By Kelly Dearmore
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Mike Relm—a bespectacled Asian DJ who wears a suit and tie while he spins—is single-handedly introducing turntablism to parts of middle America. The San Franciscan is on his second stint traveling across the country 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 7,000 to 12,000 people at each show, 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 like Zoolander and "Peanuts" cartoons. (In one YouTube favorite called "'O' Face," Office Space character Drew appears to have an orgasm.)
What is "The Rock Concert Instruction Manual" all about?
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 [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.
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 the [performers'] thunder by showing a blue man before they come onstage.