After traveling to London and New York City he returned to L.A. and in 1979 met Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Pierce taught him to play guitar using open tuning, and they formed The Creeping Ritual, which became The Gun Club. Powers left that group before their recording debut, instead joining New York-based band The Cramps in December 1980.
Powers rejoined the Gun Club briefly in 1983, touring with Pierce's band in Australia the following year, and then again between 1985 and 1988.
Powers joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Berlin, Germany, around 1988 for several albums and corresponding tours. Powers recorded the Tender Prey and The Good Son albums with Cave and his band, and he said in early 2015 that he "loved" the "primaeval element of rock'n'roll" that they had a firm grasp of.
1997–2009: JLP tribute albums, The Pink Monkey Birds and Dracula Boots
For his next project, The Pink Monkey Birds, Powers initially collaborated with New York City guitarist Jack Martin, who he has also collaborated with for the Congo Norvell and Knoxville Girls projects. Then, in 2009, Powers recruited Kiki Solis on bass, Ron Miller on drums, and Jesse Roberts on guitar and keyboards. The band moved to In The Red Records and released the much acclaimed debut studio album, Dracula Boots, which was called a "return to form."
Dracula Boots was coproduced by Jason Ward and recorded in a former high school gymnasium in Harveyville, Kansas, which is now an artists' retreat called "The Harveyville Project." Dracula Boots consists of numerous genres, including southern soul, 60s Chicano rock, and psychedelic imagery. British magazine N.M.E. wrote: "In short, on Dracula Boots Kid Congo Powers has once again found the juicy jugular of soul-fired, funked-up rock’n’roll. You’d be foolish not to take a bite."
In 2011, Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds released their sophomore album, Gorilla Rose, which was also on the In The Red Records label. Eamon Carr of The Dublin Evening Herald said of Gorilla Rose, "Having a working band is paying off. Gorilla Rose elevates seedy go-go weirdness to the level of high art."
Powers returned to Australia for the first time in 25 years—when he toured with Cave's Bad Seeds project—at the end of January 2015. The band played at Melbourne's "Summersalt Festival" and the Sydney Festival. In a promotional interview for the Australian shows, Powers spoke in regard to his new band:
I think the Pink Monkey Birds conjures up all the best aspects of primal rock'n'roll ... Lyrically, I'm speaking in images, and from a very skewed viewpoint, whatever the subject may be. I still have the passion and the incentive to make music that's different, but still within the confines of a punk rock language people will know and understand.