DJ Sean Watson Traded Guitars for More Sound, and He Didn't Lose His Edge

Jacob Tyler Dunn
Sean DJing during BFF at Bar Smith.
In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.

DJ Sean Watson
 is a passionate artist. He is one of those guys who always has his hands in something special. He has a contagious laugh and energy surrounds him, and he is, without a doubt, one of downtown Phoenix's premier house/instant dance-party DJs.

Watson was born in Oakland, California. However, his family made the move to Phoenix when he was only six months old, so he considers himself a Phoenician through and through. He even jokes about how he is from Phoenix, but can still play the Cali card too. And he is one of seven in his family, so hanging in large groups has been his forte his entire life.

Watson started as a punk rocker back in the day. He played guitar in a punk band called Extremes of Violet, and he used to not like keyboards. Then, after spending some time at raves in LA, and attending several festivals as a spectator, he fell in love with the sound. For his debut, downtown trivia host DJ Bruce Heimbuck invited him to spin some vinyl at an old Chinese restaurant he was working at. All of sudden, he was interviewed by 944 Magazine and was running a weekly on Sunday. From that point forward, his DJ career took off and the rest is history.

Watson is also a veteran in the broader Phoenix scene. He has been running his annual Costume Ball and helping with the New Year's Eve Block Party events since the inception of Crescent Ballroom, back when they weren't exactly the mega parties they are today. He was also part of the now-defunct weekly dance parties  known as Cheap Thrills, Kismet, and Adult Swim. Currently, Watson does some work with the crew at Walter Productions, and runs his baby BFF at Bar Smith. He is also a regular on the Phoenix EDM festival circuit. And that is all a testament to Watson's dedication and hard work to making downtown Phoenix a fun place to be.

Today we drop Watson's new "Spring Mix," and he is following it up with a performance this Saturday as part of Underground Circus at Monarch Theater. The event will feature some amazing talent, and the proceeds will go to their Pitch-A-Tent Fundraising Campaign. With all the hype flying around, New Times was able to catch up with DJ Sean Watson via phone and email to discuss his gear, his love for sound, his transition to DJ, and his upcoming show.

Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?

Sean Watson: My weapon of choice would definitely be my vast love and knowledge of music. Starting from a three-piece band to now producing more electronic is a voyage that envelopes song writing, a good ear for the sounds that give me the feels.

Sean performing at Gold Rush 2017. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Sean performing at Gold Rush 2017.
Benjamin Leatherman

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?

At this moment in time, [and] it changes frequently, it would be the Pioneer DJS-1000. It's been a perfect doorway for me to give much more of a live performance. And who doesn't want tuned bongos over any track at any time? It’s a game changer.

Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?

1972 Twin Reverb Amp that sounds like the ocean!

I try and keep up with the samplers and decks, but the truth is behind the music you are putting out, no matter what the sources may be.

Just listened to your "Spring Mix." We are proud to be dropping this to the world with you today. Super fun mix. We loved how it was nice and thumpy while leaving room for the beauty as well. What was your inspiration and end game idea with this release?

That's definitely the vibe I’ve been working on, heavy bass and song rhythm with the beauty behind it! My inpirations have been the likes of Stephen Bozdin, Shaded and those artists who defy boundaries of turning the soundwaves into full blown and beautifully written songs.

To preface this next question, we would like to quote James Murphy saying, “I hear your band traded in your guitars for turntables.” In essence, this has kind of been your life. Talk about your life and how you made the transition from straight punk rocker to a well-rounded DJ?

Easy actually. [Through] the love of music and rhythm and sound and escape I’ve found in all genres and in cassette, CD or mp3 format. Both Punk Rock or a Proggy tech jam will get me into an emotional uproar!

click to enlarge Crescent Ballroom Block Party. - CHRIS PATRICK
Crescent Ballroom Block Party.
Chris Patrick

You are performing as part of The Underground Circus this Saturday, May 12 at Monarch Theater. Any words you wish to share with fans about your upcoming performance?

Just a bunch of funky new jams, a couple of unrealized treasures from some of my talented homies, and a refined remix of my new track coming out on RE:SOUND records this summer. Looking forward to it!