Yasutaka Nomura goes from fan to bandmate with Mammoth
Music has always been a driving force in Yasutaka Nomura’s life. After having a passion for it throughout his childhood, the moment he decided to pick up a guitar seemed fateful. Ever since then, he has never looked back, and the Japan native is now sought-after around the world.
Despite a career filled with success, Nomura considers one of the highlights as being the bassist in the band Mammoth. Mammoth, a progressive rock/fusion trio based in Los Angeles, is made up of Nomura, guitarist Wesley Thrailkill, and drummer Aliyar Kinik. Although the three of them knew each other for years, Nomura didn’t originally think he could join the band. He knew their old bass played Chase Bryant, the current bass player of ONI, was leaving. Having been an experienced guitar player for most of his career, Nomura mostly played bass on the side, and didn’t know if he had the skill in that particular instrument to play with such an esteemed band. This was definitely not the case.
“Yasutaka’s preparation for songs is the fastest of anyone I have ever worked with. Every live performance his musicality and professionalism went above and beyond,” said Thrailkill. “Music aside, Yasutaka’s ability to give the musical director what they want in a timely fashion is exceptional. He shows patience in decision making, carefully weighing all sides and not putting too much pressure on those working with him. He is ambitious, providing everyone he has worked with his absolute best at all times.”
Nomura had been going to Mammoth shows for quite some time before Bryant left the band, and he was a fan, and knew the members. When the bass player left, Thrailkill knew they needed to fill the spot with a very talented bassist quickly to not lose the momentum the band had built. This is when he approached Nomura. Since that time, Nomura has been a vital part of the now very popular band.
“It had been only a year since I bought a bass to start practicing seriously at that time. As I was expecting, it was tough in the beginning. The songs are very hard and I could barely play them. But at the same time, it made me even more serious about playing bass. The more shows I played with mammoth, I could literally feel my own growth as a bass player. After several months, I was getting more confident about my bass playing,” Nomura described. “It helped that Wes and Aliyar are two of the most talented musicians I’ve ever played with. Working and writing with them has been very inspiring and it became a huge motivation for me to keep on working to be a better bass player and musician. Their musicianship and creativity are absolutely outstanding.”
It is no easy feat to join a band and play shows with an instrument you are not familiar with. Nomura had already made a name for himself as a guitarist, but his innate musical talent and sheer determination led him to become the bassist he is today.
“Wes and Aliyar have become my closest friends. Being able to create and play music with friends was such an amazing experience. They are very creative and inspiring, and being in a band with them forces me to keep on getting better as a musician. I am very happy that I am a part of this band,” he said.
Shortly after becoming fluent as a bass player, Nomura and the band started working on their latest album Deviations, which was released in October of last year. The album has been extremely well-reviewed, with Nomura acting as a key member in the writing process. The album went on to win Best Progressive Metal Album of 2016 from Sputnik Music.
“Making and releasing the latest album Deviations was definitely special. It was the first original album where I participated in the writing process. I learned a lot. And then it was such an honor to receive the award. We spent a lot of time and effort making this latest album. I felt very grateful,” said Nomura.
Winning the Best Progressive Metal Album award was not the first time Nomura and Mammoth had been recognized for what they did. The year before, they entered the Musician’s Institute Cover Song Contest, played a cover of the themes of the video game Super Mario, a popular set in their shows. As Nomura was new to the band and the bass, he wasn’t expecting to place, but the band went on to win the contest, showing what a versatile and adaptable musician he really is. This shows when he is improvising solos during his live performances.
“I love playing shows with Mammoth because we do a lot of improvisation which I’ve been working on for years by playing jazz, funk, blues and Latin music. Even though I play those genres mostly on guitar, I can always transfer the ideas that I play on guitar into my bass playing since the notes on the fretboard are almost the same on the guitar and bass. All my bass solos and about the half of my comping are improvised in live shows as well as nearly half of the drum parts and some guitar parts,” Nomura described. “I love improvisation because I get to express myself and create something new in the moments and it gets even better if the band can follow what you are playing. It becomes almost like the improvisation of the whole band. It often happens in jazz music and I think it’s one of the most amazing experiences you can have playing music.”
Of all the songs Nomura has played with Mammoth, his favorite track is The Acclimation of Sedation. It contains many key changes and jazzy chords, and it again allows him to improvise on the difficult chord changes, making it one of the more fun songs to play. While recording the track for the album, ex-bassist Chase Bryant, as well as Mateus Asato, the guitarist for Grammy-nominated pop star Tori Kelly, played guest solos.
“I think I actually like listening to the song more than I like playing it,” Nomura joked.
When he first joined the band, Nomura had to rearrange some of the bass parts from the band’s original songs to fit his style. This could have been risky, but it blended flawlessly. Nomura uses a lot of chords, arpeggios and sometimes even a pick to play fast phrases in live shows. He plays the harmonies to the guitar, and sometimes creates completely different lines over the riffs. A lot of these techniques and ideas are from his history of playing guitar, making his bass playing sound more unique.
“Working with Yasutaka is very good because he is very talented in what he does. He is also very easy going. He is not complicated as a musician and understands very fast changes in songs or in sections. Yasutaka has a huge repertoire for songs and knows a lot of songs by memory, which makes him very good at what he does, because he doesn’t need that much time to rehearse all the songs. Also, he has a lot of feeling in his playing and his timing is very good and tight. He doesn’t need much time to get used to playing in any bands or projects,” said Kinik.
Be sure to check out Mammoth’s new album and Nomura’s definitive style.