Up until my interview with him, I had only ever seen Mike in passing; a quiet and gruff man that I would watch calmly take his place behind the board through the window in the lobby of CiTR. His show, Flex Your Head, features his voice pretty minimally, with a large portion of the hour taken up by a myriad of punk and hardcore from across the globe and throughout time. So ultimately I wasn’t sure how well this conversation would go. But upon finding him sitting in the corner of the coffee shop where we had agreed to meet, I was greeted with a welcoming smile and an unsuspected openness.
Pretty early on, I learn that Mike is simply just shy. So much so that he almost happened upon his host responsibilities by chance, taking over from founder and long-time host, Eric Flexyourhead in 2004. He recalls corresponding with Eric regularly as a fan of the show. “I’d email him once in awhile asking ‘hey, can you play these songs?’” Mike recounts, “And then one day, he said ‘why don’t you come down to the show? Bring your music and we’ll play it from there.’” Flexyourhead would eventually ask Mike to take over the radio hour. “I was a really shy kid, I didn’t talk in public […] I don’t know if this a good idea,” he remembers saying, but with some encouragement Mike took the reigns.
Close to Mike’s heart is Vancouver’s all-ages scene, which has seen its fair share of hardship through the years, with venues being shut down overnight and often little return for organizers. But Mike has seen it better in the past few years, toting the existence of venues like 333 Clark, Alf House and Red Gate playing a key role in the recent boom. “Venues come and go, but it’s always good to have a couple of mainstays,” he concludes.
As we touch on live shows, we talk about the most recent Flex Your Head Fundraiser, which sported an incredibly diverse line-up, both in genre and representation — something that is unfortunately, not the norm in Vancouver’s live scene. In part, Mike thanks CiTR’s programming flexibility as part of the reason for the diversity, because he wanted his live show to reflect the variety of his radio playlists. Secondary to this, Mike just feels like diverse bills simply draw better crowds. “You can either put five bands [on the line-up] that all sound the same and bring the same 20 kids, or throw in other kinds of bands and have 100 kids come out to a show.”
Speaking on representational diversity directly, I mention Discorder’s recent feature on music festival line-ups and ask Mike for his opinion on the predominance of CIS-men-only bills in Vancouver. “Promoters get lazy,” he comments, “They don’t want to search for different acts, they just have their friends bands play without having to go outside their little circles. They just get narrow minded. ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, these are the rules.’ I’ve never liked that.”
Probably much to the dismay of his shy self, Mike is aware of his notoriety within the local hardcore and punk community, but takes the respect that is cast his way as more of a comment on his longevity within the scene. “I don’t want to say I’m respected at shows, but I think people know I’m the old guy that’s been around for a while,” he remarks. “When people are moshing, I never really get hit anymore. I don’t feel like I should have that respect, but I do like it because I don’t get hit anymore,” he adds with a knowing chuckle.
On a final thought, I ask Mike if there is anything he would like to say to Discorder readers. Confidently, he produced some sound advice: “Go support local bands. Your favourite band started out as a local band. Support the local scene so they can get bigger and tour. Go check out a band you may have never seen. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it.”
Or even start by listening to his show, where you’ll definitely find something you haven’t heard before. And who knows, maybe you’ll like that too.
Flex Your Head airs Tuesdays from 6-8pm on CiTR 101.9FM, or stream at citr.ca. Check out archived episodes at citr.ca/radio/flex-your-head, follow Flex Your Head on Facebook for updates, and visit the show’s official website at flexyourhead.net.