Mike Relm, a bespectacled Asian DJ clad in a suit and tie, is single-handedly introducing turntablism to a wide swath of middle America on the San Franciscan's second cross-country stint with the Blue Man Group. He opens their current production, "The Rock Concert Instruction Manual," with a classic-rock-heavy set, and also performs during one of the mute cobalt performers' numbers.
With up to 12,000 people at each show, the tour is the biggest gig of Relm's life. He's already a celebrity of sorts on YouTube for his "video scratching," a process where he uses a Pioneer DVD turntable to manipulate images from movies like Zoolander and Peanuts cartoons. In one popular clip called "'O' Face," Office Space character Drew appears to have an orgasm.
The Press caught up with Relm via phone in Winnipeg, Canada, to get his thoughts on blue men, scratching (audio and video) and Arrested Development.
Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group performs Friday, October 5, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 713-758-7200.
HP: What is "The Rock Concert Instruction Manual" all about?
Mike 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 clichéd rock things that go on. I [perform] on this song called "Your Attention," which brings out this character called Floppie the Banjo Clown.
HP: How have audiences responded to your sets?
MR: I don't think I've had a bad response yet. My set is different [than 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.
HP: Were you worried about spinning before podunk crowds?
MR: 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." I think it's because when you go to the Blue Man Group, your mind is just that more open. If I was opening for a country artist, I don't think it would work the same way.
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HP: How have the blue men been?
MR: They're cool, everyone on the tour's been cool. So far it's definitely the gig of a lifetime. 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. Now, when I look at a bunch of pipes, I see an instrument.
HP: Are you constantly reminded of David Cross on Arrested Development?
MR: Oh yeah. Dude, that is the funniest show ever on TV. My friends are like, 'You've got to [scratch] that show,' but I don't want to steal the [performers'] thunder by showing a blue man before they come on stage.