Interview: In Conversation With MGT’s Ashton Nyte And Mark G. Thwaite
An Englishman, an Irishman and a South African walk into a bar… no seriously! Just as MGT are on the verge of releasing the first single from their sophomore album Gemini Nyte, Shaun Neary had a chance to chat to Ashton Nyte and Mark Gemini Thwaite about their busy 2017 of live shows, studio recordings and other projects.
Thank you for taking the time out to chat to Pure Rawk, guys. How are you both doing?
Ashton: Fabulously, thank you.
Mark: Doing great, really excited that folks finally get to hear what we have been working on for the last year!
Let’s go back a few months to the MGT live shows, your first live performances as a unit, so to speak. How was the experience as a whole? Any nerves or errors that you can laugh about nearly half a year later, or was it all smooth sailing?
Ashton: I thought it all came together very well. Refreshingly so. I was honestly amazed that I remembered all those lyrics, written by all those other people. Generally I can’t remember where I parked my car.
Mark: I was nervous, but only from a technical perspective. We had decided to use some backing tracks for synths and drum loops etc and didn’t really have a hardware setup to run the tracks, and we really didn’t know the correct levels and settings until we set up for rehearsals in London. Once we started rehearsing it felt solid pretty quickly though. The festival slot at WGT in Germany also meant no soundcheck for us, its throw and go, so that’s always a nailbiter! As it turned out, all the shows ran without a hitch.
Volumes came out last July. Ashton, on the lives dates you had to provide the vocals from the songs that you initially didn’t have a hand in. Was that challenging for you at all, or were you able to take on the task confidently?
Ashton: I usually like a challenge. I had enjoyed listening to many of the songs on Volumes, so my main concern was making them my own, whilst being respectful of the originals. Hopefully I didn’t butcher them too badly.
Mark: We also took the opportunity to throw in an Awakening cover, also Butterfly On A Wheel by my old band The Mission, as Ashton had sung it with Wayne Hussey last year, and debut 4 songs from the forthcoming album.
In between writing and recording for Gemini Nyte, you’ve both been keeping busy. Ashton, you’ve been working with Human Drama’s Michael Ciravolo, and Mark you’ve been working with Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell with Ascension Of The Watchers, and recorded a new album with Primitive Race. How did those opportunities come about?
Ashton: I was actually introduced to Michael by Mark. Michael asked me to provide lyrics and vocals for some songs on his Beauty In Chaos project. As he is lovely person and I like what he is doing musically, it has been a pleasure co-writing 3 songs with him. He has some wonderful artists involved and it is an honour to be part of the project.
Mark: I ran into Burton at this year’s NAMM event in California, and he approached me to help him demo some new Ascension ideas and record some guitars. So while I had him in my studio, I fired up the new MGT album in progress and invited him to add some vocals to a track! We settled on Dystopia, he did a great job. As for Primitive Race, I’d recorded guitars and co-written some of the first PR album back in 2015, and they invited me back to work on the second album, this time featuring ex Faith No More singer Chuck Mosley throughout, which was a buzz for me as I’d been a fan of FNM. Sadly Chuck passed away at age 57 a couple of weeks ago, just as the Soul Pretender album came out, so that’s been hard..
During the writing and recording of Gemini Nyte, you guys were still essentially working without a label, and then in the middle of July you signed to Cleopatra. That must have been a big help knowing you’ll have distribution?
Mark: We’d been talking to a few labels but the connection with Cleopatra was immediate, my last label was based in Germany which could be tiresome in communication – with the 9hr time difference I’d be getting up and responding to emails just as they were signing off for the day – so its great to be signed to a label based in Los Angeles where we’re based and be on the same time zone! The folks at Cleopatra are really into the album, and a great bunch to work with.
The new album is pencilled in for a February 2018 release, and like Volumes, it’s not going to be short of guests. You guys have Burton C. Bell, Pearl Thompson, and Lol Tolhurst (The Cure) to name a few, and then you’ll have Rich Vernon from Mark’s days with The Mission on bass, and Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke on drums. How important is having guest musicians on the albums for you?
Mark: Actually our agenda on this album was to keep it much simpler than Volumes, which was more of a multi-vocalist collaboration with 8 different singers, including Ashton. Ashton and I kept on writing and writing and we had most of this album demoed very quickly back in 2015, but had to sit on it whilst the label promoted Volumes and the single with Ville Valo. For this album its pretty much the same lineup on every song – Ashton on vocals, myself on guitars, bass and keys, and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson on drums. I invited Burton to guest on one song, and Lol and Pearl on one other, and Rich Vernon guested on bass on Waiting For A Sign, but its pretty much the same lineup throughout. MGT is a band now!
Mark, it must have been about 8-9 years since you and Rich Vernon worked together, what’s it been like?
Mark: Rich and I have always kept in touch, and as luck would have it I had a UK tour with Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders, The Almighty) lined up this time last year and the usual bassist couldn’t do it, so I suggested Rich to Ricky, so we got to tour and reconnect with each other for a month last November. Rich had taken a break from touring to look after his dad when our old band The Mission disbanded back in 2008, but we had a great time on the road and so he was a natural choice when it came to picking a bassist for the MGT shows last summer. It’s been great to hang out and jam with my old Welsh friend! We were very close when we toured with The Mission.
Has there been any hiccups along the way regarding the recording? Logistics wise, a lot of you are based in different locations. Technology has come a long way in the last 20-30 years, so how do you guys make it work for you?
Ashton: Yeah, digital recording and high speed internet really has changed the game. Mark and I live nearly 2000 miles apart so driving to mutually attended studio sessions would’ve been less than ideal.
Mark: No hiccups really, we’re both pretty adept in our respective home studios, I’d record a demo musical arrangement, send it to Ashton, who would sing on it and send back a demo, sometimes changing or editing the arrangements here or there.. then I’d import his vocals and do the final mix. It was really fluid and pain free, considering the distance. Ashton also sent some of his unreleased musical compositions which lead to Every Little Dream, a song of Ashton’s on which I revamped the music and guitars, and of course got Big Paul to add his incendiary drumming.
The single, All The Broken Things, is due for release at the end of the month, 30th of November to be precise. You’ve just finished the video for it. Do you find participating in music videos an enjoyable experience?
Ashton: This one was, although not all video shoots are created equal.
Mark: Yeah it was cool, director Vicente Cordero was great, the location they selected was spot on for the dystopian vibe we were after, and the actors they brought in were fantastic. I think Vicente and everyone did a fantastic job.
From what I understand, the album is going to be a lot heavier than Volumes, and All The Broken Things is going to be a good indication of this. Are you concerned that it might alienate fans of the previous work, or are you confident that they’ll get into it?
Ashton: I think the new album is more focussed than Volumes, as the new album was essentially created by two people and features the same vocalist and songwriters throughout. Gemini Nyte is still a diverse album though, and includes a broad range of styles, influences, emotions, tempos and arrangements. We like it, so hopefully other people will too.
Mark: I agree with Ashton, the new Gemini Nyte album is a lot more focused. We had recorded The Reaping and Jesamine on Volumes, both very specific and direct in their sound and style, both are rockers, and we decided an entire album in that vein was in order, hard rocking and melodic. Nevertheless, although the album has plenty of heavy moments, its an intelligent album and has lots of light and shade as well, including an ambitious cover of a Soft Cell classic and a homage to the late Scott Weiland with Atlanta, first recorded by Stone Temple Pilots.
The promotion never ends for an album really, does it? So once the single, and the album surfaces, it’s easy to presume that a tour will follow. Is that going to be the case, or will we just have to wait and see?
Mark: We have All The Broken Things single and video dropping on 30th November, followed by a second video release in January – after the Christmas hols – and then the album drops proper on 23rd February. We’re currently working on tour dates to follow in March, so watch this space..
Gentlemen, it’s been great talking with you both. We look forward to the single, and the subsequent album in 2018.
Ashton: Thank You!