Interviewed: Jordan Lee of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Image courtesy of the Rusty Ps

Interview by Erin Wolf

The Morning Drive (Monday-Friday, 5 a.m. – 9 a.m.) on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee is quintessential to many ears, providing sonic synapse fire-ers, getting the city ready for more than just another day at work, but another day spent driving, working and everything else in between. Jordan Lee, known for his turntable skills outside of the operating board as DJ Madhatter, has recently begun to broaden his repertoire with his deejay time spent at 91.7 FM, WMSE and most-recently, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. Lee unveils his new drive-time slot on Radio Milwaukee today, and cues Milwaukee up for what’s around the sonic bend for the early birds.

You’ve been involved in the Milwaukee music scene since a very young age — did you ever see yourself being a radio deejay?

I honestly did not ever intend to get into a career in radio. Partially fueled by the bitter taste that mainstream radio leaves in my mouth, and partially because (before Radio Milwaukee and outside of WMSE) there was never a radio station that played music I could stand. My love of music is deep, and most ‘pop’ music is not designed to inspire you emotionally or artistically. I was turned off of mainstream radio at a very young age. So, did I ever think I’d work in radio? No. But once Radio Milwaukee came on the air, I definitely found myself saying, “I could do this”, to my wife from time to time.


What’s the most challenging part of the transition from club/show DJ (Rusty Ps etc.) to an on-air radio deejay?

My connection with the audience. I grew up on the stage. From the theatre, to band and orchestra, I’ve always loved the nervous excitement of being in front of large groups of people. Even more than that, I love the connection you can make with an audience. When you get in sync with them, the universe feels so small and present. That feeling is different on the air. I remember when I did my first broadcast over at WMSE and I said to Kid Cut Up, “What if no one is listening?” You have to place trust in yourself and trust in the listener. You have to one hundred percent, even though you are “performing” for yourself and the mic. But once you get that one call or email, it really reconnects you with the audience (call or email us…we like it!).

How did you come to be involved with 88Nine? What has developed since your recent start there?

I was first connected to the station through mutual friendships. I was already homies with Marcus, Peter Adams, and Element when the station launched. I was then brought in for interviews as DJ Madhatter with both the Rusty Ps and my beat battle The Miltown Beat Down. I deejayed at a few of the station’s parties at MOCT and I was also the first DJ in the Stone Creek Coffee Summer Blend DJ series. Throughout those events, I was able to become friends with Scott, Tarik, Sam and Theresa and strengthen my relationship with the late, great Rock Dee (R.I.P.). I was quite humbled by the initial opportunity to interview with the station. Once that process was over, I felt really close to this family, here. I’ve only been here since October, but I feel really connected to everyone!

What’s the most important thing you want to across to your audience when you’re behind the mic?

That I’m just like them. I have kids, I go to Brewers games, I shop at Outpost, I’m concerned about local politics, I love my family — I’m just like you. In my experiences with music, I’ve found that there can be a disconnect sometime between artists and listeners. I don’t want to be some ‘celebrity’ or mysterious DJ Brand Name X. I want the listeners to be friends with me. Call me. Tell me what you think of the last song, or tell me what you think of the latest referendum on your ballot. Whatever it is, I just want to be a good neighbor and a good listener.

You’ve been quoted as saying, “[music] is man’s greatest equalizer”. When did you realize this?

Every time I’m in front of an audience and I see that they are completely immersed in the sound, and that experience takes us both to a higher level. I remember on a trip to Spain, I went to a concert on the beach. It was part of Barcelona’s version of Carnival. There must have been 10,000 people in this outdoor amphitheater, and I was so connected, even though I didn’t understand ninety percent of what was being said. Every culture in the history of mankind has had music. It’s a gift from the universe that we’ve been sharing with each other for as long as we’ve been able to stand upright. It affects our energy and our spirit in such a profound way that I can’t imagine a world without it.

What do you hope for in the future of Milwaukee radio?

I hope that Milwaukee continues to take ownership of the airwaves. Public radio and listener-supported radio are the solutions to the problems that turned me off to radio as a kid. If we continue to co-op our arts and entertainment, we can feel confident that it will reflect what we want. With a listener-supported format, you have this win-win scenario. The listener gets to be involved in the radio station and the station gets to accurately reflect what its listeners are feeling. I also hope that the Milwaukee music scene continues to be involved in Milwaukee radio. We have so much awesome music out here and once the world gets a chance to hear it, they’re going to love it. There’s been a cross-collaboration and camaraderie among the musicians in this city, regardless of style or genre. I hope that the Radio Milwaukee format continues to lead an example for the city. We can become some much greater as a whole, than we ever can as individuals. “One nation under a groove,” — George Clinton.

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4 Responses to “Interviewed: Jordan Lee of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee”

  1. buddha Says:

    Hey Jordan, congrats on the new gig; BIG SHOES TO FILL, but you are off to a good start.
    -buddha

  2. are-gee Says:

    World Party at 6:40 a.m.? All right! Welcome, Jordan. Looking forward to listening. Best wishes!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Congratulations JORDAN!!! Whoya! Now, that’s what I like to hear! I think you can do it.

    But not everyone knows how to even start. That’s where Radio Connection can help. http://www.radioconnection.com Placing people in the radio station doing what they always dreamed of with mentor you get the job down in 6 months ready to send out resumes. The whole while making great connections. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugZwSf46eVc

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Jordan,

    Thanks for driving to work with me…
    I get up!

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