DJ Mike Relm introduces middle America to Turntablism while opening for the Blue Man Group.by Ben Westhoff
Mike Relm, a nerdy-looking Asian guy who wears a suit and tie while he spins, is introducing turntablism to legions of middle-American families. The San Franciscan opens for Blue Man Group's current production, The Rock Concert Instruction Manual, with a set that's heavy on classic rock. He also performs during one of the mute, cobalt-painted performers' numbers.
With an audience of up to 12,000 people at a time, it's the biggest gig of Relm's life. He's already a YouTube celebrity of sorts, known for his "video scratching," a process in which he uses a Pioneer DVD turntable to manipulate images from movies such as Zoolander and from Peanuts cartoons. (In one YouTube favorite called "'O' Face," Office Space character Drew appears to have an orgasm.) We caught up with Mike and asked him about the Blue lifestyle.
The Pitch: What is The Rock Concert Instruction Manual all about?
Relm: They're having fun with the whole rock-and-roll persona. They find an infomercial on how to be a megastar — sunglasses, suits, how to treat your fans, all the cliché rock things that go on. I perform on this song called "Your Attention," which brings out this character called Floppie the Banjo Clown.
How have audiences responded to your sets?
I don't think I've had a bad response yet. My set is different [from what I normally play] because the audience is different — a lot of kids, a lot of families. So I made a set that would appeal to them — a little more fun stuff, a little less college humor. I throw in Led Zeppelin, and the adults lose it. Every time I drop AC/DC's "Back in Black," they go bananas. I video-scratch a Peanuts video, with the regular theme song and a drumbeat I made, so you can dance to it. A lot of people don't know who I am. When I get introduced, I get the polite clap. But by the end, it's all good.
Were you worried about spinning before podunk crowds?
That was definitely a concern. You get to a college town to do a show, and they've seen a DJ. They get it. [But] I've had people come up to me here, and they totally get it. They say, "I never liked DJs before but I like what you do."
How have the Blue Men been?
Blue Man has really inspired me, just watching how they do things, how they approach the show, how they rehearse, how they prepare, how they create, how they play the instruments they create. They play pipes. It's like, who does that? But they make it cool.
Are you constantly reminded of David Cross on Arrested Development?
Oh, yeah. Dude, that is the funniest show that was ever on TV. My friends are like, "You've got to scratch that show," but I don't want to steal their thunder by showing a Blue Man before they come onstage.