Astrid Young
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Astrid Young

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"Globe and Mail, 2005"

Neil's sis Astrid Young is 17 years younger than her famous half-brother Neil but their passion for music makes for a strong bond, BRAD WHEELER writes


August 18, 2005

The half-sibling of rocker Neil and the full-daughter of the late author and sportswriter Scott pops into a candy-blue open-roofed roadster. Key into the ignition; sunglasses are on. Her ride is a 1992 Lotus Super Seven -- a minimalist machine designed to manoeuvre around a race track, and to do little else. With a wave of her hand -- bye-bye -- she's off and running, speeding away from the Front Street building where her father held a desk so many years earlier. The part-time singer-songwriter and musician had dropped by for this interview, and now she's off to take care of other business.

And that's how Astrid Young rolls.
Young spoke on a number of matters -- her music career, mostly, but also of her celebrated family members. On that front, it's been a troubling year. In the spring, Neil underwent surgery to address a brain aneurysm, and in June her father died at age 87. "It all happened at once," she says with a sigh, placing a cellphone and pack of cigarettes to her side as she sits down at a table. "Both situations were part and parcel of uncontrolled high blood pressure, and that runs on my father's side of the family." A series of strokes that began in 1997 had sent the acclaimed author of 1962's Scrubs on Skates into a downward spiral that included periods of dementia. Unable to put his thoughts to paper, he hadn't written for a few years. Still, he maintained his dignity, "right up to the end," according to his daughter. "He was happy, still had his sense of humour and was very robust physically."

Neil's recovery, on the other hand, seems to be full. After the hospital stay, the iconic Canadian returned to Nashville in May to resume work on A Prairie Wind, a country-flavoured album in the vein of 1992's Harvest Moon that's set to be released on Sept. 27. Tonight and tomorrow, Neil and Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) begin filming on a full-length concert movie, set at the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry. The performances are private -- the bulky filmmaking equipment would intrude upon audience sightlines to the point that selling tickets was out of the question.

"He's been working on that project for some time," Young says, scooting closer to her interviewer. "Tinnitus," she says, referring to a condition marked by ringing in the ears. "Both Neil and I suffer from it."

Ironically, she could probably blame Neil for her malady. It was her older brother who bought her a Fender amplifier for Christmas in the mid-seventies. "I tortured the neighbours with it for two years," she recalls. Raised in Toronto, she had studied classical music before joining local rock bands. In 1985, she took to the road, just as Neil had done years earlier, and landed in Los Angeles. There she bartended and pursued a musical career, signing up as a singer with a heavy-metal band, Sacred Child. In the nineties, she returned to Toronto where she formed the power-rock trio iST.

After the break-up of the group, Astrid headed to California's Napa Valley, where she performed solo-acoustic shows, recorded an album (Matinee) and involved herself seriously in the wine trade. A couple of years ago she returned to Toronto to be near her ailing father, and now she splits her time between a west-end loft and a farm in Prince Edward County. There, in addition to her musical endeavours, she works as a wine-maker's assistant.

It's easy to imagine that Astrid gets asked about Neil all the time, but her responses don't reveal any frustration. On the contrary, the short, bleached blonde is rather chipper, answering questions with marked enthusiasm, especially when it comes to her close bond with Neil.

"We know what the other person's thinking," she says, referring to a half-brother 17 years her elder. "It's a sixth sense, it's a genetic connection. I know what he's going to say before he says it, by the look in his eyes. I know what he wants."

She claims the two sit the same and stand the same, but they share little in the way of physical resemblance or personality traits -- though Astrid is petite, and the sleeveless faded denim jacket she sports suggests a biker-mama type. She has bright blue eyes, is vibrantly personable and laughs often -- chipmunk-like. (Reportedly, Neil is more reserved.)

Her black T-shirt is emblazoned with a logo, Bass Bitch Brand. It's the prototype for a line of fashion merchandise and trinkets that she's developing with her boyfriend. "Bass bitches have it all, and they're in demand," she says, poorly explaining the reason for such an extremely niche product line." She has a few other commercial prospects, and one wonders if her wealthy brother is propping her up at all. "He's helped me in the past, in small ways," Astrid answers. "If he wants to invest in so - The Globe and Mail


Astrid Young Discography

Ohm and the Secret Sources "Exit From A Dream" (Ohm Records 1984) bass & b/g vocals, progressive

Sacred Child "Sacred Child" (Target 1986) lead vocals, 80's Metal

Sacred Child "Sacred Child" re-release (CBS/Black Dragon 1989)

Blackthorne "Afterlife" (1994, background vocals) Graham Bonnet, awesome & heavy

Neil Young "Harvest Moon" (Reprise 1992) background vocals

Ben Keith "Seven Gates" (Reprise 1993) background vocals: X-Mas album

Dramarama "Hi-Fi Sci-Fi" (Chameleon 1993) background vocals

Neil Young "Unplugged" (Reprise 1993)

Neil Young "Event of the Season" (KMV Live Bootleg 1993)

Astrid Young "Brainflower" (independent 1995) lead vocals, keyboards, AAA

Nancy Wilson "Live at McCabe's" (Epic 1995) background vocals

Scott Joss "Souvenirs" (Little Dog Records 1996, background vocals)

Shrubbers "National Boulevard" (Independant 1997, background vocals)

Sacred Child "Sacred Child" re-release (Must Have Records 1997) same shit, different vintage

Neil Young "Road Rocks Volume I" (Reprise 2000) background vocals

iST "Pokalolo Paniolo" (War of the Gargantuas/Inbetweens 2002) lead vocals & bass, stoner rock

Neil Young "Are You Passionate" (Reprise 2002) background vocals

Astrid Young "Matinee" (Inbetweens Records 2002) acoustic guitar & vocal album

Ad Vanderveen "The Moment That Matters" (Blue Rose 2003) background vocals

Rebecca Trujillo "Munda" (Munda Music 2003) keyboards

Various Artists "Spiders From Venus" (Skipping Discs 2003) cover of Bowie's "Modern Love"

Various Artists “Borrowed Tunes II: A Tribute to Neil Young” (Sirius/Universal Music Canada 2007) cover of Neil Young’s “Sleeps With Angels”

Tracks from Matinee and iSt currently stream on Radio IO, Sirius Satellite Iceberg 95, MySpace Music, and others. Both records available on most music download sites, iTunes, Napster, PayPlay, etc.



Originally from Toronto, Canada, Astrid began playing music at the age of three, schooled at the Royal Conservatory of Music and classically trained over many years and is versed in several instruments. Live performances and recordings began as early as 1974 while playing Oboe and English Horn in many orchestral situations.
Rock music became a passion at the age of fourteen when Astrid picked up her first guitar, a 1966 Gibson SG Special, but the fascination with the genre, tying in with a love of film, and horror films in particular, began at a much earlier age when Astrid was exposed to much of the guitar rock of the sixties through her older sister: Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and later on Deep Purple and Black Sabbath were the influence to concentrate on guitar, and later bass guitar. Citing Ritchie Blackmore,
Tony Iommi and David Gilmour as primary guitar influences, Astrid began playing around in Toronto bands in 1979, through 1985 when she moved to
Los Angeles.

Los Angeles in the eighties was inundated with the glam rock and heavy metal revival, and the timing was such that soon after making the move, Astrid found herself singing lead for metal band Sacred Child, who went on to make two records which both charted in ten countries, (in the top ten for airplay in Holland and Belgium, France and Italy) including entering the USA east-coast based “Hard Report” at number sixteen, coming in just behind Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls”. Following the breakup of Sacred
Child, Astrid played and sang in a number of Los Angeles club bands, as well as recording extensively, leading up to making a record for Warner Brothers in 1993/94 (Brainflower, never released).

Right around this time was when recording and touring with brother Neil began, starting with Harvest Moon and Unplugged, moving right into a world tour with Booker T and the MG’s backing up Neil. Over the following years, many musical relationships were begun, and saw Astrid singing back up with, among others Gerry Goffin, Heart, and playing keyboards for
bands like Graveyard Train and Berlin. A brief stint into film music followed, fueled by Astrid’s love of film and her involvement with the screenwriting

A move back to homeland Toronto saw the forming of stoner rock power trio iST, with Toronto guitarist David Kiner (ex of Juno nominated Mal Havoc) and drummer Dan Cornelius (Sass Jordan, Damn 13, Danko Jones). Astrid formed this band as the second guitar player, but after a year of searching for the right bass player, decided it was best to tackle the job herself. This proved to be the benchmark decision for the band, which went on to conquer the Toronto rock scene at the forefront of the heavy rock revival. In
the words of one club promoter: “iST sounds like everyone else is trying to sound!”

In 1998 Astrid teamed up with Toronto director Julian Grant and made a film based on one of her original screenplays. The film features the band, and is called “Haunted”. The film is a dark and fictional portrait of a rock band (iST) whose singer is a serial killer. The short film has played in festivals all over the world and has so far won two awards, and is currently
being screened on Canada’s ‘Scream’ channel.

The first iST album is called “Pokalolo Paniolo” and features much of the music that is in the film. iST has toured briefly but successfully in California and throughout Canada. Plans for a second album had been in the works, though the band is currently on hiatus.

More recent years have seen Astrid through many tours and recordings with brother Neil and brought her back to California, where she was and is professionally involved in the wine trade: currently a Sommelier of some renown in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

Separation from the iST band created a need for a performance outlet, and Astrid began playing solo acoustic shows around the Bay area of San
Francisco. The shows were such a great success and quickly garnered a loyal following, prompting Astrid to record an acoustic CD entitled Matinee, which was released in the summer of 2002 throughout Europe, alongside the iST debut. Some of the tracks are acoustic interpretations of songs from the iST CD, but many are more personal, and reflect a more
introspective side. The music itself showcases passion and honesty, and a richness of texture unequalled in digital recording. The rest of the tracks compile somewhat of a concept, with a ‘tip of the hat’ to the world of classic film and Film Noir. A solo tour ensued of the Benelux countries, taking Astrid to every possible venue, including Paradiso in Amsterdam, and many gigs billed with Holland's Ad Vanderveen. Subsequently Astrid has appeared on Ad's album 'The Moment that Matters' (Blue Rose).

Astrid is curently in production for a follow up to both the iST and Matinee CD’s, a concept record about the desert entitled Integratron, due to be released in 2009 on ICON DG in Canada (Koch distributio