Kaz Nomura better known as PWRFL Power is a difficult artist to pin down. With a musical style rooted in Jazz and Blues and an almost angelic approach to song writing; PWRFL Power has created a sound all of his own. Bursting on to the scene back in 2008 with the release of his self titled debut, Kaz did the rounds of blogs and magazines before disappearing from the U.S scene altogether and retiring back to his native Japan. I got a chance to catch up with the prolific artist and find out what he’s been up to for the past couple of years as we look back on his career, his influence and his plans for the future in our surprisingly candid interview.
I understand that you’ve spent the last couple of years uprooting from America and mostly living and working in Japan, what made you go over there, and how have you found it so far?
Kaz: I was eighteen when I moved to the US. Originally I was planning to study philosophy, especially logic. I was a huge Wittgenstein fan. I was, if you know what I mean. It was almost impossible for me to make friends through philosophy classes, so one day I picked up guitar and played in hallway at a college I was going to. At that point I had spent six years in learning classical and blues guitar. People gathered, and they all introduced themselves to me. These people were interested in knowing me more.
When I realized that, I was like “fuck it, I am doing music again“. I transferred to Cornish College of the Arts to major in composition. I spent 2004-2008 there and in the mean time I was playing shows with my first group called “na”. It was purely improvisation based and had lots of cymbals. There is a piece called “Cymbalism” which is 3 of us, all Japanese, banging the hell out of those thin metal junk. And again, people seemed confused yet intrigued to know what these foreigners were trying to do.
Fast-forward and I spent 2008-2012 touring the US, Japan and Korea. I was still residing in Seattle when my first, and hopefully the third to the last (just kidding), divorce happened. I went back to my hometown in Hokkaido to drink my father’s whisky and read books all day everyday for six straight months. It was January 1st, new year’s day, when my alcoholic ghost told me that I should do this 20 years later and do more productive things now, like giving myself another chance and moving to a big city. I sold all of belongings that could sell for more than $10, put the rest in huge boxes, and signed an apartment lease before seeing it. Since April I have been working as a quality analyst at an IT company and playing shows here and there.
Can you describe to us what it’s like being a part of the Japanese music scene? How does it differ from America?
Kaz: Oh, these are two different beasts. In Japan, people are quiet. They mostly clap and don’t yell at shows. Nobody dances. People come to shows to “listen to you”. They don’t come to get drunk, have fun, or even pick up a peach to go. This in itself gives so much difference in economics of band/clubs. Please don’t get me wrong, the grass is greener blah blah. I like to see some amazing talents but I feel like, overall, there are certainly a less number of bands that are tight; tight as in practiced. In the US, bands usually have a practice room in someone’s basement. Here in Tokyo, bands go to rental studio that costs $30 an hour. So there you go, I especially miss solid rock drummers. Give sticks to a little girl and she will sound like a little girl on drums. Big boys don’t wanna sound like they are playing with chopsticks, you know? My entire youth was accompanied by huge JBL speakers blasting modern/free jazz. That probably changed me forever, I guess.
The past couple of years have seen you mainly concentrate on developing The Half-Yogurt record label, how have you found this new direction?
Kaz: Musicians I like as friends. Pretty simple, isn’t it? I have released a couple of titles without even listening to them beforehand. There are some cases, like Ed Askew’s release, where we had conversations over emails and prepared for the release. So there is no definite direction in terms of musicality that the label aims for.
How would you best describe the Pwrfl Power Sound?
Kaz: Solo singer-songwriter stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable and challenged.
Your songs are frequently experimental yet always hark back to a traditional blues sound, can you tell us about some of your influences?
Kaz: I grew up listening to Jazz, Classical, and the Ventures. I was 16 when I found this CD shop in my hometown with a variety of Blues music. I would bring a B.B KIng CD or something to the casher and an old guy who seemed to be the owner of the store goes “Oh, come on, you are not listening to B.B King, you are listening to Snooks Eaglin.” He made me buy CDs of his choice, stuff like Elizabeth Cotten and Bukka White. That is where my bluesy influence came from. During college years, teachers I had were students of great artists like John Cage, Sun Ra, and Hermeto Pascoal. They taught me a lot about free jazz and contemporary classical composition.
Looking back on the release of your self-titled debut how would you say you have developed as a songwriter?
Kaz: I obviously know more than I did back then in general, but to me, music is something that ages like the performer himself and each stage of his life has its charm. So, it is inevitable that I developed and changed. As for the self-titled release, I see why some people absolutely hated it, even after understanding its humour. I would love my next release to be sex music or laundry music. Or elevator music. I am serious!
Are there any particular aspects of your career you look back with fondness or even regret?
Kaz: I have countless regrets like showing up to the venue yet deciding to ditch the show in Salem, OR (That was the most ridiculous thing i did so far and I still feel sorry). I am probably notorious for making bad choices but I have more good memories that justify all of the regrets. I am proud of where I end up in my life, so all the horrible mistakes are working for me!
What does the future hold for Pwrfl Power? Will we see another album release in the coming year?
Kaz: I talked about new stuff for YEARS! My second one was recorded in the end of 2007. I made a home-recording and released under “Arete School of Patternalization” as my 3rd release in 2011. The initial 300 copies sold right away and I am not planning on re-pressing it. I am “investing” 1/3 of my salary in musical gear every month to kick my ass and make myself work on the 4th, which should be ready in this year. I will release it on iTunes as well for my international friends to hear them.
Want to keep tabs on all of Kaz’s work? Follow his cookie crumb trail below: