Artist Spotlight: Son of Sam (or; To Walk the Night Again, Like We Did Last Summer)

Occasionally, a band becomes so aggravated with a personality within their ranks, they all plan a mutiny and regroup. Sometimes, over the years, a band’s turnover is so high that over the years their discarded musician pile is large enough to create another new group.  “Hey”, they say, “We don’t need old so-and-so, we’re the real talent in the band!” Of course, it all happens with varying degrees of success.

Talking Heads begat The Heads. When Milo went to college, Descendants became All. Everyone who wasn’t one of the Davies Brothers from the Kinks formed Kinda Kinks. A bunch of dudes fired from the Misfits became The Undead.

Climb in the way back machine with me and let’s go to 1999. The lineup for Glenn Danzig’s self-titled band had dissolved, except for his drummer Joey Castillo (future Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal). The long-planned Samhain boxset was finally going to be released, and Danzig had the idea to reform Samhain to open for Danzig on the next tour. Enter guitarist Todd Youth.

Youth was a New York Hardcore mainstay after joining Agnostic Front at 12 years old, he played live with them but never recorded with them. Later, he joined Murphy’s Law and Warzone at the age of 14, recording three albums between the both of them. In 1996, he joined the New York Dolls influenced D Generation. When D Generation ended in 1999, Youth was a free agent. Despite offers to audition with Foo Fighters and tour with The Hellacopters, Youth opted to audition for Danzig, and when he joined, he brought bassist Howie Pyro from D Generation with him.

When assembling the Samhain reunion, London May and Steve Zing (both played bass and drums, and switched positions halfway through the shows) were on board. However, original guitarist Pete “Damien” Marshall was on tour with Iggy Pop at the time, so Youth was brought into to play. Original bassist Eerie Von was not invited to participate, because like nearly everyone in Danzig’s orbit, they had a falling out (Von stated he wouldn’t have participated anyway because Damien had declined).

The tour commenced with opening act AFI. For those who may not know, before AFI were a gothic pop outfit in the mid-2000s, they were a punk band who wore their Misfits obsession on their sleeves. After the tour, May and Youth started jamming with the intent to release a seven-inch, and they would send the tapes to AFI singer Davey Havok. Havok had the idea to try and release it through (The Offspring’s) Dexter Holland’s label Nitro. Soon, a full length was planned.

“It’s funny, but I hated the Misfits when I was a kid. I couldn’t stand the whole Jersey jock thing. I fucking hated them,” Youth said. “But yeah, I loved Samhain. After that first Danzig tour, me and [Samhain drummer] London May started jamming and writing songs that were very Samhain-esque-sounding. We figured we’d do a 7″ because I have always loved doing fun projects like that.”

Songs From the Earth (2001)

The band, christened Son of Sam, entered the studio in 2000 with Danzig’s blessing. Danzig even performed some additional guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals on the album (uncredited, of course). There was also some help from Danzig’s band members Pyro and Castillo, as well as backing vocals from Nick 13 from Tiger Army.  Songs From the Earth was released on April 17, 2001.

The album is a 30-minute blast of horror-punk and deathrock, minus “Invocation”, which is pretty much the same track that was on Danzig 4. There are no surprises here, every song has that boom-tsh-boom-tsh Samhain beat, with “Whoa-oh-ohs” in the vocals. That being said, it is a fun album, and it does what it says on the tin.  Opening track “Of Power” perfectly sets the tone for the album, the title track slows the pace, but only for a few minutes before kicking back into high gear. “Satiate” sounds like a literal Danzig outtake, if that’s your thing.

I’m not sure how I even found out about this. I was exploring AFI’s back catalog, and maybe a friend pointed it to me, maybe it was suggested as a “related item” from Big Brother. At any rate, I listened to this several times over the weeks on my long commute to work, 30 minutes each way, so I was listening to it twice a day, every day.

Son of Sam never toured, and Youth was out of Danzig by 2003 (but would come and go as his schedule would allow). The same year, he started The Chelsea Smiles, who had a rehearsal space between Def Leppard and Motorhead. This led to Youth filling in for Phil Campbell in Motorhead after the death of Campbell’s mother, and Def Leppard offering them a slot on tour after hearing them rehearse. Zing went on to front his own horror-punk band, and eventually became Danzig’s full-time bass player. May went on to drum for Tiger Army, and eventually to acting.  Havok went back home to AFI.

Into the Night (2008)

In 2008, Youth resurrected Son of Sam with Zing. Havok and May did not return, they were replaced by Ian Thorne (aka Skye Vaughn-Jayne of The Chelsea Smiles) and Karl Rosqvist (The Chelsea Smiles, Danzig, Michael Monroe) on vocals and drums, respectively. Once again, all of the songs were written by Youth.

Into the Night was released on September 16, 2008, and is another 33-minute horror-punk/deathrock journey.  I actually like this one better than Songs From the Earth, I think Thorne’s vocals fit the music better than Havok’s. “The Bleeding” picks it up and just runs out of the gate with galloping guitars, and it just never lets up. “Death Baby” in the middle of the album gives a brief respite, but soon, you’re back to the drums jackhammering your face.

After <I>Into the Night</I>, Youth went on to play as a session musician with Cheap Trick, and with them live on their Las Vegas Sgt. Pepper Live floor show. He then went on to tour with former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s band, and then was hand chosen to be part of country superstar Glen Campbell’s session band and live band. Youth also continued hardcore projects such as Bloodclot with Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), John Joseph (Cro-Mags), and again with Joey Castillo.

Once Bloodclot petered out, Youth started up Fireburn with Israel Joseph I, who was one of HR’s temporary replacements in Bad Brains… you know, the one who wasn’t Chuck Mosley. I haven’t heard Bloodclot, but I do recommend Fireburn if you’re into Bad Brains, because that’s exactly what they sound like. The have two singles on Bandcamp you can check out.

“No bullshit, dude. This isn’t just something I’m going to say because I’m being interviewed, but I’ve never been so fucking happy and proud of a band I’m doing, and I’ve obviously played in a lot of bands in my life. I am so excited with what we’re doing with FireBurn,” Youth told No Echo. “We’re having a great time and there’s no pressure. Everything we’ve set out to do so far we’ve done. We’re going to go out with GBH and we’re psyched. Everything with this band has been effortless and organic. We get off being together and playing together. I haven’t felt this kind of energy in a really long time.”

Todd Youth died at the age of 47 in 2018. No cause of death has ever been made public.

On March 24th, 2020, Son of Sam announced a reunion on their Facebook page. Only Ian Thorne and Steve Zing have any prior involvement with the band.