With a new single out now and an album soon to follow, ReGen‘s Stitch Mayo speaks with Auger founder and frontman Kyle Blaqk about the band’s rising fortunes and artistic development.
An InterView with Kyle Blaqk of Auger
By Stitch Mayo (StitchM)
The north of England and darker music are vastly synonymous, so it stands to reason that it’s here that Auger took its first breath, shaping a musical identity that resonates with the atmospheric backdrop of the band’s origins. This dark rock duo’s genre-defying music captures an enigmatic fusion of influences all across goth, metal, electronic, and pop, creating a melodic landscape that spans decades of inspiration. This creative evolution has manifested in three albums with each resounding powerfully with much critical acclaim and especially with the fans. With a new album on the horizon, ReGen sat down for a cuppa and a chat with frontman Kyle Blaqk on a rainy evening to talk world domination, art, and… Eurovision?!
First of all, how are you, and how is your 2023?
Blaqk: I’m very good, thank you. It has been a wonderful 2023 so far – went into it with a couple of exciting shows that we knew were coming up, and obviously, we’re only halfway through it and already those shows have far exceeded expectation. They’ve been really, really good fun. I think it’s been a very productive year already and everything has been executed with even more experience, care, and passion. I feel like we’re coming away from every show thinking, ‘Wow, I feel like we’ve really moved on from where we were the previous show.’ Everything feels like a big step up and it might just be overconfidence… who knows? But as I’ve always said with it, I’m so passionate and I care so much about it that I truly believe in what’s happening and hearing that people are enjoying it. I’m just excited to get more material out there. And that’s the big thing for this year as well, there’s been a lot of recording ready for a new album; we’re also taking a lot of care with that album and really doing it slowly and doing it right.
What’s come of these shows as well has been really amazing. We’ve already received a lot of great offers going into the following year, which is what we wanted. So, hopefully this ball will just keep rolling. We always refer to Auger as a train – it doesn’t stop, it sometimes doesn’t move as fast as you want it to, but it always moves forward. It never stops, never goes backwards, always goes forwards. And it feels like the momentum of the train and it’s a force to be reckoned with. So that’s a good position to be in, I think.
There’s been a bit of a lineup change with Kieran Thornton leaving the band, but also a new dynamic in the lineup this year. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Speaking of festivals, how did it feel stepping onto the Wave Gotik Treffen stage for the first time this year?
Blaqk: Yeah, so that was amazing! It was also tiring because silly me decided that, ‘Oh, you know what? We’ll drive because we have to bring a drumkit, so let’s drive to Leipzig!’ And obviously, Leipzig is on the other side of Germany from where we are – I already live in Blackpool, and just to get down to Folkstone on a good day is about seven hours, so we’re not even halfway there by that point. So, by the time we got onstage, we were very, very tired, but just standing on that stage and knowing that we had that final headline slot of the night and that the stage was ours and we could really sort of make it our own, and that it was going to be hopefully filled with lots and lots of people was just an amazing feeling.
And then going around the festival a little bit beforehand, we saw the numbers that were showing, and I did get a little bit worried and thinking, ‘We’re playing on a Sunday, what if people don’t come along to see us? I’m obviously very grateful to be here, but I really wanted it to be an extra special show.’ Then we stepped out when our backing track started – this sort of big intro happens – and there was just so many people. The venue was completely packed out and the atmosphere from song one all the way through was just intense. It was such a good show… it’s possibly my favorite so far. We always make a really big deal about speaking to people before the show, and after as soon as our gear’s pushed to one side, jumping down off the stage and just chatting to as many people as possible. It was really wonderful to hear everyone’s opinions on how it went and obviously, being the first high profile show we’ve done, particularly with a drummer. So, I was very curious to hear what people said – it was all very nice things!
Security had to go on to the doors to stop people from going in because it was too full. And then more security were told to go on to the venue doors because the foyer café was getting too full of people trying to watch through the door. So, it was obviously a really pivotal moment for us, and what a memory to cherish. I think I just gave it absolutely everything, as I always do, but somehow, I found a little bit more.
Nighthawks had a pretty distinctive visual aesthetic both in the music videos and the album art. Can you talk a little bit about the process behind that and how you came up with the visual ideas to accompany the music? What are some of your inspirations at the moment?
The cover of the Nighthawks seems to pay a subtle homage to Tears for Fears and the album was released under The Big Chair. Can you tell us more about the influence Tears for Fears has had on your music and also about the label itself?
Blaqk: Oooh, a Tears for Fears question. Right, I absolutely love Tears for Fears. Brilliant. I love them so much. I first discovered The Hurting and was absolutely obsessed with that, and then started to go through their catalog. This was maybe 10-15 years ago, and I always really, really loved it. There’s a classiness you get with their music, even songs like ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World,’ which is a very pop sort of song. Really, it’s just classy… it’s like a tuxedo, and it’s very grown up in a way that just oozes class. I really wish I had a better adjective, but you get my point.
As for their influence, I think a lot of that comes across in the album, particularly the latest one. And the imagery… we did the classic Tears for Fears photo where they look like they’re just fallen out with each other. I stared very angrily into one direction and Kieran stared very angrily into the other direction, and obviously, worked that into the ‘Nighthawks’ painting as well. And then going from a record label to being independent, which we felt was the right move… I obviously have a lot of respect and still talk to the old label and really get on well with them, but it was definitely the best decision we made, and it’s been really, really good. Of course, if I get an opportunity to start a record label and I can call it The Big Chair, which means that every song we release is a ‘Song from The Big Chair,’ then that satisfies the inner desire for me to make puns out of everything! So, that was a nice little connection.
What were your thoughts on The Tipping Point as an album? The ReGen writers had it as one of last year’s favorites? Did it meet your expectations?
Blaqk: The Tipping Point is a good album. It’s a grower. I wasn’t super sold when I first heard it and I think it’s unfair to compare bands’ albums to other albums, particularly when the whole point is that they’re writing something new. And then, when you factor in the fact that it’s been so many years since the last one, of course it’s going to be really different. It’s always going to be a new take on life and the new perspectives that they have gained. So, you can’t really compare it. But I think it is good. I do listen to a couple songs on it, but I will still also go back through and listen to The Hurting. I don’t really listen to The Seeds of Love very much, but I do Raoul and the Kings of Spain and all the Roland Orzabal albums as well.
This year’s seen some touring with Empathy Test and you’re hitting the road with Solar Fake for their first U.K. tour in October. As you continue to tour with diverse acts, do you find that your own musical identity is becoming more defined as a result? Or do you enjoy exploring different styles and incorporating new elements into your sound?
As you tour with both U.K. and German bands, how do you perceive the reception and appreciation of the darker electronic genres in each country? Do you notice any variations in audience engagement or reactions to the music between here and Germany?
Blaqk: Yeah, there is a definite difference between the two. That’s not to say that one is better than the other. I think there are typically more people in Europe who are more open to it, so what you end up finding is a lot more people come along, and therefore there’s a certain atmosphere there because they like what they hear and they’re getting involved with it, being enthusiastic, and it’s really, really great to witness. In the U.K., I think people perhaps are slightly more reserved when it comes to seeing something they haven’t seen before or don’t know what to risk and what not to. They haven’t really got that same sort of thing, so what ends up happening is the people are still just as enthusiastic, but there are just less of them. So, it means that when we play with a band like ACTORS for example, which is a sort of a genre that’s totally different, so they pull a totally different crowd than we normally play in front of… we perform in front of them and the reaction is really, really positive. It’s like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never heard this before!’ because they wouldn’t have necessarily given it a chance. I think that’s just the difference. Whereas when you go over to Europe, they see something, music’s on, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s check it out!’ and they’re really receptive of everything over there.
Are there any notable trends or shifts you’ve observed within the U.K. darker scene in recent years. How do you see it evolving and what factors do you think will contribute to its growth or transformation?
Blaqk: One thing to note is that it’s it is a small scene in this country, and that can be a really good thing as well, because we know literally everyone and it’s so nice to see whenever we play a show; it doesn’t matter where it is, the chances are that we know at least 70 % of the audience, we know their first and second names, probably what they’ve had for breakfast that morning, and the name of their dog! Because the scene is small, everyone’s very friendly and it’s a real community. It’s very unique. They have your back and they come en masse to your shows, they travel, and you can rely on them to be there, and it is really wonderful.
I think there’s always this debate when a festival, for example, announces its lineup and it’s the same bands that have kind of always been playing in this country, and the reaction is typically there’s 50% of people that go, ‘Yay!,’ and the other 50% of people go, ‘It’s the same bands, book some new bands!’ But then, they book new bands the following year and 70% of people go, ‘Who the hell are these?,’ and the other 30% say, ‘You never book anyone good!’
You’ve done a couple of collaborations – Imogen Evans and Lord of the Lost. Could you tell us the story behind these and tell us what they brought to the table?
Blaqk: The collaborations with Imogen we first did on the third album, Insurgence, for a song called ‘Tell Me I’m Wrong,’ and then again on the newer album for ‘As the World Falls Apart.’ I said, ‘Hey, do you want to sing on the album?’ Because the second she went into the studio and she started to sing one of her songs that were recorded, I was absolutely blown away and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was like, ‘Damn, you can sing.’ So really, it was just absolute luck that she did that. Her voice really complements the deepness of mine, I think, and there’s definitely a lot more room in the future for some more collaborations. With ‘As the World Falls Apart,’ we meant to record it… I was flying away to America for a few months, and she was due to come around to the studio, but she got COVID. So, I said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll still be on the album – find a place that’s well soundproofed, maybe your wardrobe, and hold up your phone or your iPad and sing into that, and it should be a good enough quality for me to then use in the song.’ So, she did that and sent it over and I mixed it while I was over in Chicago. I think it worked really well. You can definitely tell that it’s not recorded in the studio, but I think it actually adds something quite eerie to it. That was good fun. She’s releasing music by herself as well, which is really cool, and I’m putting it out on The Big Chair label. There’s a lot more to come and the songs just keep getting better.
The collaboration with Chris Harms of Lord of the Lost was great. I didn’t expect him to want to do it, let alone to listen to it really intently. He added some extra bits in the chorus and kind of jigged around the vocals, so it sounded more like a duet. He did a really good job of it, and having those sorts of fresh perspectives on something can really help with writing. So yeah, it was good and I’m very grateful that he gave up his time to do that. It definitely helped expand our audience ever so slightly on the leadup to the to the album as well, because it was timed just before then, so it was a good arrangement that benefited us both. Maybe there’ll be another one in the future, I don’t know. They are very busy touring with Iron Maiden and all the Eurovision stuff, but I’m just very grateful that he gave his time in the first place to do that.
Are there any other artists that you would love to collaborate with in the future? And if so, who are they and what aspects of the artistry do you find intriguing? potentially complementary to your own musical ideas?
Blaqk: I would love to collaborate with a list of so many people, only because I listen to a lot of stuff and I always think that it’d be great to incorporate into this music. Specifically? We’re playing Madrid next year on a festival called Dark Mad, and so are Propaganda, which if you don’t know are a band from the ’80s. I think the biggest song was called ‘Duel’ and Claudia Brücken, the singer, I would absolutely love her to sing on one of the tracks. I think because we’re playing the same show as them, in my head, we’re not only doing that, but we’re doing a duet onstage and it’s amazing. That’d be a really good one.
There are quite a few I’d love to do a song with. Gary Numan… I think that’d be really great. His sort of vocal style, I think, would work well. I’ve always wanted to do a collaboration with Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory, which I know is very, very different, but I think his voice, especially when he sings, has got a really different timbre to it that I think… it’s one thing to collaborate with someone and you listen to it and you’re like, ‘oh who’s this dude singing on the album?’ Whereas I think if he did it, everyone would know exactly who it is. And of course, I mean I’d really like to get myself a very, very nice house and a very big car so, if I did a collaboration with someone like James Hetfield or something like that, then maybe the royalties would come through and I could eventually do that, so I wouldn’t turn that one down either. Not to say I’m a huge Metallica fan, but hey, if James is asking you do it, then you say yeah. Or rather, ‘YEAH-E-YEAH!’ as he would say.
With the introduction of ‘Fascinate Me’ in your live performances, can we consider this a preview of what’s to come with the next album? Are there any overarching themes or concepts that you plan to explore in this upcoming release?
Your music showcases a blend of pop, goth, synth, and industrial influences. With such a unique sound and noting the impressive sounds that we heard at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, if asked, would you ever consider bringing your music to Eurovision and are you a fan of the competition?
Blaqk: Yes, absolutely. Why not? I think it’s such a wonderful opportunity, and it goes to so many people, and you can tell that with Lord of the Lost. I mean, that’s why a lot of people were talking about it recently, particularly within our scene. But you just had to see the fact that they came rock bottom last, but they had an absolute blast of a time, and for exposure alone it was worth it, let alone all the experiences they’ve had. They went into a couple of schools as well and did some workshops, and they explored and made a whole thing of it. And why not? I mean, what a great experience to do that. I think anyone who says that they shouldn’t is just jealous of the fact that they could never get on it. I mean, it is cheesy, but sometimes, I think especially in this day and age, we need more cheese.
Lord of the Lost definitely didn’t deserve to come last – what did you think of the other darker/electronic representation with Australia and Finland’s entries?
Blaqk: I think they said it was a bit of a German curse, and I hadn’t realized that the Germans have done badly for a while. I know that it isn’t any discredit to the music, I think it’s just bad luck more than anything else, but I did feel sorry for them. I hope that at least someone would vote 12 for them, but maybe not.
That band from Australia, was it Voyager? They were brilliant. I think they really brought something interesting to it. And you’re right, there was a good mix of that kind of darker, more synth- and guitar-led stuff, which was normally a novelty. I mean, I think Lordi did it first off, that I remember anyway, and then I think Rasmus came back and did something. So, every now and then, someone does it, but I think this year, it was a whole list of bands where actually we thought, ‘Oh, they’re pretty good actually!’
No one who calls themselves goth can actually decide, and it causes a lot of debates, but what is goth?
You have a new single? Tell us more.
Blaqk: We have a new single, you should listen to it. I’ll love you forever if you do. It’s called ‘Before It Began,’ and it’s the ending of summer anthem, dedicated to all the what ifs and love affairs of the holiday – big, bold, and crammed full of energy. It has a shiny new video, and it can be streamed just about anywhere and everywhere. I really hope you like it!