Shine On: Youth

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Youth with Dubstar (Photo: Sarah Blackwood)

The producer known as Youth has touched many projects since his days as the original bass player in Killing Joke. You can find his credits on records by Pink Floyd, Crowded House, U2, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Stereo MCs, Bananarama, Nash the Slash, and Alien Sex Fiend. The record labels he ran put out pioneering material by The Orb and System 7. From his base in Wandsworth, the man born Martin Glover ties together stadium bands and club acts with an ear for arrangement and a taste for the herb.

It was his love for reggae that earned him his nickname. In the times of punk, he was called “Pig Youth,” which was itself a play on the name of “Big Youth,” after the Jamaican DJ. Reggae was one of the influences he brought to his work as a bassist, and it looms large in many of his productions.

Other influences include krautrock and world music, and samples of tribal chants and rhythms feature in a number of his remixes. It all fits with his image as a hippy with a copy of Logic, working in his shed surrounded by smoke. There is more to the story, though: this is a man who encouraged psychedelic trance, industrial dub techno and ambient house while crafting commercial hits for the biggest names in show business – a shaman in touch with the charts.


10. Killing Joke – Turn to Red

The first Killing Joke release came in the closing days of the 1970s, and it turned the decade on its head. With a throbbing bass line and dub influences in pole position, “Turn to Red” was a million miles from the atavism of punk, idealism of hippy folk and superficiality of disco. Like Bristol’s Pop Group, Killing Joke used funkiness to subvert existing arrangements – musical and political. Youth’s bass stands out with a deep groove that parallels Jah Wobble’s work with PiL.


9. Brilliant – Love is War

This song isn’t actually all that brilliant, but after Youth left Killing Joke he ended up founding a commercial act, aiming for chart success. Produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Brilliant brought together several key figures in the dance music scene that was to emerge in the UK: Jimmy Cauty, later of the KLF; Ben Watkins, who went on to found Juno Reactor; June Montana, who stuck around to sing in Disco 2000 with Cressida Cauty; and A&R man Bill Drummond, the second essential figure in the KLF.

This video also features the Ford that became the KLF’s signature accessory.


8. The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds

The inner circle of alternative music that Youth travelled in included Alex Paterson, a former Killing Joke roadie, who founded The Orb with Jimmy Cauty as a DJ act. Paterson and Youth were childhood friends and Battersea flatmates, and The Orb’s activity drew in Youth as a collaborator on many different levels. The peak of his work with Paterson came with the release of “Little Fluffy Clouds,” which combined samples of Ricky Lee Jones and Steve Reich over a compelling beat.

Paterson’s combination of ambient music and psychedelic sounds landed him a gig at Paul Oakenfold’s club night, “The Land of Oz,” based in Heaven. This was a hugely influential environment, which led directly to the formation of Steve Hillage’s System 7 act, with which Youth and Paterson both collaborated.


7. The Shamen – Boss Drum

After their transition from a psychedelic rock outfit to a Scottish rave machine, The Shamen brought in Youth to remix the title track from their 1992 top ten album, Boss Drum.

The fusion of world music samples, sequenced keyboards and rap is typical of the acid house era, and in a big room it’s not nearly as crusty as it sounds.


6. Portion Control – Go Talk

The best band ever to emerge from a London cooking school, Portion Control are pioneers in the field of hard electronics. Youth masterminded this single for Illuminated Records.


5. Yazoo – Situation (Aggressive Attitude Mix)

The flip side of “Only You” was a hit in its own right. In 1990, Mute released a set of remixes, including this effort by Youth.

The “Aggressive Attitude Mix” borrowed from rhythms from electro and hip hop, added processing to the backing vocals, and reimagined the bass line for the times.


4. Erasure – Chorus

The natural development for Youth was to undertake a mix for Erasure, which he labelled the “Aggressive Trance Mix.”


3. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

Youth produced The Verve’s biggest track – and disaster. Using an orchestral loop from an obscure Rolling Stones track, the band reached number 2 in the UK charts and had a worldwide hit, but they were ultimately stripped of their royalties and credits.

The problem was that the Rolling Stones’ former manager, Allan Klein, had a claim to the source material. The Verve’s record had been released without clearance from Klein, so they faced the risk of their album being withdrawn from the shops.

The lesson is: be very careful when sampling major artists. Ironically, this was a path that Youth’s mates in the KLF had already trodden when they released 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and drew the ire of ABBA.


2. Dubstar – Locked Inside

Dubstar’s vocalist, Sarah Blackwood, worked with Youth in her days with Client. He was recalled for Dubstar’s recent album, One, which included this unofficial anthem of the UK lockdown.

Blackwood recalls of the band’s time working with Youth at his studio:

He’s ace, Youth. He has the most amazing work ethic. His home is a hive of creativity – there is some sort of artistic discipline going on in just about every room, from writing to painting in his shed. He’ll let you find your groove then drop by, make suggestions, give direction and move on to the next room, the next project, so he always stays fresh and creatively energised. I’ve made cups of tea for many a post-punk legend and been privileged to have met lovely, fascinating people there.


1. System 7 – 7:7 Expansion

The techno and psychedelic trance project of Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy, System 7 emerged at the same time as The Orb. The former members of Gong were drawn into the dance music scene after hearing Alex Paterson playing some of Hillage’s solo material at a club in London.

It wasn’t a complete reach, as fans of Hillage’s solo material and production work with Simple Minds and Nash the Slash will attest. The psychedelic, trance-inducing guitar work was always there – it just needed some stronger beats to carry the effect to the dance floor.

For the second System 7 album, Youth co-wrote and produced this track, which combined world music samples with Hillage’s other-worldly guitar and Giraudy’s keyboards to excellent effect.

Cover image: Youth (Photo: Tuomas Vitikainen) under a CC licence.

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