MIKE RELM
Tag-team interview by Wayne Chinsang and Fphatty Lamar
Illustration by Fphatty Lamar

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PART SNOOP DOGG, PART RESERVOIR DOG, THE MAN BEHIND THE TURNTABLES AND IN FRONT OF THE MOVIE SCREEN IS NONE OTHER THAN BAY-AREA DJ MIKE RELM. MIXING SOUND WITH IMAGERY, RELM GIVES HIS AUDIENCES A LIVE EXPERIENCE THAT ENTERTAINS TWO SENSES AT ONCE. WAYNE CHINSANG AND FPHATTY LAMAR CAUGHT UP WITH HIM BEFORE A SHOW IN CHICAGO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BOTH THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF MIKE RELM.

Wayne Chinsang: So, there are categories of DJs, like hip-hop DJs and gangsta rap DJs. But youíre kind of all over the place. How do you describe yourself?

Mike Relm: Ah... (pauses) itís just really what I like. I grew up on hip-hop, so thatís where I found the turntables; all the scratching and the mixing, the beat juggling. But as I grew into different kinds of music I was like, "Wow! I can work this kind of style into what I do and apply the same kind of techniques that I learned from being a hip-hop DJ."

WC: Since you have such a wide range of material that you play, when you play for a crowd there is more than likely going to be something within your set that either someone is nostalgic for, or something they are currently listening to.

MR: Yeah.

WC: Does that make it hard for you to have enemies when you play? I mean, do you ever get booed when you perform?

MR: You know, I do this one thing. Have you guys ever seen Psycho?

WC: Yeah.

MR: I do this thing with the visuals from the shower scene. The first few times I did it, itís a pretty dark part of the set, and it was around Halloween when I did it, so I thought it was kind of cool and festive. But some girls got offended at that show. They were like, "Oh my God! Burn that!" They didnít know what it was, so I guess it just looked like a girl getting slashed. I guess they just hadnít seen Psycho or the shower scene, even though itís one of the most famous scenes in all of cinema history. But, you know....

All: (laugh)

MR: But I think thatís the only negative reaction Iíve gotten from anything, because everything else is... I donít want to say itís safe, but it appeals to pretty much everybody. I think I can pick certain parts of peopleís lives and bring that out, and they like that.

WC: Yeah, when I first heard Radio Fryer [Relmís latest album], my roommate and I were having a conversation about the disc, and I said that whatís great about the album is that I can tell that you and I are close to the same age. Itís the same stuff I grew up with: from [Dr.] Dre to Yaz--

MR: (laughs)

WC: --just all that stuff. Growing up, what were you influenced by? I mean, you grew up with hip-hop, but even before that, what were you listening to that led you down that path?

MR: My mom is a huge Beatle maniac, and my dad is really into Motown, so that had a lot to do with it. So when I started DJing I grabbed their records-- figuring out that one mixed with the other, and just learning certain breaks. But the style in the Bay Area was just about throwing anything in, and not even to be cute or whatever. It was just like, "Man, if this sounds good right here, throw it in." And before you know it, youíve made an hour mix and youíve just gone through a hundred songs. We are all about the quick mixing. Just pull a chorus or even a riff from one thing, and then just get out of it. The bigger your pile is at the end of the night, the better you were. Thatís how we were. So if you go through that many records youíre going to run out of hip-hop stuff to play, youíre gonna run out of rock stuff to play. So you have to go all over the place and pull from different genres. So I guess thatís the training I went through.

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