Otherworldly Relm 

Bay Area scratch DJ bringing audio-visual mix-mash to Whistler

Who: Mike Relm

Where: Tommy Africa’s

When: Friday, Sept. 16

Tickets: $10

I took piano lessons for nine years starting when I was seven and every year my teacher would enter me in the local music festival.

I’d practice up and memorize a bunch of pieces and throw down in four or five different competition categories for panels of visiting adjudicators, who would then rate all the performances and award the top kid a certificate with a gold decal.

I usually did pretty decent. I wasn’t exactly tone-deaf chopped liver. But every year without fail, there would be these scrawny, well-dressed Asian kids that would come up there and blow everyone away with their supernatural piano skills, far above and beyond any other kid in the category.

While you were kind of pissed that they made you look like such a rookie, at the same time you couldn’t be mad at them because they were so amazingly talented. They took the piano to a place you knew you could never go, no matter how early you got up to practice your Bach preludes. It is always uplifting to witness true musical talent, even if it makes you look like a rusty tool.

This Friday night at Tommy Africa’s will be somewhat like my music festival days. Bay Area DJ Mike Relm is a scrawny Asian guy who is set to blow everyone away with his supernatural turntable skills. Like those festival prodigies he’ll even be well-dressed – known to favour the anachronistic dark suit, white shirt and black tie made iconic by Quentin Tarantino film assassins.

Relm made his name as a scratch artist to be reckoned with in the San Francisco DJ battle scene in the mid-1990s and has since established himself as a compelling, eclectic and innovative presence behind the turntables. His prowess and unique vision have earned him admirers ranging from DJ Shadow, with whom Relm appears in the 2001 DJ documentary film Scratch , to Mixmaster Mike, Money Mark, Ron Jeremy and more.

Masterfully cracking together genres with abandon, his recently released "Radio Fryer" is a schizoid mash up of beat-driven punk, pop, classic rock, metal, hip-hop, new wave, John Cusack dialogue and snippets of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Nothing’s sacred. If it’s out there, he’ll mix it, refusing even to stop at revered songs like John Lennon’s Imagine or S&G’s The Sounds Of Silence, which float over pensive downbeats at the touch of Relm’s hand to ethereal, rather than sacrilegious, effect.

These days that hand is also mixing for another of the senses. Relm has taken to garnishing his sets and his recorded material with accompanying DVD visuals, cut together in the same masterful mindset.

His work is mostly fun loving, yet a new video installation on his website shows a heartfelt mix of Hurricane Katrina video footage, as a striking prelude to a request for donations to a grassroots charity organization. Relm seems to have a desire to mix the world – the good and the bad. It’s supernatural. A place that many DJs will never be able to go, no matter how much they practice.

Mike Relm spins at Tommy Africa’s on Friday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $10, available in advance at the Electric Daisy Internet Café and at the door.

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