Asian Man Records’ Mike Park on Smile, an indie ska LP for kids

Mike Park has been playing indie punk and ska since he was a teenager, first with Skankin’ Pickle, then The Chinkees, Bruce Lee Band, and solo gigs under his own name. Along the way, he began releasing albums for not only his own bands but others such as Alkaline Trio, The Queers, Kevin Seconds, and Slapstick, as well as starting the excellent Plea for Peace benefit compilations and tours. Mike has always made music for all ages, but his latest release is literally for the kids. Smile features indie ska songs for children inspired by having two children. After I played a copy for Eloise (above, who especially liked “When The Light Turns Red You Stop” and “Paint With Me” and even came up with custom dance moves), I had to find out more more about the new project by an old friend.

MW: It’s one thing to play music for your children and it’s another to make a record. Which came first for Smile?
MP: Playing music definitely came first. Within the first day of my daughter being born, I was sitting next to her strumming my guitar making up silly songs on the spot trying to stop her crying. Ha! As she got older, she would remember certain improvisational compositions and that’s what struck a chord that perhaps I should actually try writing some kids’ songs. And that is the genesis to my plunge into the kindie rock scene.

MW: Having a live-in audience must have been interesting. Can you describe some of the changes that your kids requested or had a part in?
MP: Having two youngsters guide me through the songwriting was amazing. The press kit says, “Mike Park’s son and daughter have given their seal of approval on this one. If you don’t like the record, they are to blame.” It was a lot of fun making up silly songs and seeing my kids respond to and retain the lyrics was pretty amazing. I’d better get started on the next one before they get too old.

MW: Did you have to give special directions to your band ? Or did they approach it just as they would an album for grown-ups?
MP: No. For the musicians it was business as usual. Nothing special in the delivery or the recording for them.

MW: In a weird way, do you think Smile is more grown-up than your earliest work with Skankin’ Pickle, for example?
MP: Ha ha! Come to think of it, in many ways it probably is. I was only 18 when Skankin’ Pickle started. Now I’m 42. Looking back at Pickle, I cringe at a lot of the stuff that was recorded. Ouch! But it was a great band and definitely a fun part of my life.

MW: It seems like you’re getting some good run for Smile. Any plans to follow up or expand on the music for younger audiences?
MP: Most definitely. I’d love to tour for this album playing all the different kid friendly venues. It comes down to finding time to do it. I hope by next summer I’ll start playing some shows and seeing how it goes. So if anybody out there has any advice on where to play, please let me know.

Check out Smile on YouTube and Mike’s Asian Man Records home page for more scoop.