“PAR STORE”—The Siamese Cat, Shinichi Sugawara’s new destination in Taipei Closing in the ideal space created by the hands of Hom Shenhao (Monkey), the ex-member of TOUMING MAGAZINE

09 April 2019 | By Shinichi Sugawara

No one knows exactly when Shinichi Sugawara, the guitarist and songwriter of the Siamese Cats, became interested in East Asia’s indie-pop music. It might have been the heartwarming welcome that the audiences in Taiwan gave him which caused Sugawara, a strict listener, to become open enough that he could casually exchange communication with other fellow bands and musicians from the city. As Sugawara’s group becomes more successful with their activities, many new bands and artists from countries in East and Southeast Asia got into the mainstream in Japan. Many of these artists and bands eventually come to Japan for live performances. Likewise, just like the Siamese Cats, the number of Japanese bands that hold their own Asia Tour also increases year by year.

This time, Sugawara made a trip to visit the newly opened “PAR STORE”—a shop owned by Hom Shenhao (also known as Monkey), the ex-leader of the Taiwan band “TOUMING MAGAZINE” which rose to prominent even in Japan. As a member of the Siamese Cats, Sugawara also irregularly opens pop-up shops that handle the distribution of the group’s goods or works. In addition, after the Siamese Cats establish their own label, the “TETRA RECORDS,” Sugawara, while maintaining the freedom in his activities, become even more proactive. There are many common understandings shared between Sugawara and Hom Shenhao as they are both artists who put great emphasis on the “field.” However, despite sharing these common understandings, there’s no doubt that Sugawara was strongly inspired by Hom Shenhao, who established and manages his own store, and by the environment and atmosphere spanning across the country. This time, let us take a closer look at Sugawara’s trip to Taiwan through his own words and the precious pictures which Sugawara had taken by himself. (Shino Okamura)

Reported and Photographed by Shinichi Sugawara

It was the legendary band “TOUMING MAGAZINE” which took the indie music in Taiwan to fame while building the foundation, connecting both Japan and Taiwan. Ever since their beginning from 10 years ago, the band was one of the fastest groups to extend their stage to other countries in Asia. As time went by, the band was also able to hold many live performances in Japan.

After leaving the band, Hom Shenhao (also known as Money), who was once the frontman of the “TOUMING MAGAZINE,” set out to form “VOOID,” a new band, in addition to establishing his own record label—the “Petit Alp Records.” In addition to his vigorous activities, together with the designer Lo who’s also the lead manager of the “TOUMING MAGAZINE,” Hom also set out to open his ideal space which he had longed for.

The name of this newly opened space is “PAR STORE.”

For many indie artists in Taiwan, Monkey is like an “eminent hero.” Even for the Taiwanese friends who I usually hang out with, the man is like a big brother of all artists, undoubtedly a key person. Hearing that such a figure has established a place for every artist to gather, I just couldn’t stop myself from going on a trip to Taipei.

Only a minute away from the Zhongshan metro station, the “PAR STORE” lies at the most bustling area in Taipei. Following the large street where the Mitsukoshi department store locates, visitors will soon catch the sight of the cool neon sign welcoming people to the store.

The entrance to “PAR STORE”

A white wall filled with various posters welcomes visitors as they step through the door. I was most surprised at the visual for “精少壞一族” from the Taiwanese ZINE Artists. The poster of Hosono Haruomi’s performance in Taipei was also very impressive. The speakers hang on the ceilings filled the store with globe’s “FACES PLACES.” Taiwan, for many visitors, seems to carry a nostalgic atmosphere from Japan in addition to its exotic air. However, it seems that the unique flow of time in this store is somehow softly distorted. This entrance is, undoubtedly, the entrance to the world named “PAR STORE.”

Stepping down the staircase, I was surprised to see vast space which completely defied my imagination. As I enter it, my eyes immediately led me to the corner lying next to the space’s entrance. What I saw was a wall filled with CDs and cassette tapes from indie bands from Taiwan, including those of the Taiwanese city pop band “EVERFOR” who recently come to Japan for their performance.

A wall filled with carefully selected records and cassette tapes. There were also Tatsuro Yamashita and YMO’s records!

Taking a closer look at the corner, I could already find the clear vinyl records from “VOOID,” the new band which Monkey established. There were also albums from “DSPS,” who recently went on the live tour with Japan’s Homecomings. Of course, I couldn’t miss the album from “Super Napkin,” the very paramount of the Grunge Rock genre, which was released by the local record label “Airhead Records.” There were also various works from the indie punk band “午夜乒乓 Midnight Ping Pong,” works from the Taipei Music Festival’s veteran bands “厭世少年 Angry Youth,” “TOUMING MAGAZINE,” “湯湯水水,” the classical “盪在空中” from one of the “Shida Gongyuan’s Four Emperors” (師大公園四大天王)—the rock band “傷心欲絶,” the records of “落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster”—one of the bands which is quickly rising to prominent not only in Taiwan but also throughout Asia, and the tapes from “0.5mm” which was produced by “林以樂,” who’s also known as “SKIP SKIP BEN BEN,” Monkey’s sworn friend who still works on the very frontline of indie music even at this very moment.

Of course, there were many other works from artists outside of Taiwan. With a large “2019’s Must Listen” label written by Monkey stuck next to it, one couldn’t miss the analog record of the soundtracks used in the movie “Suspiria,” which was produced by Thom Yorke. There was the 7-inch record of the main song written by Faye Wong for the drama “Chungking Express,” which was labeled as “Heavenly” Monkey himself. And of course, there were also analog records of many other works such as that of the soundtracks used in “AKIRA”—Japan’s anime.

Monkey’s recommended corner. There were also works from Thom Yorke and Faye Wong!

At the store, many new and old CDs from Japanese bands and artists were on sale. Needless to say, the store had plenty of second-hand records of global hits from Tatsuro Yamashita, YMO, Niagara, and more. Other names such as Seiichi Yamamoto, Friction, Ai Aso, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Buzzcocks, Melvins also had their CDs line up together on neatly organized display cases. I was extremely excited as the store’s image was exactly the same as the image which I felt from “TOUMING MAGAZINE.”

Aside from CDs and records, “PAR STORE” is also filled with lineups of many goods such as tote bags, T-shirts, and apparel such as donkey jackets and caps. I still remember seeing the tote bags and hoodies from the skater brand “Belief” in NY being sold as new arrivals on my trip to the store. The store is also filled with official goods of “PAR STORE” and “Petit Alp Records.” I have to say every item being sold here are of the highest quality. It was fun trying on different apparel, carefully selected for different purposes. Some of the apparels being sold here even feature exceptionally high-quality screen printing.

It was also a great experience taking time to appreciate the apparels and goods being sold here

Speaking of apparels, there was also a series of lineups in the back of the store which looked like that of a rag shop. After asking, it seemed that the lineups belong to a pop-up corner which was designed to be used freely. It seemed that during my trip, the corner was used to display apparels which were being sold at one of Monkey’s acquaintances’ shop. At the time of my visit, the popular rag shop “A・PRANK:DERRY” was also opening a pop-up shop in Taiwan. The shop’s owner was a former member of Monkey’s band. It was a refreshing experience as the rag shop bore a different sense compared to those in Japan.

I was most surprised to find an “arcade game machine” which was set up just right below a neon sign with the words “Street Fighter” written on it. Everyone can play on the machine for free for as long as they want. I didn’t expect to be stricken by a nostalgic feeling which reminds me of my youth right at this very place. I was wondering if this store truly locates in Taiwan as it was the very place which I could strongly feel the atmosphere in my hometown even when it’s completely filled with exotic air.

Sugawara who became obsessed with playing his favorite nostalgic games in the store (Photo taken from 林以樂’s Instagram)

As I wander around the store, my heart skipped a beat as my eyes stopped on a certain bookshelf. The shelf was filled with the “Shonen Jump” magazines from 1995, Osamu Tezuka’s “Phoenix,” Fujiko F. Fujio’s short SF series, “Garo,” Yumeji Takehisa’s works, and even SMAP’s fan club magazines which were released in the 1990s (!). These books belong to Monkey’s notorious collection which he has been cherishing ever since he was young. Although the books are not for sale, the shelf is set up so that any visitors coming to the store can freely read them.

Visitors can visit the beer counter which was set up close to the store’s entrance to drink a delicious mug of beer after hours of shopping. Skimming over the manga “Boring Town” written by Lo (羅宜凡) who helped Monkey to establish and manage the store, I thought to myself: “Ah, how great it would have been if I can just live here.”

Even though it’s not for sale, Monkey’s secret stash consists of many Japanese manga and magazines

On the day of my visit, Monkey was packing up the equipment lying in the store to prepare for the live performance of “VOOID,” his band, which will be held at “THE WALL,” a location stationing at the Gongguan metro station. You didn’t read it wrong. “PAR STORE” is well-prepared with an environment for public addressing and equipment for live performances. Visitors coming to the store on weekends will have the chance to enjoy special in-store events which are held irregularly. The booking for the events is managed by the guitarist from “傷心欲絶,” King Kong. According to Monkey: “He (King Kong) is the one who knows best about all of the latest information in the musical world, such as who’s trending right now.”

Ever since the store is opened, including “Linion”—the Taiwanese beatmaker who finished his study in composing in the U.S., “海豚刑警”—a band famous for their use of explosive band sounds and neo-acoustic style melodies, and “林以樂”—famous for his use of many musical elements including those from Soul, Jazz, Ambient, Shoegazing, Noise, etc., many Taiwanese musicians have come to the store to hold their own live performances. Soon enough, we will even be able to see Japanese musicians performing on this very stage. I’m looking forward to enjoying one of such performances.

It’s not surprising that there are many record shops and bookstores in Taipei, a fact that many magazines which focus on the culture of other countries in Japan once mention in their special issues. However, I couldn’t stop myself from asking Monkey about his most respected shop. It was not surprising to hear Monkey mentioning “WAITING ROOM” as the first name he thought of. The reason is simple: “Because it’s really cool.” Run by ABLUE, a lovely person who always wear black glasses, and his team, this store is becoming one of the world’s cultural hubs. However, despite becoming even more popular, the shop continues to maintain its clear policy in addition to the DIY spirits and unique sense. It’s completely understandable why this unique shop is respected.

Sugawara who visited the shop “WAITING ROOM” recommended by Monkey

“荒花書店 Wild Flowers Bookstore” was the next name on Monkey’s list. This beautiful bookstore is decorated with artistic zines, screen printed artworks, and unique miscellaneous items collected from around the world. And the last name on Monkey’s list, the “朋丁 Pon Ding” which combined a bookstore, a café, and a gallery into one same roof is also a fabulous place. This particular store is the house to many high-quality photo books, making it the most ideal place for photography lovers to spend their time.

For a long time, Monkey had always hoped to build his ideal space in this area where his friends’ playgrounds, the “WAITING ROOM” and “荒花書店,” stations. However, he couldn’t find the right location. One day, as he was walking along the street, Monkey met one of the members of “RAMDON,” his friend’s band. To his luck, this member who Monkey reunited with was about to close his store. The member made an offer to Monkey, asking if he would like to take over the property. And that was how Monkey’s ideal space came to shape. Although he said that the store’s opening is just a “coincidence,” there’s no doubt that it was his strong ideal and longing which had drawn the great coincidence to everyone’s “eminent hero.”

Hom Shenhao (Monkey) and Shinichi Sugawara taking photos together in the “PAR STORE”

No. 1號, Lane 3, Chifeng Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Opening hours: from 14:00 to 22:00

■Shinichi Sugawara Instagram

■Siamese Cats’ Official Site Text By Shinichi Sugawara

Text By Shinichi Sugawara