Mike Park

Interviews | Nov 30th, 1998

I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about time zones, so I hope I didn’t wake you.
It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Ah. So tell me what’s happening with Skankin’ Pickle.
Did you get the newsletter?

Yeah, I got it. You’re not in it anymore. What happened?
Well, pretty much I felt like I had lost the energy and excitement to do it. And basically, I looked at why I was still playing and it came down to that… We were doing well and making money and I knew that was the reason why I was doing it. If I wasn’t true to my music, I’d have to get out.

Did the rest of the band understand?
Yeah, they understood. My main goal was to make everything nice and easy without any hard feelings. They’re going to keep going and I wish them luck.

Were there any personal differences that led to this?
Not at all. It just came down to I couldn’t do it anymore.

So you felt it was all money?
It’s hard to explain. Everywhere we were playing, it was big shows; the vibe wasn’t there. I was getting, I don’t know, distracted. OK, here’s the truth: I wanted to take time off, take at least four months and regroup myself, sit down and write music. But it was too much for the rest of the band — they couldn’t take that much off. That’s what happened. We came to a mutual agreement.

They wouldn’t wait for you?
They wouldn’t wait.

Are you angry because of that?
No, because it’s not fair for them, to rely if I’m stable to go on tour. They’re entitled to play music. It’s as much their band as it is mine.

I guess that makes sense. What about the Green Album? The new one?
I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but it is coming out. It’s going to be my last project with them, which is too bad because it wasn’t like a new album. No new effort went into it; it’s just basically a bunch of old songs that we never recorded or released. We were going to get ready to do a new album which is why I was hoping to take the break first.

I know you want to relax now, but are you going to do anything in the future? You could definately start your own thing, no problem. But the question is, will you be ready to do it four months from now?
Yeah, see this is what I’m thinking about doing: I’d like to start an all-Asian band, with more of an emphasis on Asian awareness to let people know that there are Asian people that play music. It seems that in the world of music, there aren’t a lot of Asian musicians.

I agree.
So I’m thinking about it. It’s just a thought in my mind and I got friends from high school that play music and I brought the idea to them. Whether or not I actually do it… (laughs)

How do you think Pickle fans will like it?
It all depends if we’re good or not (laughs). I really want to put out music and play a couple of shows once in a while. I really don’t want to tour that much. I’m tired of traveling.

You sound tired. You sound road-weary.
(laughs) Oh man… And I think after seven and a half years my voice is slowly rotting. From singing wrong. From screaming too much.

Are you going to take voice lessons or something?
I definately don’t want to take lessons. After hearing all these punk bands taking voice lessons… I don’t know it sounds silly. Rancid taking voices lessons? I don’t understand it. (laughs)

Who’s going to take over the singing for Skankin’ Pickle?
I think everyone’s going to take a little bit of it. Share the duties.

Tell me about Asian Man Records.
I’ve been sending so much stuff to zines. I’ve been writing to zines to get the word out on Asian Man and to help out the bands. Especially Slapstick, because I haven’t many ads for them.

And they are very good.
They’re good and they’re great guys. Very sincere to the music.

So what happened to Dill Records?
We started Dill Records as a fictitious name to put our demo tape out and that led to putting out our own records. And then with my own money, I started putting out other bands — Less Than Jake, Slapstick, Misfits of Ska, the Bruce Lee Band…

Out of your own pocket?
Yeah, so when I left, I took the bands with me.

So that’s entirely your thing. Wow, that takes a lot of dedication. No wonder you’re tired.
Yeah, I worked hard on all those projects, especially Misfits of Ska.

And you only charge $8 a CD…
Y’know I don’t understand labels that charge a lot of money. It doesn’t make sense. Here’s the breakdown: A CD costs a $1.50. Shipping is $1.50. That’s $3. You can make $5 if you charge it for $8. I’m trying to keep everything under $10. I’m going to put stickers on the CD’s that say “Don’t pay more than $10”. That way the stores can’t scam the kids. I’m going to beat the system.

(blatantly kissing ass) The California scene is crazy. I’d love to hang out there. I dunno, somehow in my mind I perceive New York as a super-jazzy place and in the ska it comes out. I like that, but for the part of me that likes punk ska, California’s definately where it’s at.
There is a huge traditional scene here, but it’s strictly traditional. They only support traditional bands.

They’re not open-minded?
Oh no no no. There’s the traditional scene and the punk ska scene. And then there’s kids that listen to both.

How come the scenes don’t come together?
In California, from my experience after seven years of playing live I know it doesn’t work, because of the skinheads. There are a lot of good skinheads, but the few that screw it up intimidate the crowd. If we’re playing and there’s six or seven skinheads in the middle and anyone touches them, there’s a fight. Have you seen that?

Yes, definitely. It’s all over. I figure it’s worse in the Midwest.
No, it’s good. I never had a problem in the Midwest. In California, god, I can go on for years talking about the problems we’ve had with skinheads in our careers. It started in 1989; there were so many skinheads and they hated us. They hated us. You wouldn’t believe.

That sucks. Not all are racist, but they’re all violent.
Totally. I saw shows where these so-called “non-racist skins” started beating on long-hairs, just because they all have long hair. And there’s so much stupidity, in addition to the violence. That’s another thing that got me burned out on music. Thing is, I really want the crowd to have a good time and dance. Even when we’re playing fast stuff, I just like to see dancing. And there’s always a handful of people that don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and running around hitting people. That always bummed me out.

So do you have a real job? I mean, besides the record company, do you work anywhere?
No, I’m living off what I made in Skankin’ Pickle. I’m good at saving money. I’m investing money from the label to put out more music. I’m trying to put out a compilation called Ska Against Racism’ and donate half the money to different organizations that are against racism.

How old are you?

And you’re totally wiped out, huh?
(laughs) Wiped out, yes. I need a break (laughs). You won’t believe it, but there’s burnout all the time. I’ll be out there again.

What’s new at Asian Man Records?
Misfits of Ska 2 will be out sometime… The Ska Against Racism… I’m putting out Link 80…

I heard about them. Who are they?
They’re a punk rock ska band. I told myself I’m not going to do more punk rock ska bands, but they’re young and energetic. They’re kids. The oldest is 18 and the youngest 15. I’m putting out Steve Devlin’s band. He’s the guy that wrote Fakin’ Jamaican’ He doesn’t have a name for his band yet, but he’s awesome. He’s like a cross between They Might Be Giants, old Oingo Boingo, and the Specials.

Did you buy the Specials’ new album?
No I refuse. They’re doing it for money.

You think?
There isn’t a doubt in my mind.

I saw them recently, and I spent almost $30 to get in.
But I bet they were good, though.

They were. The Suicide Machines and the Toasters opened.
How were the Suicide Machines?

Great, and I’ve been meaning to ask you — How come Dill bands are signing to major labels? The Suicide Machines are on Hollywood Records now, and I heard Less Than Jake signed with Capital…
It’s hard for me. Myself, I would never sign with a major label. I don’t agree with a lot of the politics involved, and I don’t agree with the way they work. But it’s hard for a band to turn down these big deals. And they’re being signed because punk ska is the “next big thing.” The same thing happened with Nirvana, and all the grunge bands got signed. And then with Green Day, and all the punk bands got signed.

Ska’s been around for over 30 years. Why do you think it’s getting popular now?
I think it’s just the punk ska that’s going to explode. Just look at who’s big: Rancid, No Doubt, Goldfinger, Dance Hall Crashers…

Damn. That’s too bad.
(laughs) Yeah. I just want these bands to be aware of their surroundings, and to educate their fans.

How do you feel about traditional ska?
I love it. I listen to it everyday. I’ve been into ska since 1983, and have been playing in bands since 1986. I listen to the Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Bob Marley… Oh, man, they’re good. Traditional ska is my… well any type of ska is my favorite. I love everything. I love punk, but my true love will always be ska.

Well put.

Anything else?
I just want to make it clear that I have nothing against Pickle and I want them to do well. Basically, we came down to the agreement. I needed time off and I gave them the choice to keep going and there’s no hard feelings.

Will you ever go back?
No. I’m not into reunions and stuff. I’m going to move on. Oh, man, I have to go. I was supposed to be home to eat. My mom is the greatest cook!!

2000 Update: This interview came right after Mike Park’s departure from Skankin’ Pickle. I believe this is the first interview he did that discusses the reasons why he left. Mike Park still runs the successful Asian Man Records, which has branched out and released many great non-ska albums. He also helps promote anti-racist tours, and still records with his band The Chinkees.