(From Q, UK music monthly, January 2001)
Record Client Collection
During his LSD-enhanced Killing Joke days he wore Speedos and mistook people for sheep. Then Youth reinvented himself as wiggy producer to the stars. "Let me tell you about the time Neil Finn got his pubes caught in his guitar," he confides to Clark Collis.
Given that Youth has worked with everyone from The Verve to Vanessa Mae, it is not surprising that the award-winning producer is a veritable treasure trove of studio-oriented war stories. Yet, when it comes to tales of excess, few of his clients can hope to compete with the Killing Joke bassist himself who, so legend has it, during the early '80s once wandered down Brixton High Street naked handing out money to complete strangers.
"Oh no," demurs the genial 39-year-old. "That was King's Road. And I wasn't naked. I was in a kimono and swimming trunks. The thing is, when I was in Killing Joke, I took copious amounts of LSD every day for a number of months. After that I spent a couple of weeks in a mental hospital basically being mad. Certifiably, genuinely mad. Eventually I had to find my own way back to try and understand that experience. It took me eight years."
Indeed, the literary vestiges of that journey can still be found lining Youth's bookshelves, although what grabs the attention are the producer's murals. Youth's artwork can also be found decorating Nature Never Did Betray The Heart That Loved Her, the excellent new ambient-dub album by pseudonymous project Dub Trees. But today he appears happy to chat about his production work for clients, many of whom, Q assumes, were unaware ofYouth's, er, youthful history.
"People usually know who I am," he corrects. "Even Vanessa Mae had heard of me. Apparently her boyfriend's a big Killing ]oke fan..."
[Youth then gives a brief summary of his opinions on various albums he's either played bass on or produced - or both.]
Killing Joke - What's THIS For...!
At the time I was still with it but taking acid every day, I mixed it lying underheath the mixing desk tripping for the whole session. In my mind I cou1d see all the lights - like a spaceship. That was a great experience. For some reason the rest of the band just let me get away with it. I was really sure that I wasn't going to lose it doing acid. And then I did lose it. Completely. I thought people were sheep and robots. I remember trying to get a bank loan and the bank manager said that I didn't know the value of money. I pulled out a £5 note, burned it and threw it on his desk. I said, "Don't lecture me, that's what money is, it's just paper". He threw me out of the bank.
The Orb - The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
BIG LlFE ALBUM,1991
I was at school with Alex [Paterson] and then he became our roadie in Killing Joke. He was a very good drum roadie but useless at anything else. He also went deaf in one ear because of it. Not that that makes any difference. Brian Wilson is deaf in one ear. I think it was interesting for Alex to see the whole Killing Joke experience from the side - not that it made much difference when he became the artist. He just went through his own crises. But Alex had some brilliant ideas, incredibly creative. I think it still stands up as some of the most sonically awesome music ever made.
Crowded House - Together Alone
CAPITOL ALBUM, 1993
The band was on the verge of splitting up so there was a lot of tension. Also, they'd come from working with a very focused, very strict producer and my approach was to go out to the countryside so they could let their hair down. We rented this beautiful house on the beach where they filmed The Piano. We'd stay up all night recording and then go and climb the waterfall. I ended up getting them to play naked. Was I naked? I used to walk around naked anyway so it wasn't a big deal for me. It was all going great until Neil [Finn] got his pubes caught in these little springs on the back of his Telecaster guitar. After that it was clothes on.
Tom Jones - Love Is On Our Side (from The Lead And How To Swing It)
MCA SINGLE, 1994
Tom just came in, took his shirt off and started singing. After one take he just said, it's a bit hot in here", took his top off and got stuck in. [Q informs Youth that Tom is rumoured to romance female acquaintances while listening to his own records including, presumably, this one] Ha ha ha! Whatever floats your boat I suppose. He certainly lives up to the image although I think he's actually quite shy underneath it all.
Killing Joke - Pandemonium
BUTTERFLY ALBUM, 1994
We did it in three different countries (Egypt, New Zealand, England) and it was quite a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We ended up doing some recording in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid to see what kind of effect that would have on us. Some really weird things happened. Jaz and me got stuck in a lift and had to climb out while it was moving up and down which almost decapitated us. It was good getting back together but it was traumatic. I hadn't spoken to Jaz in eight years. We'd fallen out after he'd gone off to Iceland, partly because he feared Armageddon was coming.
The Firemen - Rushes
HYDRA ALBUM, 1998
Paul McCartney does quite a lot of weird stuff which he puts out anonymously here and there. He asked me if I would be interested in working on some avant-garde recordings that he'd been doing since the sixties. He wanted me to mix it with some contemporary ambient stuff. We weren't recording sounds, it was just atmospheres and soundscapes. We collaged it all together and put out a couple of albums under the name The Firemen. Kept it really low profile. I think he was really ahead of the other Beatles, in terms of doing sound collages and things like that. He's just never got the credit for it.
U2 - Night And Day (from Red Hot & Blue)
ISLAND SINGLE, 1990
Very professional, very committed. I just remember Bono talking for hours and hours and hours about how he was interpreting the lyric while I was busy trying to get the snare drum sounding right. But it did me a lot of good at the time, got me a lot of work.
Embrace - The Good Will Out
GEFFEN ALBUM, 1998
Danny was really reluctant to work with me. They wanted to work with dance producers and I saw them as a rock group. Finally they said, OK, we'll try it out, and I cut three of four tracks, including Come Back To What You Know, which was their biggest hit. And they hated it. They really thought it was the worst thing they'd done. Then I did All You Good Good People and they reluctantly agreed it was better than their version - but not by much. On their new album they've kind of gone the other way. I think in hindsight they're going to think, well, maybe they were good records after all.
"The Best Record I've Ever Produced"
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony (from Urban Hymns)
HUT SINGLE, 1997
This was certainly the most successful track I've done. I think Richard had actually cut a version with John Leckie but, by the time I came on board, he didn't want to do the song. I persuaded him to have a go at cutting a version but at first he wasn't really into it. It was only once we'd put strings on it that he started getting excited. Then, towards the end, Richard wanted to chuck all the album away and start again. What was my reaction? Horror, sheer horror. All I could say was, I really think you should reconsider.