Ashton Nyte of South African dark band The Awakening contacted us recently after our requests for an interview to coincide with a special "New Faces" feature we came up with to highlight a few bands that we think are just fabulous and have a pulse of the future of music (along with University, Bella Futuro, and The Golden Sounds). Here is the uncut Q&A interview for your perusal:
How would you label your music?
Art-rock for intellectuals & deviants... Paranormal serenity... A new drug for the fanatically sober... - depends on which album you're referring to, I suppose. I attempt to make honest music which somehow reflects 'where' I am, when creating it. Hopefully music people can relate to and immerse themselves in.
Considering its history and the legends of the genre, how comfortable are you in having the "goth" tag placed on your music?
I think with The Awakening "goth" was an inevitable tag. When we started off we just gravitated towards all things dark and shiny. I think as things have developed over the years I'd prefer to refer to "goth" as one of my roots - not my sole inspiration. I've always tried to paint my own picture, which has hopefully incorporated a lot more than rehashing the stereotypes...
When you write a song, how much priority do you place in:
c) dance-abilityd) heaviness/riffage
I try not to deconstruct the process to any specific formula. Usually it's an atmosphere I'm trying to capture or create - or an emotion I need to reflect. Songs literally flood my subconscious almost constantly. I just try to do each song the justice I think it deserves. Having said that, I'm sure musical or lyrical emphasis will vary from song to song or even album to album - It's just not a priority in the creative process.
In light of the above question, walk us through the inception of one of your songs...
I think I've written from a range of directions. As I said - I don't have a formulaic style of working. It could start with a lyric, a drum groove, piano melody, dischordinant drone - whatever... When the song calls I try to be there..
You have seemed to create some art that is authentic; not a wannabe's copy. How did you do this? How tapped in, consciously or subconsciously, have you been with the inherent sexuality in the scene?
Again - It may sound trite, but I've been fortunate enough to just create as I've felt guided to do. The more in tune I am with the guidance - the more free or real the music can be. Any attempt at "tapping in" to anything makes what you do shallow, derivative and inherently boring. I just want to keep stretching the boundaries of the journey.
What is the live music scene like there in South Africa? How often do you play? What kind of venues? What audience response have you received? How fanatical or psycho has some of your fan reaction gotten?
It has varied over the 10 years of my career. Right now both the live music scene as well as the alternative / underground scenes are in a bit of a slump. From what I can tell, our venues are quite similar to yours, we just don't have as many of them. Each major city has at least one decent rock venue and each town has a venue where you could at least break out the acoustic guitar & mandolin if need be.
As for reactions - we've had everything from conservative religious groups trying to shut our shows down, to being pelted on stage by objects of all description, courtesy of those a little closer to "the dark side" :-) I guess if you have anything of any substance to say, somebody will somehow take offence to it. We have devotees, psycho-stalkers, hate-mailers & those who just buy the albums - I like to think the audience diversity keeps me grounded...
How important is the visual arts to your musical performance? Your music? Your albums? Why? How?
Very Important. I've always found good music to be very visually stimulating and have thus attempted to forge the image in my mind, when creating the work, into the mind of the listener (or participant as I prefer to think of them).
In addition, a live performance should be a larger than life place of escapism for both artist & art lover. Being a bit of both myself, means that I try to put as much as possible (budget & fire department allowing) into a live show, to make it an event!
The album's artwork should reflect - somehow - what is on the inside and try to capture the sensation I had when creating it.
What inspired you to sing in a low register? Did you start off singing in this register or was there ever a switch or change/evolution in your sound? If so, what inspired/triggered this? How?
That's just the way I sing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I didn't have to force my voice into shrill rock mode to be able to sing in a rock band...
Rumor had it a few years ago that you were quite publically critical of the church. What are your feelings toward local bodies, fellowship, the body of Christ, local church, relationships with fellow believers, covenant relationships?
I would not consider myself unduly critical of the church. We've all had instances where our personal opinions or convictions have differed from another individual's. The church is under enough attack from those resentful of it's greater message. As long as the focus of the body is on Christ, we should do well to deal with personal differences. I express my views in my art - as I said I am as honest as possible but do feel the overall message should be a positive one.
What are your short-term goals for your music for the next year or so? Any longer-term goals? What are they?
To take my music to as many people as possible worldwide, in the form of live performances. I think the experience would be it's own revelation and inspiration for what should follow.
Why the solo album now after all these years under the moniker The Awakening?
Sinister Swing is actually my third solo album - Just as we all have different sides to our personalities, I've always felt the need to explore as many musical and artistic avenues as I feel comfortable with. It's also a great excuse to release more than one album a year (energy allowing :-)) and to perform a wider range of live shows. Each solo album has been a departure of sorts from the sound & style of The Awakening, an attempt to experiment with genres or ideas outside of The Awakening's natural circle of creation - although there will inevitably songs built on common ground as well.
How important is it for you to fuse your faith with your art? Why or why not? Any thoughts on the "Christian rock music scene?"
Although the fusion is an essential ingredient of what I do, I'm not a huge fan of labels. I am a Christian who creates art that can hopefully be enjoyed by people of many walks and persuasions. My lyrical perspective hopefully reflects my Faith and the gratitude I have for the One who saved me. It is very important for me to "stand and be counted". I believe and I create in response to that. I am weary of tags like "Christian Rock" as I have never thought of Christianity as a "market" - it is the foundation of who I am.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just my thanks to you for including this paranormal South African in your publication. I really respect what HM stands for and has undoubtedly achieved over the years! And to the readers, write to me and I'll do my best to write back -firstname.lastname@example.org -
© 2004, HM Magazine.