Thursday, 5 February 2015

An Interview with Mike Park (Asian Man Records, Bruce Lee Band and so much more)

I've always said that if I ever won the lottery, I would start my own record label. But Mike Park didn't hang around to win the lottery. Park first started releasing music in 1991, before establishing Asian Man Records in 1996.

Having been a fan of a number of bands on the label, I recently contacted Mike Park to get some information for a review of the new The Great Apes ep Playland at the Beach. Mike sings, he plays saxophone and has been running a record label out of him parents garage for almost 20 years, sounds like an interesting guy, right? So I asked him a few questions,and he was nice enough to answer.

When did you first become interested in music?

When I saw Fishbone live in 1985 is when everything changed for me. They were so dynamic and exciting. Also, it was rare to see anyone of color playing anything alternative music based.

He sings. He plays saxophone. He also plays a bit of guitar. But when did he first start learning to play a musical instrument?

I was forced to play piano when I was young and then took up the saxophone at age 9.  It wasn't until I was 14 that I self taught myself guitar and fell in love with playing music. 

There's that one song, one album, that when you hear it for the first time it blows your mind. Introduces you to a whole new world of music. My introduction to punk came in the form of Rancid's And Out Come The Wolves album. So I was curious, what was the song / album that influenced you so much, that punk and ska music became your life's work?

UGLY by Fishbone was the song that just made my feet go wild.

"...just made my feet go wild." There you have it, as simple as that. I think sometimes people forget the power that music can have over us, the influence it can have on our lives.

So how do you go from being interested in music, to creating a successful DIY record label? 

It was out of necessity. There were no record labels interested in my music, so I thought why not just start my own label. I was influenced by the DIY philosophy of Ian (Minor Threat , Fugazi) and Dischord and just thought why let others dictate what I can and can't do. 
Over the years Asian Man Records has released a lot of stuff. Some of my favorite albums are on Asian Man Records. Being in control of what music your record label puts out means that you put out stuff that you like. But there must be one or two albums that particularly make you feel proud being a part of?

Way too many to list. I think Goddamnit by Alkaline Trio is my gold medal though for so many reasons. Just an amazing band and a life changing album.
Alkaline Trio were the first band that drew me to Asian Man Records. And in my opinion the majority of their best work was released through Asian Man, Goddamnit being possibly their best. So from this Alkaline Trio fan, thank you very much,Sir. 

With Asian Man Records approaching its 20th birthday, there must have been a few bands that almost got signed?

Well, I'm sure there's a long list, but I try not to dwell on my mistakes,ha ha. But yes, so many mistakes have been made. 

Having played in a few bands (Skankin' Pickle, Bruce Lee Band, The Chinkees); do you prefer playing with a band or solo?

Band is way better. Solo was out of necessity cause I just didn't have the time or resources to tour with a band and I knew there were some people out there that wanted to see me tour, so I did it for that reason. But playing in a band is just a lot more fun.  

The album Smile is an album for kids. What I mean is it's full of songs for children. Also released on Asian Man Records is the Happy Wags album, which is another album full of songs for children, by Aggrolites frontman Jesse Wagner. Where did the idea to record and release records filled with songs for children come from?

Just becoming a father. I was forced into the world of children's music and realized the music is horrible. I just wanted to record a record that both adults and kids would enjoy.

Having two young children of my own I have to agree here. I've taken to trying to find music I like, that I think my kids would like, rather than playing them some of the awful things I've picked up, aimed at children.

Do you think it's important to get children interested in music?

Oh my, yes!! Music, I would say, is the most important thing in the world. It's everywhere and garners emotions of joy and sadness and I wish our schools would make it a priority for all to participate in.  

With so many great bands on the Asian Man Records label, I would love to see an Asian Man tour. Would you ever consider an Asian Man Records tour of the UK?

We actually did do one in 1999 with MU330, LINK 80, and the CHINKEES.  We played about 10 shows throughout the UK and also had the band LIGHTYEAR participate on the tour.

Sounds to me like another tour is overdue.

How about some inside information, who is your hot tip / one to watch for 2015?

Dan Andriano from the Alkaline Trio is recording a solo album right now that will blow peoples minds. Get ready. Seriously unbelievable. 

What's in store for Asian Man Records in 2015?

Keep doing things for the love of music. Keep trying to do things ethically and not just for capitalistic gain. And most important, have fun doing it.

If you like Punk and/or Ska music then there's no reason why you shouldn't go and have a listen to some of the stuff that's available on Asian Man Records. Go and check out their 
bandcamp page to sample entire albums for free. I highly recommend you go check out the new album by Dog Party.

But for now I will leave you with a track from the new album "Everything Will Be Alright, My Friend" by The Bruce Lee Band. It's just under 2 minuets long, features Jesse Michaels, and could change your life. So give it a listen and let us know what you think.

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