We want to stay small. We operate Asian Man Records like a family...there are no contracts, bands are free to come and go if they want. We want our bands to be happy, and we try to pick bands that we really feel a connection with. Mike started the label because he loves music, and that always comes first.
This interview was conducted via emails with Miya of Asian Man Records <http://www.asianmanrecords.com> out in Monte Sereno, Ca. This interview took place over the course of October, 2000.
TR- What differentiates your label from a major label?
We want to stay small. We operate Asian Man Records like a family…there are no contracts, bands are free to come and go if they want. We want our bands to be happy, and we try to pick bands that we really feel a connection with. Mike started the label because he loves music, and that always comes first.
TR- What is the most difficult aspect of your job that a typical music fan wouldn’t be aware of?
Saying NO! No really, it sounds mean, but this is something I am trying to learn…basically doing promotion and just working here, I think people assume I can just send them free stuff at will or sign any old band. It just doesn’t work
that way. We try to do stuff thoughtfully, not just do mass mailings and blindly promote things. We can’t afford $300 ads, or streetteams that give away mass amounts of senseless promo items…We want to do alot of new and interesting things, but we want them to have meaning, I guess.
TR- How important is it to be in a major market city, for a band and for a label, vs. being in a smaller market?
?? It doesn’t really mean anything to us, as far as “how far you can go” in a big city vs. a suburb. I guess maybe the important thing is to have a sense of community. I like that idea.
TR- What is your favorite label?
TR- Why do you consider Dischord one of your favorite labels, what’s your criteria?
I can’t really say I have a favorite, it’s more that I really admire Dischord for all the music they put out, their ideas, the things they support. I like that they work out of the house. I like that they support what’s going on locally in DC. I like that they are accessible.
TR- Don’t you feel the D.C. scene is so insular compared to other cities?
I feel like that question implies that DC is a box, like a freezer or something. No, I don’t think that a city can be “insular”…people are free to come and go, exchange ideas, how can it be insular? It’s not like if you aren’t from DC you can’t play there or go to a show. It’s funny because I wonder why people have that assumption…just because Dischord signs only DC bands? That’s silly…It just doesn’t make sense. Talk to me more about this…
TR- Many seem to consider Dischord the indie-leaders since they have managed to remain outside the mainstream yet musically successful, but it seems there are not too many indie labels that are yelling loud enough to get widespread recognition on the current issues. …Should we be looking to indie labels to be taking a stronger stand against, or for, Napster. Or even for political causes that influence musicians. Why do their voices seem so quiet?
I don’t think that you have to be politically active to have a smaller label. I mean it’s kind of inherent that if you are staying outside of the mainstream music world, then you are in essence making a statement already…but I don’t know if you have to take a stand for certain issues. I feel like it’s important to me. There are so many great labels that are doing great stuff stuff politically, socially, etc., and that’s really inspiring. I don’t know for me, I know I have to choose my battles, too…I don’t give a shit about Napster, really. There are so many other things that are meaningful to me that I should give my energy to.
TR- Why aren’t more indie bands actively involved in political discussions?
Same as above, I think.
TR- Why have politics become so “uncool”? Could this be a reason why so many fans out there download mp3 files without thinking twice?
I think it’s just the trend these days…the swing from a time when people felt like it was important to be politically and socially aware. It’s just hard for me to see and hear bands that are so careless about their words and actions, just acting stupid at the costs of others and then justifying it by saying “Oh, we’re just trying to be funny, and get a rise outta people”. I am talking about racism and sexism especially.
TR- Are indie bands even the underground anymore? And if not them, who is?
I think it used to be that if you weren’t playing mainstream music, if you weren’t on the radio or on a major label, then you had no choice but to be underground….Things are different now.
TR- How did you get into the music biz?
For Mike, he’s been in music for a long time…as a frontman for Skankin Pickle, and then with the label and The Chinkees…He’s always had a passion for it. For me, it was an accident!
TR- Generally what do you think about the prevalence of mp3s and the whole Napster Phenomenon?
Hmmm, I think it’s all blown out of proportion. Mp3’s and downloadable music is just another format…I am one of those old computer weary folks, I think, ’cause I just can’t seem to care all that much about it…
TR- Do you believe that the “record” is going to become obsolete in favor of structures like the subscription system that some labels are toying with, and how do you think this change in music delivery changes the way the public looks at bands.
Good question. I think it’s always been that way…people trying to find the new thing first and then forgetting the old. 78’s, 7inches, LP’s, 8-track, tapes, CD’s, MP3’s, beta, VHS, DVD… But I’ve tried not to be too concerned with that. I mean, Mike still makes vinyl here. I am always somewhere between thinking how sad it is that no one buys vinyl anymore and being super excited when I see one of our releases in that big beautiful 12″ format! I guess it comes back to the fact that we like the smaller, old fashioned (so funny to think of it like that…) ways of doing stuff. That’s where our hearts are.
TR- Do you believe the labels, both major and indie, had the responsibility to see this coming and should’ve prepared themselves better?
I guess the people who are crying over it now should’ve been more prepared…then I wouldn’t have to hear them bitching about how they are getting ripped off.
TR- What do you think is in the future for small labels in relation to Napster?
I just have to hope that there are still bands and listeners who have values like us. I think there are. We’ll just try to keep doing what we are doing for as long as we can.
TR- Do you believe there will ever be any regulation, any royalty paying system for downloaded mp3s?
Yes, if someone can find a way to make money off of it, they will…
TR- Do artists lose credibility the more music becomes easily stolen and/or easily downloaded?
I do think that people who download music should think about where that music comes from. I think that’s one of my biggest gripes about the whole issue of downloaded music. Like when you get an LP or even a CD, you go to the store and you look for it, or you send away your money and then wait for it to come in the mail, or someone gives it to you, or you collect it, and then you have a very solid, tangible thing. It’s been made by someone, a band, a CD manufacturer, a label, and you can feel all time and energy and all that. But when you download a song, you get a number, and usually you don’t even get the whole album. Sometimes, you only know the band’s name or the song’s name. You can download it, listen to it for 30 seconds and then send it to the trash. So there’s a kind of detachment from the recorded music itself…
TR- Does music have a significant cultural value that is a necessary element in the survival in a culture like in the US?
Of course, anyone who listens to music or who plays music knows it’s value. Or at least they should know.
TR- Do you believe in the theory that every band has to have a hit single in order to make it?
What’s a hit single?
TR- What issues would you like to see Tranjka discuss in future editions?
I am really interested in music communities and how they function.
TR- Do you mean local scenes where the bands help each other out or do you mean actual bunch o’ bands living in one building, recording studio in basement, trying to get something together?
Either, or acutally, both…I think that both those ideas are really important and interesting…
TR- Why is a music community important?
That’s like asking why is there music? Yeah, you could just sit in your room and play your heart out to just yourself, but really I think music is really about communication. If there was no community, who would hear your music, who would be at the show, who would hang flyers, who would hang out, who would give you support, who would you practice with…all those kind of questions…A community is a moment in time for a band, i think, does that make sense?