Yeah, you’ve seen him. He’s the one with the glasses and the mini afro working the turntables at bars and clubs all over the city. And, oh yeah, he’s also part of the highly successful local hip-hop outfit Rusty P’s. Although Jordan Lee’s professional moniker, DJ Madhatter, conjures up images of the crazed Lewis Carroll character, the name is more reflective of his eclectic choices of sounds he spins.
Ashley Tibbits: How would you describe your style to someone who has never seen you spin?
MADHATTER: I’m a hip-hop deejay by definition, but I’ve never done a set that’s 100% hip-hop. I’ll throw in some funk, soul, rock. I might play a Bjork or Beck song…it’s an eclectic mix but still has my thumbprint. I try not to play music that’s violent or misogynist—nothing my mom would scoff at!
AT: Speaking of your parents, they must have taught you something about music, since your sets often have 70’s funk or soul mixed in.
MADHATTER: Actually my father was in a soul group in the 70’s. Those are the most important records I have, my dad’s old 45s.
AT: Any local musicians or deejays you really admire and want to work with?
MADHATTER: I do work with — and love working with — The No Request crew (Kid Cut Up, Why B, John Swan, Steve Marxx). D-On, Evan Christian…Let’s just say I’ve already worked with a lot, but there’s an even longer list of people I want to work with.
AT: So what’s going on with the P’s right now?
MADHATTER: We’ve been recording constantly since Adam (Phantom Channel) had his baby. We’ll have a new record out by this summer. I don’t know how, but it’ll exist.
AT: And as far as your solo gigs right now?
MADHATTER: I spin at Jackalope Jounj every Wednesday night and some Thursdays at the Highbury, working with Recycled Future/The Tropics. We’ve got sax, drums, bass, and turntables. That’s been going on periodically, but we’ll be doing it regularly starting in April.
AT: So what do you want to see more or less of in terms of our city’s nightlife?
MADHATTER: Milwaukee needs more music venues on all levels. Our city’s general segregation is reflected in the current music venues. For example, a suburban kid who listens to hip-hop isn’t going to the North side to hear it! There have to be places that try to make everyone feel comfortable. There needs to be more normal, neutral ground. That’s what I try to do with my set. I’ll invite hip-hop musicians that probably wouldn’t be exposed to an audience like the one at Jackalope. It’s been a great platform for me to bring my sound to people who might not normally hear it.