Last year we wrote about a recording artist who hit us up after hearing his work used in the Madvillain Remixes – “Excuse me, but I believe you've sampled my funk” – and the licensing agreement that followed.  Here's the happy outcome…

2LP gatefold available now – CD and digital coming soon.

San Francisco Bay Area songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Larkin Cassell is now known for a trilogy of late 70s/early 80s records that he self-financed and released on his own imprint. These records – soulful, brilliant and difficult to easily categorize – showed the influence of Cassell’s childhood love of rock, jazz and R&B and demonstrated the chops he saw demonstrated by his heroes at legendary Bay Area venues such as Winterland, Keystone Corner, and the Fillmore. Though his style is unique, Cassell name checks the Sons of Champlin, Tower of Power, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Laura Nyro as influences on his sound.

His first album, Pieces – produced with money earned from working at various retail jobs – was truly a DIY affair; Cassell played every instrument except for bass and drums, drew the cover art, and distributed copies one at a time, hand by hand on San Francisco’s street corners. Though he never secured proper distribution, let alone a major label recording contract, he soon recorded a series of songs, which he released as a six song 12” EP, Matt The Cat. The EP marked growth, and featured a host of side musicians playing side by side Cassell in what was then a state-of-the-art studio. Cassell completed his triptych by returning to the aesthetic he first created with Pieces, his untitled 7”, recorded in an Oakland-based 8-track garage conversion studio in 1980, found Cassell again singing all the vocal parts and playing keyboards and guitar.

He formed The Matt Cassell Trio in 1983 and emerged after a two year gig as ‘Artist in Residence’ at San Francisco’s Foothill College playing jazz standards on keyboards along with a bassist and drummer. In this format, the trio gigged intensely until 2001. Then, without warning, Cassell pulled the plug on his music career and went off-line, choosing to work with special education children at a Bay Area middle school for the next eight years.

Emerging from hibernation in 2008, Cassell released the 12” EP, PrivatePress4. The sound and instrumentation showed the influence of his years with his jazz trio, but the songwriting was classic Cassell. In another return to Pieces-era form, he pressed only 100 copies and hand painted each disc and label. The release of this EP coincided with a renewed interest in Cassell’s earlier works. His original vinyl records which he had hand-sold were now exchanging hands for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. Soon, a limited edition Japanese-only reissue plan was in the works. Producer Madlib sampled “Heaven” from his Pieces album for a remix of a Madvillain song. Thus, Cassell was introduced to Stones Throw Records. The label – fans, all – brokered a deal to issue Cassell’s entire catalog, including some unreleased tunes recorded along the way.

Cassell, for his part, regards this as a renewal of musical energies, and a chance to spread his music further than he’d ever been. It’s his “breakthrough moment” as he says. He’s making the most of this second chance, and the musical world is better for his efforts.

MP3: Matthew Larkin Cassell “Heaven”

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