Interview: Mike Park

By themedia | January 16, 2011

Artist: Mike Park
Label: Asian Man Records
Official Site: Click here
Date: May 30, 2004
Conducted by: Jonathan Yost

MF JY: I have a laundry list of questions here, so I’m just kind of going to plow through them, some I guess are staples of our magazine’s interviews. If you were a question on jeopardy, what would be the answer?
Hmm, I don’t know. The first Asian American to run a record label out of his parent’s garage.

MF JY: That’s nice. On the RIAA, I noticed that Asian Man records isn’t a member, and I was curious what the reason for that was. Didn’t want to, or what?
I just didn’t want to. The thing with Asian Man is that I just don’t care. I mean, I do so little work, I’m just so laid back. I think a lot of people think that we are bigger than we are because we’ve put out some successful records. I try to work as little as possible.

MF JY: Are you surprised about the success of some of the bands on your label?
Sure, it’s always like, “Whoa, that’s cool.” I’m sure I could sell a lot more records if I hired people to do retail and promotions, but I don’t care. The bands know it, too. I make it very clear and we encourage them to move on to bigger labels if they start doing well.
MF JY: Kind of like a stepping stone?
Yeah, I’m never going like, “Come on guys, you can’t leave me.” I’m always going “go, go. You’re too much work.”

MF JY: When bands approach you to be signed or whatever, what are you looking for?
Well, first I’m looking for something interesting musically, and also just make sure that they’re good people. So, if it’s friends of friends, I’ll usually take that as kind of like an answer that they are good people. Friends of certain friends. I know they must be down It depends,. I don’t know, there’s a lot of variables. are involved, especially lately., it’s got to be something different. I’m trying to put out different sounding music, the music industry is so stale. I could do the same stuff and sell more records, but why? Why not try for something different?
MF JY: Is there anything that you’ve seen this year that is exceptionally different?
I think the Polysics record, the band from Japan that we put out. I think they’re an exceptional band. No one sounds like that. Nobody puts out music from bands from Japan. For an American label to take a chance on a band from Japan, that’s rare. And uh, we’re trying to do that, kind of give the bands from Japan a chance in the states.

MF JY: Is there anything you have done with Asian Man Records that you would do differently had you known something then that you know now?
Not really, maybe there was certain bands I wouldn’t have put out, but I don’t want to say names, it’s really unfair to say that. Um, perhaps there are some bands I should have put out, but didn’t – again, not to name names. I think it’s common, to make the wrong choices, and I’m no different.
MFJY: I don’t think anyone is.

MF JY: What is the main focus of the Plea for Peace tour,
The mission statement is that were trying to, as a whole, if you look at the site and look at the mission statement, is what were building towards is building a youth center in San Jose, California. That’s like the long term goal. We want to raise the funds, open the center. It’s a place for kids to go, focusing on the kids, a place for them to go were they can be creative. Focusing on the arts and music. That’s what the long term goal is. The idea of peace through music. And arts, all arts.

MF JY: Does the overall feeling or mood of the tour change along with the current events and stuff that going on in the world?
With this tour, the primary focus is the election, but we’re taking a non-partisan stance. We’re not Bush-bashing.
MF JY: I noticed that you, what you pushed for on stage was a change, without saying “Vote against Bush.” You just said “Vote, and get registered to vote.”
I think that that’s the first step, yea, a lot of the time, kids are like “Fuck Bush, Fuck Bush.” They hear that, but do they know why? I just feel like we have to have some kind of education, I want kids to think for themselves. I don’t want, we’ve had enough, I think we’ve all had people tell us what to do, and what to say, at this point in our lives, we have to encourage kids to think, instead of what everyone else is doing.

MF JY: Ok, with you and touring, you’ve gone to other countries, continents, whatever, was there any culture shock, anything that you have seen in other countries that you thought was either horrible, or anything that you saw that you thought needed to be going on in this country?
You don’t really see it, but you hear about it in conversation, just how our health care system is ridiculous, we don’t have free health care, our education system is in shambles, our education system…I find it hard to see the reasoning behind our military actions when we have to fix what’s going on in our country first before we fix problems in other countries. But to go back to your question, I think that the main thing is seeing how much animosity there is in other countries towards Americans. I think I have a, I don’t have it as bad because I’m Asian. When I’m in Europe, people don’t automatically think “American”, They think, Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean. So, it’s not bad, it’s kind of neat, I can feel it out, see what’s going on.
MF JY: Do you see a lot of “America Bashing” in other countries?
The last time I went was last October to Japan, that was the last overseas tour I went on, and I saw, you know, Japan’s not a political country, the people are just really into self gratification for the most part. We saw two anti-war marches or rallies. It was very interesting to see with the friends we were with, like translating and explaining. It’s pretty universal how outspoken the rest of the world is about the war. They’re a bit curious as to why we’ve um, went on our own in terms of what we thought was right. Went against the UN.

MF JY: Back to a bit more lighthearted questions…What’s the first album you can remember buying, whether it was album, or CD, or cassette?
1979, I know AC/DC, the live album, came out. That’s one of the first ones. Also, REO Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon, AC/DC, Air Supply, those are some of the first’s that I remember my sister listening to Styx. Whatever album that had Babe on it. Whatever my sister listened to, I wanted to listen to, too.

MF JY: You performed with Bands (Skankin’ Pickle, The Chinkees), performed solo, and you run Asian Man Records, is there one you enjoy more than the rest, or do you enjoy all of it?
Yea, I enjoy doing all of it. Acoustic is the most frightening one, just hard to do, I get very nervous. The band is fun, I’d like to do it again, it just takes a lot of time. It’s like being in a relationship, also. With the band, you have to deal with the band members. Dealing with the different personalities, when you’re with yourself, you only have to deal with yourself.

MF JY: Alright, we’re winding down now. In sixty seconds, tell us why people should go to one of the Plea For Peace shows.
I think it’s a show that’s uplifting, that’s diverse, ethnically diverse in a culture of music that’s saturated by corporate takeover focusing on white America, we’ve presented a tour where two of the four artist’s are minorities, I think that for many people, is a first for them to be see. We’re offering a man, Saul Williams, that is one of the most intelligent minds I’ve heard, he’s definitely going to open a lot of eyes. It’s just an honest tour, we’ve got no corporate sponsorship, no clear channel venues involved. This is a strictly a people doing it for the right reasons. And that alone is hopefully enough to get the support of people.

MF JY: And finally, is there anything else that you want people to know, that you want the readers to know.
I just want people to think about the reasons that they’re living. This apathy of the young America, and the old, we’re living with blinders on. I’m kind of wondering what my motivation is sometimes. I go through ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like I should just leave the country and go somewhere else where people are more like-minded, but I don’t want to be someone who just gives up. I want to believe in hope, so I’m just encourage people to look what’s going on in their surroundings and not worry so much about this capitalistic gain or trying to climb that ladder of success, life’s too short for that. Just enjoy life, enjoy everything. That’s it.

MF JY: Well, Thank you, It’s been awesome!
No problem.

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