CHARLESTON, IL–College-radio disc jockey Jordan Haley is convinced that "Rock Blossom," his show airing Thursdays from midnight to 2 a.m. on WEIU 88.9 FM, has a devoted cult following, the Eastern Illinois University senior told reporters Monday.
"I can't say how many people listen regularly, but I bet it's a lot for a college station," said Haley, 22, who has used the moniker DJ Hale Storm since he started hosting the show in December 2001. "When I hit the mic, I'd say at least a thousand people tune in on average. We've never done any kind of survey, so I don't have the exact figures. A thousand is a guesstimate. For all I know, it could be way more."
Haley said his fans are drawn to his eclectic music choices, which set him apart from other DJs at the low-wattage station.
"I'm always mixing it up," Haley said. "In my opinion, the other guys here cling to their niche too much. Like, Scott [Schefter] always plays a lot of psychobilly, and Tim [Arbus] plays a ton of emo. But with me, you never know what you're gonna get. I might play something like the new Sigur Rós, then turn around and play something off the new Oxes record. Or maybe even Lovecup's 'Hi Pazoo,' which is one of the best songs from the mid-'90s Champaign scene. I challenge my audience, and that's why people respond to my show. My success should prove to other radio stations that people don't want to be spoon-fed their music."
Though "Rock Blossom" is heard mainly by his girlfriend and a handful of friends who request songs while they get stoned, Haley said his show is distinctive because of his personality.
"I hate boring, robotic Top 40 DJs who never go off the script," Haley said. "Me, I like to mention concerts that are coming to town. Or sometimes, I'll tell people a personal anecdote about a song or just share what's going through my head. That's the kind of stuff you don't get listening to some corporate behemoth."
Another quality that sets Haley apart is his encyclopedic knowledge of underground music.
"A lot of DJs think that if they know Rocket From The Crypt or Burning Airlines, they're up on the alt-rock scene–whatever that is," Haley said. "I was the one who introduced Black Dice, The Mink Lungs, and The (International) Noise Conspiracy to the people of the Charleston metro area, so it's understandable why my show would be bigger than [fellow WEIU DJ] Eric [Poppel]'s."
Though over the last two years he has received only one phone call from a woman–a drunken sorority sister asking him to play a song from the Grease soundtrack–Haley said he has a large female following.
"I like to play a lot of female-friendly stuff, like Shannon Wright and Girls Against Boys," Haley said. "So that's definitely a part of it. I think what the ladies like most, though, is my voice. I've been told by a few women that I've got a good radio voice, sometimes by women who didn't even know I had a radio show."
Discussing his nonexistent fans, Haley said he believes they like the fact that he keeps his show lighthearted.
"Most of the other DJs around here take music so seriously," Haley said. "What they don't get is that music expresses the full range of human emotions, and that laughter is part of that range. That's why if I play something like June Panic or Songs:Ohia, I might lighten things up with a King Missile song or maybe even something by Hayseed Dixie, this funny bluegrass AC/DC cover band. It keeps things from getting too heavy. I'm sure my listeners appreciate that."
Eager to stay on top of the music scene, Haley attends as many shows a week as he can. Being a regular on the local concert scene also enables him to show his fans that he's "just a normal guy."
"If I don't go to shows, I lose touch with what people like," Haley said. "You can't just exist in an ivory tower, like a lot of DJs do. Plus, I like to tell people on the air which bands I'm going to be checking out that weekend. I want my listeners to know that I may be a DJ, but I'm a fan first."
As a graduating senior, Haley expressed sadness about the impending end of his show, abandoning what he imagines are hundreds of ardent listeners.
"I'm sure a lot of people returning next year will miss 'Rock Blossom,' but life must go on," Haley said. "I've never regretted doing a show, even though it meant missing some cool parties. In the end, it was worth it. My music was the soundtrack to a lot of people's college years, which makes me feel really good. And if nothing else, I've exposed the people of Charleston to the music of NoMeansNo. How many people can claim that?"