Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Mike Relm is a YouTube influencer who is rapidly changing the way people look at music and video. Being a pioneer of mixing video on screens in front of packed crowds got him touring with The Blue Man Group and Tony Hawk among others. Then he was asked to remix movie trailers and he's been altering the way we look at the potential of music, video, and sound ever since. He just directed The Jabbawockeez first music video entitled "Devastating Stereo", with music by The Bangerz (its amazing but please read this through before you watch it!). In this interview we talk about technology Hip-Hop and branding

How did you get started as a DJ and how did that evolve into all the film and touring you do now?

The second I heard two songs mixed together, I was hooked. It was just so crazy to me that you can do that with music. So I decided to spend my high school years doing nothing but scratching and mixing. The whole film thing was always there because I'd use samples of movie quotes to help spice up my mixes. I also did a lot of mixes for cheerleader squads and dance crews, both of whom always liked when I gave them a cool movie intros. I always thought it would be cool to do those mixes with the actual film samples playing on a big screen, but back then everything was analog so scratching video was just science fiction to me. Cut to the not-so-distant future when my entire show is multi-media.

Many people remember you from doing video mixing live at the Blue Man Group shows. How did that come together?

Blue Man Group really came out of nowhere, I had just gotten off tour with Del The Funky Homosapien when we got the call. They had seen some YouTube videos of me and thought I'd be a good match for their "How to be a Megastar 2.0" tour. They were right, and that experience changed my life completely.

What's your favorite memory touring with them?

We were touring together for about 2 years so it's really hard to pick just one. I like to look back and think of just how lucky I was to have that as my first arena tour. They chose me based on my talents, not because we're on the same record label. Everyone got along so well, I never really felt like "the new guy" even though most everyone had known each other for years. That's the thing about touring that a lot of people don't think about - you get a new family every few months. You're around the same people all day and night, and I'm so fortunate that throughout my career I've been able to surround myself with people I get along really well with.

How much preparation does it take to spin for audiences as diverse as Blue Man, Tony Hawk or say a pure Hip-Hop show?

It really varies. For Blue Man, I sort of over-prepared since it was such a different audience than what I was used to. But that was a good thing because as the tour went on I was able to make adjustments very quickly because I had all this material ready to go. Blue Man Group's audience is also so diverse themselves that they liked a lot of the stuff I use at Hip Hop shows and indie rock festivals. Tony Hawk's tour was the same way, except I got to use more punk songs which I was never able to do (and still haven't had a chance to). In general I usually spend a week or two preparing for a tour or a unique show. I'm all over the place musically anyway, so even when I do a Hip Hop show I'm not even playing 50% Hip Hop.

Your video mixes were turning heads long before ?uestlove from The Roots started doing it on Jimmy Fallon. How did you get into that?

Once I saw the technology for scratching and mixing video, I went for that and literally have not looked back in terms of DJing. I believe it was 2004 when I was in Japan that I came across it for the first time. A few guys were using it at clubs to play music videos with, but I saw it as a tool for live shows and video production.

Your trailer remixes for The Spirit and Iron Man brought you a ton of online recognition. I know you've been also doing some cool things with YouTube. Tell me about what you've been doing with them?

It actually hadn't occurred to me that people would like to see movie trailers remixed until Lionsgate asked me to do the Spirit/Transporter/Punisher one. I'm so glad they did, because I've since created a channel on YouTube dedicated to remixes of all sorts.

What are your thoughts on how brands use or misuse Hip-Hop elements in their campaigns. While the music industry may be technically suffering it seems more and more brands are using Hip-Hop to sell their position to the youth. What's being done right and wrong in your opinion?

The music industry has changed so drastically, a lot of it has to do with technology. And I'm not talking about pirating, because it's debatable whether or not that helps or hurts the industry as a whole. If I'm not mistaken, when Napster was at its peak bands were selling insane amounts of CD's. Now that file sharing is getting clamped down on more than ever, bands are selling insanely low amounts of records. Now the marketspace is so cluttered that it's hard for some people to GIVE away music. As far as Hip Hop goes, I think it's great that brands are using it. Yeah, it stings a little when you see it misused, but at the same time I find myself appreciating the good stuff way more when I see something bad. I'm a believer in the idea that every artform has an audience, it's just a matter of getting yours in front of the people who would like it.

You recently relocated from The Bay, to LA. How do you like that?

It's been a couple months and it's been great. I've lived in the Bay Area all my life, but I've also traveled a lot so there was almost no adjustment period. There's a cool energy out here, definitely more emphasis on entertainment.

What's the latest stuff you've been working on and when can we see it?

I just directed a video for the Jabbawockeez, which I'm really excited about. It's called "Devastating Stereo", produced by The Bangerz, who I've been friends with for years. It was great to collaborate with everyone especially since we all got to bring our different strengths to the project.

Any last words?

Follow me: