttered, musty offices on Hollywood Boulevard and the nearby studio where he fine-tunes old tapes, Douglas fields a mountain of business offers and pursues a never-ending search for rare concert reels.
"Jimi Hendrix's music keeps me going," Douglas says. "I've recorded some great people in my life, but when I first heard Jimi, my past was over."
Douglas prefers to talk about music rather than money, shying away from revealing exact catalog figures or dollar unit sales. "Everybody thinks we're all making millions and millions and millions of dollars and there are untold fortunes," he says, shaking his head. "It's not exactly that way. Yes, of course, there's a great deal of income because we're releasing product and the product is successful."
He downplays the veil of secrecy around Interlit and Elbar. "There's no real mystery about it," says Douglas, although he, too, declines to name names. "As far as who it is exactly, it's a group of people who have other interests, and this is probably one of their lesser interests. We can't generate as much income as they can generate on the stock market."
Douglas seems slightly amused by questions about the foreign investors, but his mood quickly changes when Hendrix's disgruntled colleagues are mentioned. Former Hendrix associate Chandler, who possesses sixty-four boxes of original masters and multitracks but won't surrender them, remains a particularly prickly thorn in Douglas's side. "Fuck Chas Chandler, and you can quote me on that," Douglas says, describing his failed attempt to buy the material despite what he calls a generous offer. (Chandler denies that Douglas has ever made such an offer.)
"The truth is that Chas Chandler, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding all bailed out," Douglas says, his voice rising. "They took their money, and they went away, and now everybody's bitchin' and moanin'. I have sympathy for Noel and Mitch. Hey, I've worked with artists all my life. I'd love to see them get some money, but the people in control are accountants and they're not concerned. They have releases and contracts, and they feel, why should they have to pay somebody when they don't have to?"
Noel, Mitch and Chas aren't about to give up easily. Indeed, all three men say they're seriously mulling moves to reopen their claims to the Hendrix legacy. True, both of Jimi's sidemen signed away their rights more than a decade ago, but Redding argues that his agreement didn't anticipate the CD explosion, and Mitchell believes he possibly received inappropriate advice from people with dual interests. As for Chandler, there's still the sixty-four boxes of tapes tucked away in his vault. "They belong to me, and I'll do something with them at the appropriate time," he says.
The men who originally helped create the music may not be satisfied, says Douglas, but the legacy of Hendrix is being fulfilled and the music is reaching the people. "It's worked out for everybody," Douglas says, noting catalog sales are increasing every year and both Interlit and Elbar are happy with the results. "Nobody has any bitches except the people who sold out," he concludes. "There's nobody else to be concerned with. There's myself, Leo Branton, Jimi's father, and that's the game."
This story is from the February 6th, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.
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