Locals: Columbus DJ Scratch Johnson’s “Got Talent”

By Paul Meara
From the May 30, 2013 edition

In the funky and eclectic basement of DJ Drastic (now named Scratch Johnson), you can only help but gaze at the extensive record collection stashed in various parts of the large room. Roughly 50,000 vinyl records fill large crates of everything from Golden Era hip-hop to alternative rock.

Upon entry, turntables almost trip an unknowing guest as a room of nostalgia and phenomenal sound take you to any time period of your choosing.

Behind the tables, Johnson spends long periods of time deejaying his online radio show. And while Johnson’s been behind the 1s and 2s and been involved in Columbus’ music scene — from mastering tracks, producing and, yes, adding scratches — for nearly a quarter century, deejaying wasn’t his first love.

“I was an audiophile first and didn’t even know what that was,” Johnson said. “I was the kind who would break open an old stereo and hook up something to it just to see what it would do.”

Recently, the television show “America’s Got Talent” showed interested in Scratch.

“Someone I look up to told me ‘America’s Got Talent’ is going to be in town, and you should try out,” Johnson said. “I’m thinking like, ‘whatever,’ but the fact that she said I should do it, that’s the only reason I did it.”

During the first audition of his life, Scratch submitted a one-minute tape of him deejaying, primarily scratching. The committee loved it and sent him through to the next round where he awaits the next level of competition.

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Johnson grew up in the Short North area, long before it became what it is today. He got his first major break as the in-house DJ for Grooveshack’s “Open Mic Night,” an event that spawned some of the city’s best urban musicians.

“I would be the DJ that would spin all the instrumentals for the local emcees and singers and poets — whoever came through,” he said.

There, he met two individuals who would change his life forever, taking him around the world and even further into Columbus’ local hip-hop scene.

“There’d be these two kids who are around my same age come in and were just incredible, even for their ages, and that ended up being Copywrite and Camu [Tao],” Scratch said. “Ever since then we’ve been tight.”

Deejaying for Columbus’ legendary group, MHz, Scratch got a firsthand look at how the music business works and also how a group functions.

Today, Scratch deejays numerous local and national events. Behind the scenes, he continues to produce and add finishing touches to records.

“I like to think of myself as that guy that will add flavor to it. … I like to add an extra chamber to your album,” he said.