Scott [Larned] was a fantastic musician. A rock and roll piano player and one of the founders of the band. He was a very special person. My wife and I went to the memorial service the following weekend in Chicago, and Donna Jean also did, and when we met her in the hotel lobby we both had tears in our eyes, hugged each other, and she said, "Matthews this is number four." It took me a second to realize what she was telling me, because Keith [Godchaux] was number two, the Grateful Dead, for all of the positive things had negative sides, but the jinx of the keyboard players was very strange.

-Bob Matthews on the death of DSO keyboardist Scott Larned

Photo by George Weiss


We're all aware that our lives are constantly being altered; small "coincidences" lead to life changes. Meetings and happenstance help shape our existence. A band like the Dark Star Orchestra, for example, exists because of the Grateful Dead, and every member of that organization's life has been forever altered because of the band. Similarly, Bob Matthews's life has been molded by the Grateful Dead inferno. Now, in some strange twist of fate, Bob Matthews and the Dark Star Orchestra find themselves wrapping their lives around one another, influencing and adding to the pallet, and shifting the direction of the ship.

Donna Jean Godchaux with DSO
The Fillmore by Susan J. Weiand
After reuniting with Donna Jean Godchaux at the Fillmore in 2004 for the All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions [BOX SET] release party (in which Matthews actually plays bass on one track), he decided to film Donna Jean's Heart of Gold Band performance the next month at the Fillmore. As it turns out, the slot was opening for the Dark Star Orchestra. After being frustrated by the mere twenty-five minutes that Donna Jean's band played, he was convinced, against his will, to record DSO. "I describe it as I was dragged kicking and screaming to have to deal with Dark Star Orchestra, so I kept the crew and fortunately had enough tape. And we rolled, and my usual task of making a two-track mix, listening to the 24-track as a monitor mix... I was just starting to do that, and I glanced up to look at the monitor to look at what was going on, and as I glanced up, I was shocked because I realized - from the music, I was expecting to look up and see the people I would have seen thirty years ago. And it was that moment that I had the equivalent of what I would call an epiphany. I realized the phenomenon that I used to enjoy was being re-created, and that's when I became involved."

In one night Bob Matthews heard of the Dark Star Orchestra, got annoyed at their need for two-and a-half hours of stage time, somewhat resented the fact that he was going to record them (as he tells it: "Come you guys. Remember, we recorded the original, why would I want to record this?"), had an "epiphany" at their feet, recorded the performance, and came full-circle to not only loving the band but to becoming a part of their team as well. That show at San Francisco's hallowed Fillmore (5/8/2005) was released as Dark Star Orchestra - Live at the Fillmore. Matthews smiles and reflects, "Everything just worked out. Things were once again coincidentally serendipitous. It's the music that drives it. I've learned in my years, I just tell people: The Music Will Tell Us What To Do. You know when it feels right."


What the music told Bob Matthews to do was to utilize his life's experience and passion to put together a state-of-the-art mobile recording studio and to create ArSeaEm - essentially attempting to make whatever small impact he can in this day of nasty record deals and artist exploitation. "My name is Robert C. Matthews - so RCM - ArSeaEm, kind of a funny little thing. But after that performance [DSO - Live at the Fillmore], I had a justification, not that I needed one, but again, it was a validation. I was going in the right direction, my instincts were correct. But the other thing it did was it determined rather than being a services for hire like I had sort of envisioned my truck would be, where people could rent it, that's not a comfortable position for me - responding to other people's artistic direction. It was now part of a bigger picture as I realized what I was doing was becoming a record label. And on my letter head for ArSeaEm Recording, the little sub-motto says, 'An artist-friendly record label.'" Matthews's friendly tactics include a "communal approach" where bands receive royalty rates that are "a third higher than the best deal that anybody's ever documented in the industry." "And I'm not charging them with packaging fees, production costs, and everything else you end up having to pay off before you ever get to see any royalties."

Although Matthews is busy working on other projects with the Dark Star Orchestra, he also sees himself working with more artists in the near future. Having just recently put his business model into effect, the options seem somewhat endless. "Because of its uniqueness, it's an experiment. With success, we get another chance, and success also means we can offer a different model to other producer/musicians - that there is a place between the two extremes of going to a record company or doing it totally yourself and only selling your product at shows. There is another possibility."

To explore these possibilities as a band or producer, or simply to learn more about ArSeaEm please visit:

To get more information about Dark Star Orchestra - Live at the Fillmore please go to

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[Published on: 8/8/05]

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Riccymon starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/9/2005 07:40PM
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Interesting, well-written article.

minutes starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/10/2005 07:09AM
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I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Matthews a few years ago at the NAMM or AES convention, I forget. It sent chills down my spine. He is a legand for all who are into audio engineering and recording. He is almost like the YODA of studio and live recording, if you know what i mean.

jcdoc starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/12/2005 09:03PM
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excellent !

Tweak Fri 8/19/2005 09:48PM
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I have to agree with minutes... Mathews is a true mentor.

philleshphan starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/21/2005 04:11PM
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Gnarly !!