BEHIND THE GENIUS OF GEMINI NYTE.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK AND ASHTON.
SICK AND SOUND has the pleasure to present to its readers an exclusive interview our editor-in-chief Alessandra had with MARK GEMINI THWAITE AND ASHTON NYTE of MGT to get to know them better. We are exploring their background and upcoming masterpiece album we had the chance to review in premiere, GEMINI NYTE due out on February 23rd, 2018 via Cleopatra Records.
- Mark and Ashton, what can you tell us more about the influences, genres and bands that impacted your background as individual musicians and you career as part of several outfits?
Mark: back when I was a teenager I was heavily influenced by the emergence of the punk rock scene in the UK.. bands such as Generation X, Sex Pistols, The Skids, and Tubeway Army etc.. also hard rock bands such as Motorhead and Rush, and also listened to stuff like Pink Floyd and alternative rock..as I approached my late teens I started listening to more alternative rock such as Killing Joke, U2, Simple Minds, XTC, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees to name a few.. as I got older I became more influenced by classic rock bands such as Zeppelin, The Who, Bowie and The Beatles, plus blues, dub and rock ‘n’ roll.. I’d say my early guitarist influences were players such as Stuart Adamson of The Skids, Bob Derwood Andrews of Gen X, Geordie of Killing Joke and Michael Schenker of UFO.. also David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and later on, Jimmy Page… Prince was a big influence too.
Ashton: My first musical heroes were Elvis Presley from the age of 5 and David Bowie, not long after that. The vocal and lyrical bar was set pretty high, especially by Bowie. Early childhood memories also involved a lot of Kate Bush, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Beatles, Stones, Queen and many more. My early teen playlist included everything from The Doors and Pink Floyd to Billy Idol, Duran Duran and a lot of U2. By the time I was actively writing in my late teens, the influence of Lou Reed, T-Rex, Zeppelin, Bauhaus, Sisters, The Mission, Swans, Type O and many more could be felt as well. My tastes remain diverse and I’m honestly a fan of a huge range of music, just as long as I find something that resonates with me.
- Dear Mark, the choice of featuring Ashton Nyte seems to find its best expression in his vocal range, being very rich and deep, a much suitable choice for the atmospheric and dramatic sound we have found in the record. In what way did you find a perfect match for your own MGT – Gemini Nyte project with Ashton at vocals? And how has the chance to collaborate together arisen?
Mark: Ashton and I were first introduced to each other back in mid 2015 by a mutual friend Adrian Skirrow, whilst I was recording tracks for the MGT ‘Volumes’ album…. we shared some demos and ended up collaborating on two of my musical demos, which Ashton added his lyrics and vocals to – namely ‘The Reaping’ and ‘Jesamine’, which both featured on ‘Volumes’ released in summer 2016… we hit it off as a songwriting team, after that we just kept on writing from then on.. I’d send Ashton more of my demos and he’s keep firing back with excellent vocals on each one, it was very fluid and productive… Ashton had the perfect vocal and approach to the music I was sending him, a great blend of Bowie and Eldritch influences and his own touch.
- Dear Ashton, we have found your vocal range going much after Ville Valo’s timbre, especially in your lowest pitch. Your vocals are very full bodied and expressive, which are a great match for gothic and industrial sonorities. Tell us more about this similarity which has been often found and how this impacts your career as a gothic rock singer.
Ashton: Yes, I have heard those comparisons made before. In all honesty, I released my first album as The Awakening in 1997 and hadn’t heard the lovely Ville or HIM until the early 2000’s, by which time I had released 4 Awakening albums and 2 solo albums. In South Africa, where I’m from, people used to compare Ville’s voice to mine, once HIM broke in our country :-). I guess it’s all a frame of reference. I think the tones of our voices are similar, as are many of our influences and yes, it is the kind of voice the fits well in the genres you’ve mentioned. I think Ville has a beautiful voice and to my ears, a unique tone and delivery. He also seems like a lovely person, which always helps!
- We would love to explore the sonorities of the record. While reviewing the tracks a deep sense of dramatic has emerged. The atmospheric element is diluted into the songwriting thanks to the digital effects and synth largely used. This contributes to the creation of a gothic soundscape not sparing emotion and expressivity. The acoustic guitar adds melodics. Riffing is central and prominent together with the vocals, and shines on the electric guitar letting the record lean towards a more alternative and metal soundscape. Tell us more about this intricate and dynamic sound we have found and how this has been shaped and blended together.
Mark: The process of creating these songs has been very natural to me, that is I have recorded my guitar ideas initially and then fleshed out with drum programming and bass guitar, getting a sketch arrangement together.. sometimes I layer the guitars first with the textures and tones I am looking for, and in other cases I keep it as a sketch/scratch guitar and wait for Ashton’s input, and then layer the guitar parts and textures later, along with additional synth soundscapes and melodies. In most cases I tend to give Ashton a fully formed demo to sing to, we make some adjustments on some songs to arrangement and viola! Simmer and serve.
- Let’s go deeper into the approach to the lyrical themes chosen for Gemini Nyte.
Ashton: There is definitely a recurring dystopian theme on this album. I think it is an inevitable theme given all our planet and society continues to go through. I generally write lyrics and vocal melodies rather quickly. If Mark had sent me something that resonated with me, I would generally adjust the arrangement if necessary and have a sketch vocal, usually with final lyrics back to him in a day or 2. I find the more spontaneous that relationship is, the better the final product.
- Dear Mark, what new main features have you introduced since your last full length album Volumes in 2016 and how has the music inspiration progressed and changed since the last record?
Mark: This album kind of evolved as I was recording ‘Volumes’ at the same time, in fact we had a good half dozen songs demoed by the end of 2015, before Volumes even came out.. my main mission statement, if there was one, was to take the sound and vibe and energy of ‘The Reaping’ and ‘Jesamine’ – the tracks I co wrote with Ashton on ‘Volumes’ – and bring that sound to a whole albums worth with Ashton co writing. I think we have achieved this.
- All The Broken Things track is a very strong outstanding piece off Gemini Nyte. Tell us more about it and what has lead to the decision of picking the song as lead single and first video release for the record.
Mark: ‘All the Broken Things’ was one of the first songs we demoed as we continued to write and my template was ‘The Reaping’, I see ‘Broken Things’ as The Reaping’s disturbed twin sister lol. It was also great to get one of my favourite producers John Fryer (HIM, NIN) to mix it, he did a fantastic job. Once we played the song live last summer and saw the response from the crowd, and then heard Johns mix, we knew that should be the first single.
Ashton: Yes, Mark sent me the instrumental demo just after returning from a tour. I loved the urgency of the song and to me it was taking the groundwork we had done with The Reaping and moving it to the next level. This ultimately opened the gateway for the album that followed and made perfect sense to be the first single.
- My favourite track being Dystopia, I would love to talk more with you about the songwriting process behind it and its meaning to you.
Mark: As with all of our songs except ‘Every Little Dream’ – which Ashton had already written – all of the original album songs on ‘Gemini Nyte’ start with my musical demos and arrangements and then Ashton writes lyrics and melodies over those demos, and then we refine the mix, Ashton may suggest an edit here and there, I’ll refine the instrumentation more, add some more elements sometimes, and then do a mix! We both produced this album in effect, I handled the mixing. We got Paul Ferguson of Killing Joke to record his drums on the songs retrospectively so it was very exciting to hear a song like ‘Dystopia’ come alive once my programmed drums were replaced by Big Paul’s fantastic drumming. He’s a legend..
Ashton: I remember Dystopia being one that I did more re-arrangement on than most. Some of the tracks I would write lyrics and vocal melodies and literally use the instrumental Mark had sent me as is. Dystopia required a little more editing to make it happen as the song it is now. It was one of the later songs we completed, so I felt I had the freedom to really move things around, as we already had so many songs completed by that stage. I really like the way that one evolved and yes, the final piece of the puzzle was having Paul Ferguson add his magic to it!
- Track Say Hello Wave Goodbye is a clear example of electric keyboards recalling a 80s vibe. What can you tell us more about its special sound?
Mark: It won’t be much of a surprise to any fans of the first MGT album that we have covered an 80’s synth classic, as I have always loved the 80’s synth bands and already included a Human League cover and ABBA cover on the last album. The reason I picked ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ to cover was because I used to play along to synth hits back in the 80s when I was developing my guitar skills, I would pick songs like ‘Say Hello’ as they were great songs with loads of space, as they had no guitars on them. So the riffs I recorded on this album version actually date back almost as long as the original, I decided to capture the riffs I used to come up with and record this all new version with Ashton nailing it on vocals! Once again Paul Ferguson also give the cover a nice twist with his inventive drum approach, my original demo was far more pedestrian drum beats..
- I found a pretty clever choice to close such an eclectic album with the enchanting track Atlanta, focused exclusively on vocals and acoustic guitar with some exquisite cymbals, strings and atmospheric elements. This is an exquisite closing track I would love to talk about with you.
Ashton: I was deeply moved by Scott’s death and reached out to Mark to record a version of my favourite STP song, “Atlanta”. The original intention was for me to put it out as a one-off solo release. Once Mark really got stuck in to the recording and arranging of the music I could feel how it was evolving into something that would fit on our album. I’m delighted with how the song came out and to me it is the perfect closing song to our album. It is a truly beautiful song and I’d like to think we have done it justice. It was certainly made with a lot of love.
Mark: I’m so glad Ashton suggested we cover this great STP song, we are both fans of both STP and the late Scott Weiland. It’s a fitting tribute and a great album closer.
- We would love for our readers a sneak peek into your upcoming shows and any new projects. Are any shows being planned into Europe too?
Mark: We are currently looking into the prospect of some European shows, nothing confirmed yet so watch this space… can’t wait to come back! We enjoyed our shows at Wave Gotik Treffen (Germany) and Camden Rocks Festival (UK) last summer..
Ashton: Yes, I did a rather extensive European tour with The Awakening, supporting The Mission in October 2016. It would be lovely to see MGT tour “Gemini Nyte” on a similar level. These songs really sound great live and loud. Here’s hoping we can make that happen!
Thank you for your time and good luck for your music. We are very thrilled for more music to be released by MGT and fully supporting you into Europe!
For our MGT – GEMINI NYTE track by track review, please check out: www.sickandsound.it/mgt-gemini-nyte-mark-gemini-thwaite-ashton-nyte-geni-eclettici-delle-sfaccettature-del-rock .
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