On Friday, February 23rd, Computer Magic, also known as Danielle “Danz” Johnson, is releasing the follow-up to Davos, the semi-self-titled Danz, a much more experimental, synth-pop record. For those of you who have followed Danz’s career, tracks such as “Perfect Game” and “Ordinary Life” are tracks you have come to expect from this amazing songwriter, composer and producer. In this The Music Universe exclusive interview, Danz talks about the meaning of some of the tracks off Danz and where the inspiration comes from.
Danz was inspired by “futuristic, dystopian themes.” What inspired the dystopia, and do you feel a dystopian future is where we’re heading?
It’s interesting because with Computer Magic, I always kind of based some songs around dystopian worlds- films and books depicting the future always fascinated me growing up, although now it feels like we’re already living in a dystopian future sometimes, with the election, people’s obsession with social media, always staring at a screen.
Is Danz a direct continuation of your previous release Davos?
If Danz is a continuation, it’s Davos’ dark counterpart! They are very separate albums to me, different phases and points in my life. Danz is more experimental, Davos is more pop.
Danz is also described as semi-autobiographical. What tracks really speak to who the real Danz is and why?
I tend to write a lot of songs from other people’s perspectives. With this record I really wanted to write from my own. There are a few tracks that are personal to me. “Space and Time/Pale Blue Dot” is about a dream I had about leaving my body and drifting off in space, looking down and seeing the world and how tiny our place is in the universe. “Drift Away” is about my step-brother who passed away when I was young, something I never really dealt with and finally did musically. “Amnesia” is about losing your mind a little bit. I left New York City to live upstate, holed myself up in my studio and “Amnesia” was about that experience. I was also going through a little bit of an identity crisis, like… maybe I should change my name from Computer Magic, maybe I’m not good enough, etc. Then I had to just stop being so hard on myself. That’s what the lyrics in “Amnesia” are about, losing or forgetting your identity. “Perfect Game” is about getting lost in a VR game, “Ordinary Life (Message from an A.I. Girlfriend)” is basically a love song from a robot. So, there are personal ones and some fun, not so personal ones mixed in!
Why do you feel your music has really resonated with fans in Japan?
I always wondered this myself! I know Computer Magic sounds a bit like 80’s music in Japan like Yellow Magic Orchestra. I think I am pretty lucky. My first label over there, Tugboat, reached out to me and really supported Computer Magic when I first arrived on the scene. I don’t have a label in the USA (other than my own independent one), so I think all the label support really helped get the word out about Computer Magic in Japan, initially, and grew from there.
You’re more than a musician but a one-person machine. Can you describe what else you work on when you’re not recording music?
Oh man, yeah. I write the songs, record and produce them, mix them, master them, get the vinyls pressed, find distributors, make shirt designs, order shipping supplies, write jingles for ad companies, figure out touring and hotels, do the mailing list- and on top of that I have to do my taxes! I don’t really mind since this is my main job, although I should probably get a manager, so I can just focus on making music. So, if there are any managers reading this, I’m looking for one!
Do you think when you release the follow-up to Danz, will we still be heading towards dystopia or hopefully, a more utopian time?
I have no idea! I never plan what I write, it just comes out, if that makes sense. At the time I wrote DANZ, I wanted to do something different because I was tired of the same ol’… also, the songs reflected my state of mind, then. So, who knows what will come next, although I don’t think artists can grow if everything sounds the same. So, it will be a surprise I suppose!