Locals Only: DJ Self Help

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Seven years ago, a 15-year-old kid from Cleveland Heights dived head-first into the world of turntablism.

"All my friends were into scratching," said Danny Johnson, who produces, remixes and spins records under the name DJ Self Help. Not to be left out of the loop, adolescent Johnson got a pair of turntables and spent the rest of his high school years mastering the 1 and 2.

In those days, he spent most of his time scratching records behind closed doors and learning tricks to impress his friends, but by the time he enrolled at Ohio University, Johnson was rocking house parties and deejaying the popular Dance or Die event at The Union, Athens' top rock 'n' roll bar.

Now that he's graduated from OU and relocated to Columbus, Johnson has a busier schedule of DJ gigs than ever. But his passion lately has been creating his own music as well as producing and remixing tracks by other acts.

"I do want to be known for that," Johnson said, "so that people say, 'Self Help is not just a DJ.'"

Johnson's full skill set comes together on Ritalin Bounce, a 32-minute mix that blends hits from the likes of MGMT, Beck and 50 Cent with Johnson's own music.

"It's kind of like a hybrid of my production style and the deejaying thing," Johnson said.

He'll release the mix next Thursday at Oldfield's on High as part of local musician James Allison's rock-centric Outer Sounds concert series.

Johnson's release party will also feature Cincinnati dance-rockers Eat Sugar and two of the more precious indie-pop bands in Columbus, Couch Forts and Our Cat Philip. The combination is not as bizarre as it seems; Johnson produced Our Cat Philip's album Apart of Someone, and the soft-spoken band has opened for his DJ sets before.

"They sort of set me up to blast you in the face a little bit," Johnson said.

He'll be deejaying at other Outer Sounds events this Saturday and April 30, following up indie-rock bands with what he hopes will be "a raging dance party."

The variety suits Johnson, who was blasting everything from German electropop to Motown soul during an interview at his Olde Towne East home and said he is fascinated by genre-jumping musicians like TV on the Radio.

Johnson also aspires to get into soundtrack work and perhaps even write some commercial jingles. His pal, Dayton-based DJ and producer Ruckus Roboticus, has licensed music to TV stations such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, so the connections are there.

"Ideally I would do every genre and do everything all at once, but it's kind of hard to do," Johnson said. "You've got to start somewhere."

DJ Self Help

When: 10 p.m. Thursday, April 9

Where: Oldfield's on High, Campus

Web: myspace.com/djselfhelp