Interview: Ashton Nyte

posted October 26, 2010

by Corinne

Ashton Nyte

How are you?

Very well thank you, although another cup of coffee would probably help.

Your new album "The Valley" is just seeing a US release, but it came out last year in your native South Africa. How was the album received there? Do you expect to get a different response from US music fans?

People certainly respond differently depending on their frame of reference. Obviously I'm a lot better known in South Africa and can enjoy the benefit of career context there. With that being said, the minimalist alt-folk nature of the album does continue to perplex and delight, sometimes even simultaneously.

In the album's linear notes, you write that "The Valley" traces its roots back to 2003. Why did you put "The Valley" demos aside originally and what made you bring them back out?

I wanted to release the album when I had certain pieces in place. Basically I had hoped for a time when I could focus entirely on what the album means to me without the distractions of the various other projects I'm involved in and life's various little dramas. As it turns out, there is never a 'perfect time' for anything - in the future I will be releasing at least 2 albums a year, like the good old days.

As this is your fifth solo album, how do you feel you've grown as a singer and a songwriter since "The Slender Nudes?"

I generally attempt to cover new ground whilst hopefully staying true to honest, decent songwriting. "The Valley" is certainly a polar opposite to an album like "The Slender Nudes" but still features a man trying to find his place in the world and a way forward that is artistically rich and fulfilling, withoit confusing absolutely everyone.

Listening to "The Valley," singer/songwriter Mike Johnson kept coming to mind, solely in terms of voice and less in style. With having such a unique voice, how do you feel about getting compared to other musicians? What's the best and worst comparison you've heard made about you?

Comparisons are as inevitable as the setting sun really. Again, it's that frame of reference thing. I think my favourite [sic] comparison was someone who once wrote that I was the illegitimate child of a bizarre love triangle featuring Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Batman. I liked that. As for worst comparisons, I think it would be unfair to the artists in question ;-).

You pull double-duty creating both solo albums and albums with your band The Awakening. How do you balance both projects? How do you personally differentiate writing "for Ashton Nyte" versus The Awakening?

The songs usually tell me. I have also found that having more than one umbrella does often lead to dancing in the rain, just for the sake of it.

I think the South African music scene is probably one most people aren't too familiar with. Can you talk about that, and where you see yourself and The Awakening in that scene?

The Awakening has been a staple of the the South African rock scene for over a decade now, which is certainly very flattering. The SA scene is a lot more diverse than many would expect. I think we have a wonderful cross-section of artists creating innovative work. Any climate that is both volatile and beautiful can only inspire.

Do you have any influences you think listeners would be surprised by?

Only if listeners had me pigeon-holed as something one dimensional. I try to keep an open mind and at least one foot on the ground.

Who are some underrated bands that you think we need to check out?

Wovenhand. I can't believe this wonderful American band is not the legend it deserves to be.

What have you been listening to recently?

I've been rediscovering Morrissey actually. "Your Arsenal" is simply fabulous.

If you could have written any song what song do you wish you had written and why?

"Rock 'n Roll Suicide" by David Bowie, because it is the greatest song ever written.

Anything you would like to add?

Visit me at ashtonnyte.com or facebook or whatever pleases you and thank you for listening.

Thanks!