‘Extend my hand and I hope you will too. My culture bleeds but I’m shaking it on through.’
– ‘On That Stage’ by Mike Park
Somewhere in San Jose, Mike Park is managing his record label, Asian Man Records. He listens to demos and looks over schedules for upcoming tours. With over 30 bands on his roster, Park handles Asian Man with the help of only two other employees. Oh, and his mom too.
Working out of his parents’ garage, Park has been able to successfully put out music since 1991 under Dill Records, and officially started Asian Man in 1996. Wait, Dill Records? Like the pickle? Like that band Skankin’ Pickle? Yes, Mike Park was once the vocalist/saxophonist of said ska band.
Although they’ve long been disbanded, Park continues to be a huge contributor in the punk/indie music scene by running Asian Man Records and the Plea For Peace Foundation while being a part of bands such as the B. Lee Band, the Chinkees and most recently his solo project.
Despite the humble backdrop of an office originally made for storing cars, Asian Man has been able to attract bands like Lawrence Arms and Link 80. It was also the home of Alkaline Trio before they moved to Vagrant Records.
But Asian Man isn’t just about great music. Park only works with ‘bands that are anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-prejudice and who support the ideas of peace and unity.’
Peace and unity from a guy who’s in a band called the Chinkees? If you still haven’t figured it out, Park’s views on race and identity in society are reflected through his label and musical projects with a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.
When asked where his label’s name came from, Park said, ‘Asian Man was specifically chosen to show the representation of Asian-Americans in the music industry and specifically in the punk/indie world. As you’re probably aware of, the industry is diluted. It’s a white industry and corporate America targets punk rock to white kids. They’re not going in there pushing Something Corporate to the hip-hop community, but there are definitely people of color who are into that music so I just wanted to show that I’m one of those persons.
‘And if there are other Asian-American kids who are into underground music, then maybe it can be an influence for them to do something for themselves and show that there are others out there.’
If you’re skeptical about this notion and think that people don’t really think this way, I can vouch for it. Once he said this, it made me realize, hey, maybe that’s why I look up to Asian artists John from Home Grown or Teppei from Thrice more than other artists.
‘I’m just rooting for [Asian artists] for some reason. I don’t know why, I just feel like they’re the underdog,’ Park said.
But don’t mistake Park’s desire for unity and equality with ethnocentrism. With the Plea For Peace Foundation, Park aims to reach out to teens and provide service for everyone in his community