To describe veteran street-performer Arthur Nakane simply as a one-man-band hardly does him justice. But it will have to do, until someone can a come up with a better name for a performer who sits behind a wagon constructed of PVC pipes holding keyboards, percussion, amplifier, foot-operated drum machine and bass pedals (also made of PVC pipes), while wearing a harmonica holder around his neck and playing a guitar with sticks bolted and clamped to the guitar's neck. While playing guitar in the conventional style, he jabs at the keyboard with these sticks, playing simple keyboard melodies, and hits cymbals. With his right hand, he'll grab, say, a tambourine and shake it as he strums the guitar. All while singing in a thick Japanese accent. Using electronics skills I can't begin to comprehend (he teaches electronics by day), Nakane records his own voice while singing and, again using foot controls, plays it back, harmonizing with himself - a live overdubbing method.
I first discovered Nakane years ago in Santa Monica's outdoor mall, the Third Street Promenade, and, quite unexpectedly, I ran into him last week performing on the Santa Monica Pier, still playing for tips. A hand-made cardboard sign announced he had performed on Jimmie Kimmels's NBC-TV show in February. He's also opened for punk bands, appeared on radio and TV, and was the subject of a short documentary that played the Sundance Film Festival called "Secret Asian Man."
That film got it's name from Nakane's remake of the oldie "Secret Agent Man." When he sings it, not only does he change it to "Secret Asian Man," complete with verses sung in Japanese, but he pulls back his eyes, like when kids make those slanty-eyed Asian stereotype faces!
"Secret Agent Man" - from his CD, featuring treatments of "Band On The Run," "La Bamba" (in severely shaky Spanish), and the definitive "Achy Breaky Heart" - a feast of grungy guitar and English/Japanese lyrics (Hmm, I don't remember Billy Ray Mullett rhyming "sake" with "Nagasaki"...) Order it from arthuronemanband.com, the most minimalistic website ever. Or, as I did, buy a copy from the man himself, should you run into him on Santa Monica Beach. Recorded live, no overdubs, no edits. As Arthur told me, pointing to his equipment, "I am master of this..."