The Chinkees’ Mike Park & Steve Choi discuss 10 songs that influenced their comeback EP
Last week, ska-punk vets The Chinkees returned with their first new music in 18 years, the K.A. Music EP, and it's a great comeback that sounds as fresh as The Chinkees did in their prime, while also incorporating some of the sounds that singer Mike Park (also of Bruce Lee Band, Skankin' Pickle, etc) and guitarist/keyboardist Steve Choi (also of RX Bandits) developed in the years since. For this EP -- which is out now on Mike's Asian Man Records -- Mike and Steve were joined by newer members Roger Camero (of No Motiv and who's also in Peace'd Out with Steve Choi) and Kevin Higuchi (of Jeff Rosenstock's band), and Roger co-produced the EP with Steve. The Chinkees, who have spent their whole career battling racism, released the EP on the day a lot of bands were donating Bandcamp proceeds to racial justice organizations, and Mike says, "[money] from Bandcamp (not just today) 'til the end of time will be donated to various charities."
We asked Mike Park and Steve Choi about some of the music that influenced this great comeback EP, and they each picked five songs and told us a bit about each one. Stream the new EP and scroll down to see what they had to say...
Operation Ivy - "Unity"
I don't think there's a bad Operation Ivy song to be honest. Even their B Side bootlegs that sound like they were recorded off a boom box. But I chose "Unity" because of the lyrical content, the anthemic chorus, and the blistering Jesse Michaels verses that I've been trying to copy since the late '80s.
The Clash - "Pressure Drop"
I realize this is a Toots song, but when I first heard this off Super Black Market Clash I was just a young punk kid. And hearing this SKA version really got my senses going and the body moving. The raspy Strummer Vocals singing the first line "If it's you you you" just punches me in the gut in a good way.
The Specials - "Ghost Town"
What a great song. I wish I wrote this song. It's so spooky and hauntingly beautiful. The reggae groove is sick! The dissonant harmonies and that trombone solo has the hairs on my arm sticking straight up. So relevant today.
Los Crudos - "Somos Peligrosos"
This is the only style of hardcore I really enjoy. Just relentlessly political, in your face, screaming with everything you've got style hardcore. When I hear Los Crudos, I feel their message and even though it's in Spanish, I think it brings another level of awareness by translating and then reading through the words.
The Police - "Driven To Tears"
The Police have such a cool groove. Their drummer Stewart Copeland just plays with such style and ease, but putting forth a sound that no other drummer has. Add in the genius of Andy Summer and Sting and you have one of the best 3-piece bands to ever exist. The political overtones are heard throughout. I've always been a fan of bigger bands singing about more than "I MET HER AT THE MALL" type lyrics.
Bad Brains - "Sailin' On"
When I was a teenager discovering punk I never even imagined a band like Bad Brains could exist. When I heard their brand of hyperactive punk I was already amazed but to get into the albums and hear them playing straight up uncut dub-reggae absolutely blew my mind. Bad Brains forever galvanized the idea that I could play whichever genres in whichever combinations I want to. This song still makes me want to circle pit in my living room... the old school kind where you nod your head really fast and do almost a circular skank with extra elbows while throwing in a few fist thrusts here and there. When I was a kid that solo Dr. Know plays in this song really impressed me and I thought to myself that if I was ever able to play guitar like that I'd have mastered the instrument. Just one of my favorite punk songs by them.
The Suicide Machines - "No Face"
Although there were a lot of ska bands I appreciated, it was never my main thing but this is one of the songs that I really liked. This song actually made it to modern rock radio when I was in high school and it had so much vibe and flavor it was hard to resist. Derek Grant played this style of drums so well, not only staying right on top of the beat to create a solid groove for a faster tune, but his fills are just tasty af. Super catchy chorus, super catchy organ lead, and they even managed to sell me on a vocal scream in a mostly major key tune. So well executed.
The Rentals - "Please Let That Be You"
It's always huge when a band can lock down and champion a whole sub-genre in one album and Matt Sharp with the Haden sisters did it with Synth Power Pop. I was so eager to see what he'd do after Pinkerton and I was pretty excited about The Rentals. This tune is just great and catchy in its sincerity. This song and the album as a whole really informed how I incorporated synths into all of my music especially these synth parts for The Chinkees EP. I love this whole record.
Elvis Costello - "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea"
I'm a sucker for minor key pop tunes. Although this is a well known song I'm not sure it's appreciated for how ahead of its own time it is. The groove is sick, and the floating Farfisa organ line is NICE. You have that frenetic guitar lead but since it's repetitive your ear combines it with the organ to create an awesome texture. Even before I saw any live performances of this song you can feel how hard the drummer is hitting and in that halftime groove it's only one step away from being a Fugazi song. If you can't move to this song I'd get your soul checked.
The Clash - "Rudie Can't Fail"
I feel like you could write a whole essay on this song alone but I'll keep my aim towards those that are familiar with the MASSIVE range of The Clash. They always amazed me at how many genres they moved in and out of and combined when they wanted to. It certainly influenced my approach to RX songs and this Chinkees EP. I had so much fun writing the songs for The Chinkees EP because I didn't feel confined to any sort of genre rules of ska or ska punk. This song is prog to the max but it's prog without the ugly scales and lack of melodic sense (sorry). The way this song combines rock, reggae, disco, punk, ska, and even marching band makes it hard to describe if you actually tried. Aside from all of that it still retains this complete feeling of authenticity and it makes you want to dance. The verse is catchy, the chorus is catchy, the horn lines are catchy... The Clash were just a ridiculously amazing group of musicians.
Watch The Chinkees perform at the Asian Man Records 15th anniversary party in San Francisco: