Programmer Spotlight: Sean Willett

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Every week this summer, CJSW takes you behind the mic in the booth to spotlight one of our amazing programmers. This week’s spotlight programmer is Sean Willett, who guides you through The Lost World from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. Sean chatted about donairs, dinosaurs and dark music. Interview by Melanie Woods.

What program do you host and what does it focus on?

I host the Lost World, which is a program on Tuesday nights from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. and it is about a lot of different genres. But generally genres that fall within the post-rock galaxy of music. So think like post-rock, post-metal, drone, shoegaze. I might sometimes branch into other types of experimental long-form music, but in general most of the songs that I play are long, dark, moody and often without vocals. The sound’s sort of shifted throughout the months. The original incarnation of the show, which I hosted a couple of years ago, I played a lot more folk and punk. But since then my musical tastes have changed and my personal catalogue of music has expanded. So I focus more and more on the sort of niche genres, the things you don’t hear as often on any radio station. So that sort of longer form, more atmospheric sound.

There’s also a fun aspect to your show, right?

I do have a fun aspect to my show, since the music isn’t always described as fun. I have a weekly segment where I talk about palaeontology news. So I sort of style the show as this sort of guide to this forbidden world of weird and inaccessible music genres, and that I’m your host through this lost world. And a part of that is I also fill you in on the lost world of palaeontology. The lost world of the distant past. Usually this ends up being a spotlight on some groundbreaking research or a new discovery, whether that’s a new species or a new finding that makes us think of the past in a different light.

How do you choose what dinosaurs you focus on?

So i used to do a lot more dinosaurs. The first incarnation of the show was just pick a dinosaur species and focus on it week-to-week. But it turns out that a lot of dinosaur species get “samey” from week to week. So I ended up switching to just palaeontology news because I think that a cool aspect of it is having the show be a way to keep in touch with this very evolving and growing scientific field that most people probably don’t have an excuse to keep in touch with on a regular basis. So it’s this peek into this world of science that, despite studying things that are pretty unchanging, a very dynamic and exciting science. So I have my own networks, I have a degree in natural sciences and I studied a lot of palaeontology in my degree, so I have my own little news channels and such that I monitor every week to look for the most interesting news. Sometimes I pick something that’s very objectively very cool and bombastic, like they discovered a new giant crocodile that used to eat dinosaurs. But oftentimes I just like to focus on the smaller things. Like, oh they discovered the oldest living relative to vertebrates or they discovered that something they thought was an amphibian was actually a fish and I try to put these things into context and explain why they’re important. Because I think to most people these things seem sort of irrelevant, but I like to explain why in fact they are relevant and why they let us understand more about where we came from and maybe even where we’re going.

How do you curate what tunes you play?

For the music, it’s different from week to week. I have my own backlog of music that I like. But there’s always new stuff coming out every week. And I try to stay on top of that by reading blogs, searching around sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud and by, of course, staying up to date with the selections picked by Whitney and the other music reviewers here at CJSW. But for me, recently it’s been a lot of going through the history of genres like post-rock and post-metal, identifying very notable bands from the past, notable upcoming bands and keeping a list of bands that I keep tabs on to see if they’re producing more music and using those as a jumping off point to get to other bands and other sounds that would work for the show.

How long have you hosted the program?

The current incarnation of the show I’ve been hosting since February I believe. It’s definitely been evolving and being refined as I’ve went. I used to host this show a couple of years ago, I think that was back in 2014. although man, that wasn’t that long ago but I guess that I have a pretty bad memory. But I hosted for about a year before I had to stop and focus on some other stuff. But I came back to the station and wanted to host it again and instead of hosting an entirely new show I decided that I wanted to start right back up where I left off with The Lost Word.

What is your favourite thing about CJSW?

Well, probably the fact that they allow me to play 20-minute-long songs. I don’t think that a lot of radio stations would allow me to do that. But other than that, I’d have to say the people. I think the people are what makes me come back time and time again. They’re the thing that differentiates CJSW from any other sort of organization in Calgary and really makes it something unique and something that I find really accepting and very inspiring. CJSW makes me want to do better, it makes me want to make my show better and it makes me want to find better music to put out for fans of the show and fans of CJSW.

Last — and most important — what is your favourite sandwich?

I’ve thought about this, and I’d have to say it’s the donair. A beef donair, when I say donair I don’t mean that as a disambiguation, I mean a donair with sweet sauce, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, hummus, all that good stuff. My favourite place to go after a late night, not-quite-sober snack is always going to be a donair place and I just get a standard beef donair and tell them to load it up with everything. Shawarma King is my favourite donair place right now, but I’m open to having that change in the future as I make new discoveries and try new things.


Tune in to Sean’s show The Lost World, every Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM, and online at cjsw.com. 

The Lost World