It was in the beginning of the nineties that Ashton Nyte felt the need to bring life back into the gothic scene - he founded The Awakening and began making the fresh and original type of goth rock that the project has continued to deliver in a steady quantity and with rising quality. Now that this Christ-inspired artist has been filling South African goth clubs with his sound, with life, and with meaning for years, and especially since - thanks to SX Distribution - he is presently becoming more and more popular in Europe as well, it's really about time we interviewed him.
First of all, concerning the newest Awakening CD, "Darker Than Silence" - what are listeners to expect, musically? Have there been any drastic style changes since "Roadside Heretics"?
I think there has definitely been growth. "Darker Than Silence" expands on rather than continues from "Roadside Heretics". The new CD definitely has a broader emotional bandwidth, with a more diverse variation in the intensity of the musical & lyrical content. It also features some of the heaviest songs ever to make it on to an Awakening album...
The release of "Roadside Heretics" in 2002 marked the beginning of a new "chapter" in the history of The Awakening. My impression is that now The Awakening's music incorporates more diversity, blurring the line between the "traditional" goth rock of older works and the more heterogeneous side of yourself that you display on the solo albums. What would you say?
Yes, "Roadside Heretics" was very much the start of the second chapter. For me, it combined the more personal, very direct lyrical approach of "dirt sense" (my second solo album) with a somewhat heavier, more aggressive musical stance.
I do believe artistic expression to be an ongoing evolution, and always attempt to redefine and refine what I do with each album.
Speaking of your solo albums: As you are the only "studio member" of The Awakening, why did you feel the need to release "Ashton Nyte" CDs in the first place?
Yes, I do usually handle most, or all of the studio side of things. However, I feel that just as each person has various sides to their character and personality, I have many creative sides I'd like to explore. The first solo album was an elaborate attempt to do something completely alien to what was expected of "the man behind The Awakening". Each solo album is a unique departure from the previous one and hopefully relays some of my manic eclecticism!
Do you ever play "Ashton Nyte" songs at "The Awakening" shows, or vice versa?
Either way - depending on the mood of the performance. A performance is a ceremony which should not by hindered by catagories or preconceptions.
Do you earn a living as an artist? What do you do when you're not making music?
Sleeping. I need to sleep at least every 4 days. And no - I don't have a day job :-)
Have you got any advice for people who want to start making professional music? What did you do to get started?
I just took the plunge and dedicated my every waking moment to creating a good show with good songs. My advice is always to follow your passion and try to express who and what you really are!
When people read the lyrics to songs like "Prophet" or "Martyr", they must notice your Christian faith. What is their general reaction, if you ever get any?
In the early days we had conflict from both sides. I'd like to think that people are open minded enough in current times to realize that many humans are in fact unique individuals with many facets that may not fit a preconceived description or stereotype!
Do you distinguish between "Christian" and "nonChristian" music/art? What do you think of such labels being applied to your own music?
I'm not really a fan of labels. I seek to experience or create what is good quality art to me. Many people need pigeon holes to assist them in a better understanding of life - so be it.
Being a Christian, and being in the gothic scene, have you ever had to answer the "typical" questions ("How can you be both", etc.)? Have you experienced rejection because of this?
Yes. As I said earlier, we have had and do continue to have moments of rejection from each side. It doesn't bother me. I do what I do and don't force people to listen to my music. The Awakening is first and foremost a Gothic Future-Rock band. Spiritual depth should not be considered a flaw but an added dimension!
Name some of your favorite musical artists. What does music mean to you?
My heroes are people like David Bowie, Kate Bush, Lou Reed etc. Diverse artists who exist beyond category or specific genre. Music is my most powerful means of expression, communication and communion. It is escapism and surrender. Yes, I could continue all night describing my passion for this particular art form!
What are your general inspirations when it comes to writing lyrics? Would you like to name some of your favorite writers/poets? (In "Cerebral Song", you briefly mentioned William Blake and St. Paul...)
Poets don't specifically inspire me as the process of creating poetry does. I write and compose compulsively, usually without any specific forethought. I'm generally trying to capture or create an atmosphere that I need to exist in for the time in question. A place I would like, or need to return to.
Why, from your point of view, are there so many "trivial" bands out there that are so successful? Do you think that might ever change?
Pulp culture has always carried what it comprehends and buried what it fears or does not understand. Music or art of substance will unfortunately never outweigh the mass-produced fertilizer for the simple minded. It's a law of averages really.
Living in a multilingual country, do you know any languages other that English?
I'm afraid English and Afrikaans are the only languages I'm coherent in...
When are we to expect the next cover version? Is there any song you'd love to cover on your next album?
There are many songs we have covered over the years at live shows or on often unreleased B-sides. Maybe we'll start letting them creep into the big wide world some time soon :-)
What are your current tour plans? Is Germany on the list?
It looks like the USA for October and hopefully Europe after that! Germany is definitely on my wishlist! Keep checking www.awakening.co.za ...
Thanks a lot for the interview. I'm looking forward to seeing you sometime. Best wishes from Germany.
Interview by Patrick Maiwald; July 2004