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 faced with choosing 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 in his first band, Martyr's Image. In 1995, Nyte formed The Awakening.
Nyte rose to prominence in South Africa during the 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 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" and names among his personal heroes the likes of David Bowie and Kate Bush and Nick Cave. The single Maree from Request went to No. 1 on the SA rock charts.
The Awakening'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 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 and 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's disc) 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 copies sold in the US feature an image of Nyte as the Glam Vamp, the artist's androgynous, sometimes cross-dressed alter-ego portrayed in the same-titled video, as a result.
Complimentary to the glamorous and decadent imagery of The Slender Nudes Nyte released The Awakening's fourth album, 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. 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 Cosmopolitan Magazine's description of Nyte as 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.
In June 2002 The Awakening recorded its "most aggressive, guitar-driven album to date," entitled 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, a compilation album entitled Sacrificial Etchings was released, featuring singles from 1997–2002 and a few previously unreleased songs including the 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-1980s 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.
A year later Nyte began to work on The Awakening's 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. 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 departed completely from his rock persona and 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 in June 2010 accompanied by a multi-date tour and over 40 Triple-A format radio stations giving it airplay. Two of the album's songs became semi-finalists in the International Songwriting Competition the same year. Nyte was invited to the internationally acclaimed radio show Border Crossings, where he performed select songs from The Valley live on air to more than 300 million listeners.
Following the US success of The Valley, in 2012 Nyte announced that he was planning to release his next album written entirely in Afrikaans, entitled Moederland which he referred to as "an album that pays homage to my Afrikaans heritage and the country that has shaped me." The album's lead single entitled Kan Ons Weer Begin went to #1 on major Afrikaans stations throughout South Africa and remained in the top ten for several weeks. The album features a duet with Afrikaans music icon Karin Hougaard entitled "Lukas" which also went to #1. Ashton later joined Karin on stage to sing Lukas at her Atterbury Theatre performance on March 2, 2014. Afrikaans music legend Steve Hofmeyr later tweeted that Moederland was his favorite Afrikaans album of 2014. In December 2014 Moederland was named one of the top ten best Afrikaans albums of the year by Netwerk24, South Africa's largest Afrikaans media outlet.
2014 also saw the release of Anthology XV, a new greatest hits compilation for The Awakening featuring two new singles Fault and Beneath Your Feet in addition to remastered versions of selected hits from the band's lengthy career. A music video was released for Fault in late 2013 to promote the new tracks and updated sound.
In early 2015 South Africa's leading independent music company Just Music announced the release of a new Ashton Nyte album entitled "Some Kind of Satellite." The album marks Nyte's return to writing songs in the English language. The video exclusive for the first single "Dressing Like You" was championed by the New York-based alternative arts and culture publication Auxiliary Magazine who described it in their press release as "a haunting, melodic, some-what fragile ode to love, loss, and the quest for silence in a digital world. The music video was shot in Las Vegas and the Nevada desert by Intervention Arts, in glorious gritty tones and film noir sensibilities, and serves as an apt introduction to the new artistic chapter in Nyte’s story...the album marks a return to Nyte’s dark theatrical roots, described by Nyte as, “poetry for the broken hearted... who still like to dance from time to time.” It is an album that is as glamorous, isolationist, and diverse as its creator." The video was quickly picked up by international press. A second video for the album's premier radio track "See Me Cry" was released in March 2015. According to the artist's social media outlets, US, European and South African tour dates are planned throughout 2015.
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.
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. In addition to supporting women's rights, Nyte has also been a vocal proponent of LGBT equality throughout his career. The song "Girlie" was inspired by the artist's own encounters with homophobia when dressing androgynously as his alter-ego, the Glam Vamp, and served as a song of solidarity with the gay and transgender community. In more recent times, Nyte has toured several US universities to deliver a lecture series on tolerance and his experiences as a young male artist growing up during Apartheid-era South Africa.The Slender Nudes (2000)
Dirt Sense (2002)
Sinister Swing (2003)
The Valley (2009 South Africa, 2010 USA)
Some Kind of Satellite (2015)
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)
Anthology XV (2014)
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)
The March (1999)
Glam Vamp Baby (2000)
Need for Air (2000)
Murder Me (2005)
My Little Rock 'n Roll (2005)
Alles Vir Jou (2013)
Dressing Like You (2015)
See Me Cry (2015)
SA City Life
Dis Hoe Dit Is
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