Based in the United States since 2009, Ashton Nyte is a prolific South African singer/songwriter, music producer and stage performer. Nyte’s signature style focuses on his uniquely rich and widely diverse vocal abilities, while his instrumentation ranges from minimalist acoustic guitar ballads to epic arrangements. The artist has released six solo albums as Ashton Nyte and one as Ashton Nyte And The Accused, in addition to 8 albums fronting The Awakening, one of South Africa’s most prominent alternative rock bands.
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, lived in Johannesburg, South Africa since my early teens and relocated to St Louis, USA in 2008.
You’re considered to be the “musical chameleon” of South Africa, and have been described in major press as “Johannesburg’s Bowie”. Tell us how why you think you’ve been praised in this way?
Certainly thanks to very generous journalists! It probably started with my love for lower register vocals, eyeliner and melodrama. The other possible parallel would be the genre-hopping and re-invention that seems to have been a theme throughout my career. Having said that, comparisons to David Bowie are high praise indeed and I can’t say I personally think I’m worthy. Appreciative but not worthy.
How many years have you been working in the music industry and how difficult has it been?
I released my first album as The Awakening 20 years ago, a reality which usually leads to the “just how old were you” question but let’s not go there. As for the industry, it can be a beautiful and brutal experience, often within the same moment.
You’ve released a catalog of over 200 original songs, what is it that makes you such a prolific songwriter?
I have come to terms with the fact that I am addicted to writing and recording songs. What’s worse is that I have as many unreleased songs living in boxes beneath the stairs. My therapist and exorcist have both insisted I start releasing double and triple albums from here on out.
As a song writer, what lyrical directions do you tend to write about?
It may sound trite but life, love and the universe are endless sources of lyrical inspiration. I enjoy painting a mood, capturing a moment, or pointing to an escape route. In essence, I like to write, so whatever I’m feeling or experiencing or channeling at the time will probably surface in the lyrics.
Your band The Awakening recently went on a 17 date European tour supporting The Mission. Tell us some highlights about the tour:
The whole experience had a surreal quality to it. The Mission were one of the bands that shaped and certainly influenced my early works and were frequent flyers in my CD players back in the 90’s. To celebrate your craft and creative expression in the context of those who helped guid your first steps is a surreal blessing to say the least. The fact that they are lovely human beings didn’t hurt either!
Peter Murphy was among one of the acts for a date on the tour, were you able to have time alone with him and how was that show?
That was actually the first show of our leg of the tour with The Mission. The show was at the wonderful O2 Shepherd’s Bush in London and was the only one on our tour to feature a third act in addition to The Mission and The Awakening. I did speak to Peter briefly backstage, as our dressing room was next to his and I bumped into him in the hallway. He was most charming indeed.
On your time off from music, what is a typical day like in your personal life?
Most days are thankfully extensions of my creative life. Recording, mixing, writing, playing, singing, shooting and editing videos and visuals, designing artwork etc… As I usually do most of it myself, there is always something to be done. I actually just spent the last 2 days painting my new studio space, which was a laborious but a rather rewarding change of pace. I also write poems and stories and other oddities when I’m not writing lyrics, so yes, it’s all related really.
The best thing that ever happened in your life?
Meeting my wife.
Describe your style:
Poetry for the broken hearted, who still like to dance from time to time. Melodic, melancholy and often moody, with more than a hint of melodrama. I also enjoy alliteration, if used sparingly.
What’s in your iPod?
Currently listening to a lot of ambient and experimental bits and pieces. That and Scott Walker’s Brel renditions once again.
We’d like to know some of your future plans?
Quite a busy year ahead, I am pleased to say. A new solo release, new Awakening album and The Awakening’s “Risen” 20th anniversary deluxe re-issue are all scheduled for this year. I’ve also continued my collaborative partnership with Mark Gemini Thwaite, aka MGT (ex The Mission, Peter Murphy, Tricky etc) and we have an album, which will be billed as “MGT + Ashton Nyte” to be released later this year. In addition to all of that, I’m working with Michael Ciravolo (Human Drama, Gene Loves Jezebel) on his new project, “Beauty In Chaos” which will feature a host of fabulous guest vocalists.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
That’s actually a term I’ve used to describe some of my works. I tend to enjoy art that has a “dark beauty” to it. Subtle rather than obvious.