I met Matt in 2011 when he began working part time at Fish restaurant in Sausalito. Whenever you meet a new co-worker for the first time, it's hard not to make immediate "cover of the book" kind of impressions. It's unfortunate, but it happens. I wasn't sure how to place Matt... an older guy, completely bald, but not old and bald in a frail way. Old and bald in a weathered "seen shit", lives life, kind of way (and honestly, I wasn't sure how old he really was). I also immediately wondered, "what is he doing here"? Up until Matt, all of my fellow co-workers had been twenty-somethings, working there while searching for the "next step". Turnover rates were high, as kids went back to school, or went on to more conventional "careers". I thought, "did he somehow loose his job"? Is he going to be bitter about life or hard to work with? All pretty terrible first judgements on my part, but I was a year out of school, so I will cut myself a little slack.
My experience with Matt - thankfully - has been just the opposite. Matt is full of life and genuine. He treats customers with care. He is content and exudes joy. As I learned more about Matt, I found out that he used to play music - as he likes to say - back when he had hair. And in the animated way that he talks, he would gesture above his head, referring to the dark 'fro that was there at one time. I didn't think too much of it, and I never actually searched for him online. For over a year, I knew Matty as my great co-worker who spent every possible minute when not at work surfing on local Northern California beaches. He would come in raving about the waves, or telling me that he really blew it that day. After a good day of surfing he always walks in with a bounce in his step, high five-ing and fist bumping everyone on his way.
I don't actually know what it was that made me look his name up online for the first time. But as soon as I typed in his full name, "Matthew Larkin Cassell", a Huffington Post article came up. What?! It realized that Matt has quite a backstory, and really an amazing story of rediscovery. It turns out musicians and collectors - including Daniel Werman, author of the H.P. article - had been listening to a few select songs that they had gotten their hands on, some artists had begun sampling his music into their own tracks, and the DJ duo Kon & Amir was planning on featuring Matt's track "In My Life" on a compilation album of obscure music called The Kings of Diggin'. It was years since hearing some of Matt's work for the first time before Werman was actually able to find and reach out to Matt by searching the ASCAP's website database. Matt gave permission for "In My Life" to be used on The Kings of Diggin' and after the release, his 1977 album Pieces, became extremely sought after. One copy was sold on ebay for over $1,300. Matt now receives royalties from artists who sample his music, some of his work has been re-released, and Matthew Larkin Cassell: The Complete Works was released by Stones Throw Records in 2010.
It is a pretty unique story - especially for an individual who hasn't recorded since the early '80's. When I asked him about playing and recording again, he told me that he is honestly not that interested. He has been writing a memoir of sorts, or at least telling his story in his own words, allowing him a different - yet related - outlet for his creativity. Ultimately he says, "working at the restaurant is perfect". He is content with the people around him and he has a flexible schedule allowing him to surf and write. He trades artwork for surfboards. He knows everyone at the parking lot at the beach and what kind of board they use. He jokes about the "groms" - young surfers - and chats it up with people he's surfed with for years. He covets the secret surf spots, on days when no one else has discovered the great conditions yet. For Matt, there are no monkey suits, only wetsuits.
Matt plans on releasing an ebook in the next few weeks. I will update you with a link to this work when it becomes available!
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