Todd Youth is a name well-recognised in the New York hardcore scene during his 34-year tenure. From playing in bands such as Warzone, Murphy’s Law, Agnostic Front and D Generation to sharing the stage with renowned musicians the likes of Glenn Danzig, Davey Havok, Joey Castillo, Ace Frehley, and even country legend Glen Campbell, Youth’s imprint on the American music scene is difficult to match.
On October 27, 2018, Todd Youth passed away at the age of 47. The news shocked the hardcore community and anyone that was ever connected to his music. Not least of those affected was his close friend and former bandmate, Tony West, of Blacklist Union. He sat down to share some stories about his friend, celebrating his legacy through catharsis.
“I was a kid in New York. I grew up in the punk rock and hardcore scene and, when he first came to my attention, he was playing in Warzone, which is this legendary hardcore band,” West notes about his first knowledge of Youth, having been a fan before meeting him. “Next thing I knew, he was in Murphy’s Law, and a few years later, he was in D Generation and so forth. He couldn’t stay still, that’s for sure.
“I saw Warzone when I was a kid at CBGB – they had Sunday matinees – but I remember specifically seeing him hanging out in front of the club,” he recalled when asked about the first time he saw Youth. “There’s a famous picture of him sitting on the tail of a station wagon, holding a boom box with (Warzone frontman) Raybeez, and I’m pretty sure I was there that day.
“I had some friends that were playing with Dee Dee Ramone. Dee Dee died in 2002 and I met Todd shortly after that, because Christian Martucci – who’s now in Stone Sour – played with Dee Dee Ramone, and him and Todd formed The Chelsea Smiles. So that’s around the time I met Todd. I met Todd also right after my ex-girlfriend, Bianca (Halstead) from Betty Blowtorch had died. It was a very emotional time.”
Fast-forwarding a decade to 2012, West and Youth joined forces to co-write the Blacklist Union track, Diggin 4 Gold. “We had these day jobs to support our lives and our wives and kids. We were telemarketing and I remember he said to me, ‘Dude, I just got the offer to play with Glen Campbell. I’m supposed to play with Glenn Danzig and do the same tour, same places, same people, but I got this offer to do Glen Campbell. What should I do?’ and my answer exactly was: ‘Rhinestone Cowboy all the way, dude!’ He did it and he said it was red carpet treatment, but it was the same time that he said, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got this song. Check it out and let me know if you like it.’ He gave me the song and I wrote to it right away. With Todd, writing was very easy; it just happened instantaneously.”
Blacklist Union’s 2015 record, ‘Back to Momo’ – a more positive departure from the band’s previously bleaker work – was entirely written by Youth and West. “The first three Blacklist Union records were really dark, dude. The first one was about Bianca from Betty Blowtorch who died. The second one, my wife died, dude. The third one, I almost died. There’s a lot of pain and suffering in those first three records and one of my goals with Todd was to write a back to life record, like breathe life in. I wanted to let go of the pain and he knew all my pain, and all the drama and nonsense I went through with band members, managers, people ripping me off and betraying me. I trusted Todd and, not only did I trust him, and we had a relationship as far as writing that was effortless, but we also had a deep friendship. He was fallible too, dude, believe me. He had his faults and he drove me fucking batshit crazy sometimes, but we were the kind of friends that could say, ‘dude, you pissed me off. That shit is not cool.’ In LA, it’s kinda passive-aggressive – people don’t communicate. But, me and Todd being from New York, we would say, ‘hey man, that’s not cool,’ or ‘fuck you,’ and then get on with our day.”
The very first thing West said on the call was, “I love Australia, dude. Rose Tattoo!” His love of the Sydney rockers was solidified on ‘Back to Momo’ where Blacklist Union covered Rock N Roll Outlaw. “I have this notorious reputation in LA and Hollywood. A long time ago, I got the nickname ‘The Outlaw Tony West’, and Todd was like, ‘We have to cover Rock N Roll Outlaw. It’s a no-brainer. That is your theme song, we have to do it.’ He knew what a huge Rose Tattoo fan I am and was as well. So it was at Todd’s insistence that we did that.”
“It’s funny, because we talked to this label in Australia, Golden Robot Records, that Rose Tattoo is on. The guy – Steve King – was supposed to get back to me, but he didn’t and I was like, ‘hey dude, if you say you’re gonna do something, I expect you to do it, because you can count on me to do whatever I say.’ He didn’t like that and I never heard from him again.”
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO OF OUR CHAT WITH BLACKLIST UNION’S TONY WEST.