Todd “Youth” Schofield died at his L.A. home on the night of Oct. 26. He was 47 years old. The cause of death is yet to be determined. He is survived by his three daughters, Isabella, Ellie and Abija. The guitarist played in a multitude of revered and beloved bands based in both New York and Los Angeles, including Danzig, Samhain, Warzone, Murphy's Law, D Generation and Fireburn. He also performed with Motörhead, Cheap Trick and Agnostic Front.
We became friends after I interviewed him as the frontman for The Chelsea Smiles back in 2005, and though I found him kind of cocky during that interview (as is evident from the headline, “Cocks of the Rock” ), as I got to know him over the years, I saw that behind the ballsiness and bravado of his stage persona, he truly was a kind and giving soul. He practiced Hinduism and was known to take friends to Skid Row to help feed the homeless. A couple of years ago, he offered to put together an all-star band to play Rolling Stones songs (my favorite) for a show I was booking on my birthday — for free, he insisted — and though the event fell through, I never forgot his generosity or his excitement at the prospect of playing the incredible music of a band we both loved.
With a pedigree like Youth’s, it’s no surprise that all the major music blogs have reported on his death since Saturday, but as is often the case these days, these outlets took the quick and easy route — all lifting from the same Facebook post by one of his former Fireburn bandmates. I feel that when an great talent such as Youth passes, they deserve more than that, so I reached out to a few of our mutual friends in hopes that they might share something about him that could shed light on who he was and what his legacy should be.
When I received the following words from his best friend and bandmate, Skye Vaughan-Jayne (The Black Marquee, Son of Sam), I decided nothing more was needed. Every time I saw Youth — usually working at the door of Velvet Margarita on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, a spot where many of us in the L.A. rock community like to gather on holidays and for special events — he excitedly touted a new project that he thought I would love and I’m sorry that now I’ll never get to hear. I asked Vaughan-Jayne to share what Youth was working on and a bit about his relationship with the singer and guitarist. He gave me that and more.
“In the last few months of his life, Todd was working, to one degree or another, on multiple projects. He was experimenting with music that evoked the spirit of early West Coast hardcore like the Circle Jerks, The Germs and Black Flag but tinged with a tonal quality that only Todd Youth could provide. He was also working with George Alva and myself on an album that felt like a stripped-down, no-frills, punk-spirited set of songs somewhat in the vein of The Chelsea Smiles. He and I had also just begun work on songs for a third Son of Sam record.
“There are a lot of things people can say about Todd Youth. He is probably one of the best guitarists of the past two decades — he could play anything. He was an amazing performer. He burned a lot of bridges, and he made some stupid choices. He felt every note he ever played, every performance was 100 percent of his soul, he hated letting people down, and he was a scared, self-doubting person the same as you or I.
“Todd and I met sometime in 2004, when I was forced to be a one-man engineer, stage manager and bartender because of a flaky sound guy. I was in Bullets & Octane at that time and I kind of knew what to do being a musician myself. … I just made them [The Chelsea Smiles] extra loud. They loved it, we bonded, and when the very talented Christian Martucci left the band less than a year later, their guitar tech suggested me as a replacement.
“Todd then called his longtime friend Joey Castillo (whom I had toured with) to vet me, and within a week I was in a band with one of the best guitarists in the world. I was young and cocky, insecure, freshly fired from a band I was the main songwriter in — a pissed-off kid who was lost and sad. That said, Todd and I clicked; with a heavy hand he pushed me to be the guitarist I wanted to be but with a light hand he helped me shake the angst-fueled trappings that were impeding my growth as a person.
“This wasn’t a one-way sort of deal; he didn’t want to be a mentor. The trust in each other’s potential insight into the other’s life was shared, sacred, not overshadowed by potential manipulation for personal gain (as some will say is Todd’s only way of operating) or merely lip service. He invested time and bared his soul to show me I wasn’t alone. He once and still did struggle the same way I struggled. He saw who I truly was before I did. That is love.
“We toured the world and got in tons of trouble together, had adventures all friends should be able to have. Todd is a very stoic man, but when times were tough and he was confused, he came to me without ego or pretense. I was not the only one with this relationship, but if he loved you, he loved you to the ends of the earth, and because of this intensity of dedication the circle of friends that he was truly free with is rather small. We went through a lot of shit together, I wanted to knock him out, at least, on a number of occasions but he is my family, my brother, and none of that really matters. He has been the real deal best friend in my life — I will love him forever.”
Todd Youth’s memorial will be held at Velvet Margarita Cantina, 1612 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, on Sunday, Nov. 4. It will be open to the public at 6 p.m.