Listening to Mike Park going down his memory lane makes me wonder what I’ve missed out in the last 20 years. Park is the founder of Asian Man Records, an indie record label that’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and I was fortunate enough to have a chat with him about his last 20 years at Asian Man Records, his memories playing in Canada, his wedding business and the songs we need to listen to.
Park is pretty much like a “chill” 20 year-old trapped in a 40 something’s body. Although he is the man behind making Alkaline Trio and The Queers rise to major bands, he doesn’t go ahead and flaunt his accomplishments. He’s a down-to-earth friendly person that makes you want to talk for hours. When I asked him about his biggest accomplishments in the last 20 years, he simply answers, “Providing health care when I had 2 employees.” I couldn’t help but be surprised that this was coming out of the legendary indie-label owner that had worked with pretty much everybody in the music industry. Later when I ask him is that all? He adds, “I guess being able to work with small bands from the genesis, watching them grow, and being able to watch their baby steps is my biggest accomplishment,” he answers.
Memories of Canada
Park’s relationship with Montreal’s music scene dates back to ’93 when he performed with Me Mom and Morgentaler, a ska band from Montreal. He’s played at the Pouzza festival in Montreal for 3 times and considers Montreal, his “vacation place”, as each time he visits the city, he experienced 30 Celsius weather with not a single cloud in the sky. His memories of Toronto are quite unique. When I ask him about his relationship with Toronto, he says “I don’t know if you’re old enough to know this, but do you know Degrassi? Degrassi, for those of you who don’t know, is a Canadian TV show that started airing in the end of 80’s, the series follows the lives of teenagers from De Grassi St. in Toronto. “Well, my relationship with Toronto, is very Degrassi based” he adds. Park was a huge fan of the original series of the Canadian TV show. When he first came to Ontario to do a tour in ‘91, his sole goal was to find his Degrassi star crush, “Spike”. At his first concert of the tour, he heard a rumor from one of the punk kids at the venue that Spike was working at a store in Kensington Market, Toronto. Upon hearing this rumor, Park went to every store in Kensington Market in search for Spike, and by a stroke of luck, he was fortunate enough to meet her in real life. The story doesn’t end there, Park and real life “Spike” became friends and she was along with him when he toured in Japan. She now lives in Scotland, but the two still remain in touch.
His Wedding Business
Along with his label, Park has a side business in weddings. Yes, that’s right, weddings. He is a certified officiant, and has officiated over 100 weddings in the last 8 years. Of course, he doesn’t officiate a normal wedding. All of his weddings are “punk rock” weddings. So, what exactly is a “punk rock” wedding? It’s designated for the people in the punk community that don’t want a traditional church wedding. Park started officiating when Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba asked, which lead to another wedding and another. “At some point, I realized, hey, I’m pretty good at this! And I started posting online”. While officiating weddings was never his initial plan, “I’ve always liked going to weddings, so it’s a perfect match,” he says.
His music taste
Park considers ska music as his “first and true love” and that continues to this day. While he admits, it’s inevitable for people not to change taste in music, he says he “still loves a good pop punk.” “If the band is a good person, I’m up for listening to them. But, if they have a reputation for being assholes, I just bypass any association with them” he says. He’s influenced by bands that have a good reputation and will listen to any music if it’s recommended by the people that he respects. For Park, the people behind the music and their personality in real life reflect the way he hears the music. He tells me the current bands he is listening to are: Cayetana (Philadelphia), Diners (Phoenix), Dog Party (Sacramento) and Hard Girls (San Jose). Did you get that down? Well, if Mike Park is listening to them, then I guess this means these bands are not only amazing, but good people in real life.
Chatting with Park, I realized that he is one of those rare people that don’t change easily. In the last 20 years, his music tastes haven’t changed that much, he still works in his parents garage and most importantly, his love for punk-pop is still very strong. We can’t wait what the next 20 years will look like for Park.
Photo credits: Jason Travis photo