Ashton Nyte is a South African born singer, songwriter, producer, composer and front man of the South African alternative rock band The Awakening. Nyte has released five solo albums both as Ashton Nyte and Ashton Nyte and the Accused in addition to his numerous releases as The Awakening. He is considered to be a pioneer of alternative music in South Africa, and has been described as "something of a music[al] genius" for his typical method of composing, playing and recording each instrument himself on most of his releases. Nyte is widely known in South Africa for his chart-topping cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" and several other top singles. His signature style combines baritone vocals akin to David Bowie and Johnny Cash, with instrumentation that ranges from alternative rock to post punk to Americana and even lo-fi indie rock and most things in between. Nyte has been based in the USA since 2009.
Born in Port Elizabeth in Apartheid-era South Africa, Nyte relocated frequently throughout his childhood until settling in Johannesburg as a teenager. Born into an Afrikaans and English-speaking family, he grew up in a bilingual environment and composed works in both languages. Due to South Africa's then-mandatory military service, upon completion of tertiary education Nyte was forced to choose either military service or university studies. Although his only career interest was music from an early age, Nyte completed his degree as an architect while singing for his first band, Martyr's Image. In 1995, Nyte formed The Awakening.
Nyte rose to prominence in South Africa during the tail end of the 1990s as front man, writer and producer for The Awakening. His first album, Risen featured the band's first hit single, a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" which brought the band national media attention along with club and radio rotation. The cover went to number one on South African national radio. Following the success of Risen, Nyte began to write The Awakening's second album entitled Request which embraced the electronic and industrial sounds of 1980s new romantic movement. These influences were openly acknowledged by Nyte, who describes his musical tastes as "very broad" but names among his personal heroes the likes of David Bowie and Kate Bush. The single Maree from Request went to #1 on the SA rock charts.
The band's first music video was filmed for the single "Rain" by director Katinka Harrod. The video was filmed in the middle of winter which posed a unique and potentially dangerous challenge for Nyte who performed under icy water during filming, was painted black in body paint, and hosed clean for other scenes. The video brought more public exposure for the band; the video was aired on several music shows throughout Africa.
In November 1998 Nyte launched his own record label and began to produce and promote other South African artists in addition to handling all management and distribution of The Awakening. A third album, Ethereal Menace, was released in 1999. The album utilized elements of industrial music, later dubbed as "dark future rock" by Nyte. The album achieved an enthusiastic reception: another music video was produced for the single "The March" by South African Music Awards winning director Eban Olivier. The video for "The March" was placed in rotation on MTV Europe.
After the release of the third Awakening album, Nyte released his first solo album, The Slender Nudes, in early 2000. Heralded as a "glamorous departure" from The Awakening's harder rock stylings, The Slender Nudes' style was described as "Ziggy-era glam rock with '80s-induced synthpop." The album ranked 14th of the top 30 albums for 2000 in South Africa, and featured Nyte's experimentation with alter-egos such as the "Electric Man" and "Glam Vamp." Two videos were produced for the album, "Glam Vamp Baby" (included on the album) and "Need for Air" both of which were aired throughout South African television. The single "Glam Vamp Baby" was featured as a track on Universal Records/Sheer Music's Indie Essentials compilation.
The South African version of The Slender Nudes featured a cover photo of Nyte kneeling next to a pale nude woman; when the album was released in the US, distributors feared that the artwork would prove objectionable to the American market. An alternative cover was proposed and accepted, and copies sold in the US feature an image of Nyte as the Glam Vamp, the artist's androgynous, somewhat cross-dressed alter-ego portrayed in the same-titled video.
Complimentary to the glamorous and decadent imagery of The Slender Nudes Nyte released The Awakening's fourth and darkest album to date, The Fourth Seal of Zeen in September 2000. The album displays a range of sounds between darkwave and classic gothic rock. The song "The Dark Romantics" became a club dance floor anthem throughout the world, and remains one of the band’s most beloved singles. In 2001, The Awakening released a follow-up to Zeen - an EP called The Fountain which featured songs closely linked in style and atmosphere to Zeen. The eponymous single "The Fountain" went to number four on the South African rock charts, and charted in the top 10 for nine weeks.
True to the comparison of a South African Ziggy Stardust, Nyte chose to abandon the hedonistic persona of the Glam Vamp for his next solo album, Dirt Sense released in 2002. The album spent 17 weeks in South Africa's charts topping out at number two. Described as "stripped down, minimalist, under-produced, almost dirty", and "a powerful album with strong tunes and hard-hitting lyrics" the album contains some of the artist's "most personal" songs. A video was produced for the single "Window" and aired throughout South African music television. The release of Dirt Sense reportedly left fans of Nyte's previous works somewhat confused, but not for long - in June 2002 The Awakening recorded its most aggressive, guitar-driven album to date, Roadside Heretics. Thematically, Roadside Heretics deals with a discriminated-against and isolated people – a subject well known to South Africa. According to Nyte, Roadside Heretics marked a new era for The Awakening, as the band focused on capturing their trademark live performance intensity within the album’s sound. In the same year, the band released a compilation album entitled Sacrificial Etchings, featuring singles from 1997–2002 and a few previously unreleased songs including the band’s hit single "Vampyre Girl." The album Sacrificial Etchings ranked as the 18th top album of 2003 in South Africa.
In early 2003, Nyte released his third solo album, Sinister Swing. Described as "organic electronic / experimental" music, the album received critical acclaim for the hybrid of pre-80s electro and the "icy echoes of isolation...and just a hint of swing." Nyte later starred in an adaptation of Sinister Swing with the University of Pretoria's theatre department as a cabaret piece, again showing his multiple talents.
A year later Nyte began to work on The Awakening’s most ambitious album, entitled Darker Than Silence, with lyrical themes about devastation and medication. Songs such as "One More Crucifixion", "Angelyn", and "The Needle and The Gun" achieved a positive reception worldwide and notable success on South African and German charts. The success brought the band to tour the United States for the first time in 2004.
In July 2005, Nyte released his fourth solo album entitled Headspace with his solo band Ashton Nyte and The Accused representing the live line-up of five musicians including Nyte. A music video for the single "Murder Me" was aired throughout South Africa.
In 2006 The Awakening signed a management deal with German based MCM Music, and later signed a record deal with German label Massacre Records. The Awakening then released its eighth studio album entitled Razor Burn. With the European distribution and marketing of Massacre Records, the album received more notice than the band's previous albums as well as positive reviews from alternative music press, and a second US tour followed in 2007 along with a headline appearance at RAMfest, South Africa's largest alternative music festival. The following year the band returned for a third tour of the US, this time with one of its first 2008 US shows as a headliner of HM Magazine’s stage at Cornerstone Festival 2008.
In late 2009, Nyte completed his fifth solo album, The Valley, described on PRI's The World as "giving South African music a new spin." Other reviews describe the album "a collection of songs caressed with Americana styling as uniquely as only a non-American could" and "an ingeniously crafted pictorial." The Valley was released in the United States on June 15, 2010 accompanied by a multi-date tour and over 40 terrestrial radio station giving it airplay. Two of the album's songs also became semi-finalists in the International Songwriting Competition the same year.
In early 2012 Nyte announced the forthcoming South African release of his next album, entitled Moederland which Ashton refers to as “an album that pays homage to my Afrikaans heritage and the country that has shaped me." All twelve original tracks are composed in Afrikaans. In early 2013, new releases for The Awakening were also announced.
In 2009 Nyte married American artist Rose Mortem. Rose is credited with piano and keyboards on The Awakening's 2009 release, Tales of Absolution and Obsoletion, and played in the band's 2009 US tour lineup to promote the release.
Rock Against Rape
In 2001, Ashton Nyte organized the first of three national Rock Against Rape music festivals. The concert series was hosted in 2001, 2002 and 2004, aiding rape awareness and funding the organizations such as POWA and SHEP, responsible for counseling rape and abuse victims in South Africa. The series featured artists supporting the cause and included The Awakening, The Parlotones, Not My Dog, Fuzigish, Jo Day, Tweak, Cutting Jade and many more.
Studio albums as Ashton Nyte
- The Slender Nudes (2000)
- Dirt Sense (2002)
- Sinister Swing (2003)
- Headspace (2005)
- The Valley (2009 South Africa, 2010 USA)
- Moederland (2014)
Studio albums as The Awakening
- Risen (1997)
- Request (1998)
- Ethereal Menace (1999)
- The Fourth Seal of Zeen (2000)
- The Fountain (2001)
- Roadside Heretics (2002)
- Sacrificial Etchings (best of) (2003)
- Darker Than Silence (2004)
- Razor Burn (2006)
- Tales of Absolution and Obsoletion (2009)
- Essential Indie: Volume 1 Universal Records Sheer Music
- 5FM SA Music Explosion 1 EMI
- Dark Awakening COP International
- Unquiet Grave 2 Cleopatra Records
- Orgazmatracks 2 David Gresham Records
- Moonlight Cathedral Cold Fusion
- Orgazmatracks 3 Alter Ego
- The Doors Nightclub David Gresham Records
- The March (1999)
- Sentimental Runaways (1999)
- The Fountain (2001)
- Rain (1998)
- The March (1999)
- Glam Vamp Baby (2000)
- Need for Air (2000)
- Window (2002)
- Murder Me (2005)
- My Little Rock 'n Roll (2005)
- Jennifer (2010)
- SA City Life
- Top Billing
- The Works
- Dis Hoe Dit Is
- Live @ 5
- on Facebook