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Mike Relm is a pioneer working in the medium of video turntablism. Mashing up snippets of video and music in a live setting and incorporating the scratching and other DJ tricks of traditional turntablism, Relm is helping to create a vibrant new art form. Since adding the video element to his manipulations on New Year's Eve 2004, Relm has toured with the Blue Man Group, released a DVD and is now providing an audio-visual accompaniment to Tony Hawk's Boom Boom HuckJam tour. We spoke with him recently about his work and inspiration.
Westword: What inspired you to add video to what you were doing as a DJ?
Mike Relm: I guess I was just getting bored of just having it be me on stage. I would do shows with full acts, like bands and hip-hop groups with backup vocalists and everything, and I'm like, "Huh, it's just me on stage. I gotta do something." That was something I could do. I was always interested in film. The medium, the tool that was being used, happened to be a turntable, so lucky me. They could have picked anything. They could have picked a drum or a keyboard or a guitar for video control, and I would have been kind of out of luck.
What kind of material do you draw on to create your show?
Most of the material I use is recognizable. I like to use familiar things. It's kind of more fun that way, just kind of messing with people's perceptions of these clips. There are a couple of clips that I think people don't know, but in those cases, it's not the clip itself that's the point of the piece. It's a cool visual, or it's meant to be something that you don't know.
Some of your work incorporates political themes, such as your Katrina video. How big a part of your work is that?
I'm definitely not a political artist. I'm definitely not the Rage Against the Machine of video-turntablism or anything. I don't like it when people try to push their ideas on me, unless it's a good idea. You watch like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report for a lot of different reasons. I think most people watch them because they're funny, but the thing is, you kind of need to be up on things in order to get the joke or it's going to go right over your head. I kind of approach my messages in the same way. I present it very lightheartedly, because a) that's how my show is, and b) I can't just say, "All right, stop the music, I got something to say right now: This war is not cool." I'm just not going to do that.