Tuesday, October 30, 2018

RIP Todd Youth

I knew Todd. Not well. I know people who knew him better. I wasn't on the Lower East Side with him way back when and I didn't play in a band with him. I suppose that isn't the point though. We crossed paths a couple years ago after he told me he was a fan of the Justified Arrogance Instagram page (in truth probably because I posted about him so often). Every now and again, there'd be brief messages, mere acknowledgements of appreciation. Every single exchange I couldn't contain myself. Todd Youth, the mastermind behind Warzone, the guy who played with more legends than I could count, knew who I was and talked to me. In the times we spoke, I never asked any personal questions. I was too afraid to. Everything I know about Todd is the music he wrote, the stuff everyone else knows him for. It wasn't until later that people would tell me little things about his life, the random things you heard in passing.

That's the point of a life in death, isn't it? We're defined by our successes. The milestones. The plaques on the wall. The trophies on the mantle. In death, we're given the benefit of perfection. But beyond the music, Todd "Youth" Schofield lived a flawed life. I don't say that to impugn him, quite the contrary, I say it because it is the very reason why Todd Youth was one of the toughest souls that ever lived.

Born in 1971, Todd Youth immediately gravitated toward the hardcore punk scene living on the streets of the Lower East Side. He learned to play music at the legendary A7 in New York City. By the time he was 12 years old, he was filling in on bass for Antidote as well as playing bass for Agnostic Front. By age 15, he was a founding member of the band he would become most famous for: Warzone. Shortly after that, he would leave Warzone and join Murphy's Law. These are just a few of the parade of bands Todd would appear in. He would also play for Samhain, Danzig, Chrome Locust, Motorhead, D Generation, Glen Campbell, Fireburn, and Son of Sam. 

This isn't about the bands Todd played in. That's not important. Music is a lot of things to a lot of people. What it is, above all else, is a vehicle to describe a way we're feeling at a specific time and place in life. When we hear a certain song, we can close our eyes, and, for a brief fleeting moment, we're taken back to a different life in an another world. In that time, we feel like we can get it back. That's the curse of hardcore punk. It isn't about the moments we live in. It's about the moments we hope beyond hope we can get back. Todd's journey as a musician wasn't one chronicled in careerism or avarice. It was a personal search. With each project, he challenged himself to rise to the occasion. Be it sharing the stage with Lemmy in 2003 or playing behind Danzig in the late 90s. It was exactly who he was when he found his way into A7. He was a boy among men. Later he would become a star among immortals. He was never intimidated by the challenges life threw at him and he never ceased trying to challenge himself. He was angry and had something to prove. The trouble with someone who is always looking for a challenge is that the reality is they're challenging themselves the whole time. For every accolade, for every conquest, it's simply a level up toward the fight against themselves. The process of improvement so they can be more efficient at destroying themselves.

Hardcore equips us for a lot of things. It teaches us to be self-reliant, to stand our ground and fight back against anyone who should push us around, and, in a double-edged sword borne of raw naïveté, it teaches us to walk with our demons, not defeat them. In the best of times, this makes us stronger than we've ever known. In the heat of battle, we can summon strength we never thought possible. In the quiet lulls, we draw inspiration to create work that entire schools could try and fail to replicate. But in the darkest moments, our demons will devour us. It's the devil's bargain we all make to be a part of this. For all the gifts hardcore has given us, it refused to give us the one that so many of us came here for in the first place: inner peace and reconciliation. We need to hear that it's okay. We need to believe that it's okay. Todd never stopped moving in the quest to hear that existential affirmation. He created work that will last forever. More than that, his life painted a juxtaposition of sadness that few will ever truly understand. The brighter the star shines, the darker the shadow cast. He spanned a career running from himself and, in his wake, he left a trail of great music. They were the breadcrumbs of his internal struggle. Every band, every song was another chapter toward his pursuit for peace and reconciliation.

I finally understand Todd's journey and his search. I'm almost 33. My body is beginning to fail me and my health has started to turn on me. Some of the best friendships I've had in my life have long since eroded and disintegrated. I often wonder about the things I've done and rarely about the things I'm going to do. I think about all of that and then I throw on Don't Forget The Struggle, Don't Forget The Streets and for, a brief moment, it's like none of it ever ended: I'm back in Denton, Texas having beers with my friends on a Friday afternoon talking about everything and nothing, the world itself faded away and the only thing that mattered was us and then all at once it's gone again. We all know that feeling in one form or another. We want so badly to be a part of something special. When we find it, we hold on to it as tightly as possible and, in futility, we try to hold on for that extra second, praying that second will last forever. Once it's gone, the desire to get that feeling back becomes everything. We need that feeling to stave off the demons that brought us to that feeling in the first place. It is the catch-22 that plays for keeps. Todd knew this feeling better than anyone. He built NYHC at the ground floor, was a founding member of the Lower East Side Crew, helped write some of the most important hardcore anthems of all time. He wasn't just a part of something special. He was special.

From the Lower East Side to Hollywood, Todd lived a dozen lives. He did more in one lifetime than a sea of people could ever hope to do. All the while, he didn't stop searching. They say that there is a peace in death that we can never find in life. I don't know where Todd is right now, all I hope is that he's found that peace. One where the demons are finally gone, nothing hurt, and that moment will last forever.

RIP Todd Youth
1971 - 2018

3 comments:

  1. It is a beautiful writing,I couldn't help the tears while I was reading. RIP

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rest well. One of the most underrated people in music history.

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