To celebrate the Blue Man Group's encore performance April 22 at the DECC, I've decided to resurrect the feature I did for the group's last go-round in Duluth. Enjoy!
What does megastardom take? Well, for three New Yorkers, it started with an ample supply of black clothing, latex “bald” caps, blue grease paint and the ability to keep mum. (But just at work.)
Since its inception in the ’80s, Blue Man Group has grown into a worldwide institution, spawning shows in five countries and employing more than 50 of the blue guys — not to mention entertaining fans of all ages with a number of highly acclaimed albums, videos, rock tours, products (including children’s instruments) and television appearances.
Matthew Banks, a “second-wave” Blue Man, explains how it all works.
“The creators, the founders of the company, are always involved in the opening of a show,” he said, referring to the original trio of Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. “They still write material. They still direct. They just don’t perform regularly in the shows anymore.”
Banks, a mainstay at the group’s show at the Venetian in Las Vegas, is out on the road for How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0. When the Budgeteer caught up with him, he was in “sunny as all get-out” Columbus, Ga.
“We are forbidden to speak,” he said of the group’s in-costume rules of engagement. “The Blue Man says a lot without speaking. He’s very involved — very, very engaged — in what is happening around him.”
Throughout the phone conversation with Banks, he added a number of items to the “how to be a megastar” checklist above, including physical endurance and, well …
“I had to catch things in my mouth — that were thrown at me from about 15 feet away — for half an hour every day for six weeks,” he said of the extensive training sessions he had to endure in New York City before he could join the elite army of blue.
Banks also had to return to drumming, something he had “kind of let go” since his high school days.
“Within each piece, I would learn about the character and his drumming style. Because it’s not just like regular drumming; it’s a little more primal … beastly,” he said, laughing.
Banks was living in his native Toronto in ’98 when the Blue Man Group rolled into town seeking new members. He hadn’t heard of the group, but he knew he fit the bill, so he showed up.
“A friend of mine said, ‘They want a drummer, an actor and you have to be six feet tall, so you should go to that (audition),’” Banks said. “I was like, ‘Right on.’ I didn’t even know it was going to be a paying job or anything.”
After the training workshops in New York, he performed a year’s worth of dates before moving to Las Vegas, where Blue Man Group set up its flagship show at Luxor. (The group would eventually move to the Venetian in late 2005 after the resort, as Banks explains, “totally redid a huge section of its property and made it our theater.”)
Although he didn’t like it at first — “I kept on telling myself, Nothing should be here. This is a desert.” — after seven years, the city is finally starting to grow on him.
“I have a cat,” he said, laughing. “It’s a simple, peaceful life out in the suburbs.”
Banks also said he enjoys the fact that he can take off his makeup and not be recognized outside of work.
“The only hindrance is when I tell people I am a Blue Man,” he said, “and they don’t believe me.”
‘Your attention please’
How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0, which will bring Blue Man Group to the DECC March 28, is an extension of the group’s 2003 tour in support of its star-studded rock album, “The Complex.”
“There’s a lot more supporting material (in the new tour) that goes along with the theme of what it takes to put on a rock concert,” Banks said, “and what the ingredients are for becoming — and sustaining — megastardom.”
According to the tour’s Web site, www.howtobeamegastar.com, Banks and company will “celebrate, skewer and otherwise deconstruct rock stardom in all of its narcissistic glory” through a satirical workshop.
Opening up for the group — and joining them onstage for “Your Attention” — is DJ, turntablist and video scratcher Mike Relm.
The group hand-selected the artist after catching some of his live clips on YouTube.
Relm, who has done some remixes for Adult Swim and will appear at the Coachella festival next month, utilizes emerging DVDJ technology to spin, scratch and mix video clips alongside his records.
For more info about the show, check out www.blueman.com or www.mikerelm.com.
News to Use
The Blue Man Group will perform at 7:30 p.m. March 28 at the DECC. DJ, turntablist and video scratcher Mike Relm opens. Cost is $49.50 or $75. For tickets, call 727-2121 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
This article was originally published in the Duluth Budgeteer News on March 18, 2007. It can be found on the Budgeteer's Web site at www.duluthbudgeteer.com/articles/index.cfm?id=19781.