“He set the standard”: Digital & Total Science remember Duncan Spirit Busto

Releases don’t get any more poignant or significant in the scene than Total Science, Digital & Spirit’s Salvation/Cookie Monster: The first two posthumous Spirit tracks to be released since Duncan Busto tragically passed away in August 2018.

Out today, it’s the third release on both acts’ CIA vs Phantom Audio collaborative label which they spoke about on this site when they launched it late 2016. Covering the deeper side of the four men’s sonic palette, Salvation in particular instantly stinks of Spirit’s aesthetic with its swooping technoesque pads and pneumatic steps while Cookie Monster reminds us of their funkier, footloose side.

Sadly, both tracks remind us that we lost one of the most singular, unfailing and uncompromising individuals in the genre. Sadder still is that Spirit was the first to release Marcus Intalex’s posthumous releases. We spoke to him about them at the time. Now we’re talking to Digital and Smithy Total Science about Spirit. This isn’t an easy read, it’s not meant to be.

Huge respect to Steve Digital, Smithy, Quiff and all of Duncan’s loved ones. Please support the music and take some time out to remember Spirit. His legacy lives on…

Let’s go back to these studio sessions…

Smithy: They were done at separate times. We just passed it round each other. Cookie Monster was me and Steve. Then he and Duncan started Salvation.

How long did it take before you could come back to these tunes?

Smithy: This was already in the bag so it was kinda easier to come back to. Sadly the last text quiff and I had off Duncan was about this release.

Digital: Same. I was touring, running around Australia and New Zealand trying to bury my head in the sand and pretend it wasn’t happening. I played in Sydney and dropped Interval as the last tune of the set. I didn’t play it as the last tune again. That was too much for me.

Smithy: That must have been an emotional moment.

Digital: I haven’t been able to play it since!

Smithy: So yeah, life got delayed for a bit. But it’s something we’ve got to try and process. That’s continuous, we’re still processing it now.

I spoke to both of you close to Duncan passing and the general feeling was anger. How do you feel now?

Digital: I’ve calmed down a lot. It’s just sad now. There are times I’ve thought about phone calls we used to have. Man U beating Tottenham the other day. I’d phone him and give him shit for that, but I can’t now. Things like that. Stuff he’d have an opinion on, and he can’t now. It’s just weird. I feel like part of me has gone. Seriously; I have never played a set without that man’s music heavily running through it. When I make a tune, the first person I’d ever send it to would be him. I still can’t believe it, so I probably haven’t addressed it. But I don’t know how to address this stuff, so maybe I have?

Smithy: The anger fades. I had the same thing with my mum and I was angry for a long time. Anger is a part of grief. It’s a stage of it. The anger’s gone but I still get upset about my mum now so it never changes. I seen this picture with Steve, Duncan and Quiff and I welled up. So I’m still processing.

Where can you both hear Duncan most in the tunes?

Digital: In Salvation, mostly. He fucking loved that tune. We were on a vibe and we knew it needed something else so gave it to Smithy and Quiff cos we knew they’d nail it. They were like ‘yeah we’re in it’ and did something special to the back end. Duncan loved rowdy tunes, but these ones were his favourite and he loved it even more when these guys finished it off.

That’s the type of tune Duncan would play after you’ve just bulldozed us when you were playing together…

Digital: Exactly that!

Smithy: Yeah I can totally hear that too…

How about Cookie Monster?

Smithy: The percussive element. Those switches in percussion and added layers. Same with Salvation when the amen comes in, that’s Duncan all over.

Didn’t you start calling him Arthur during these tunes?

Smithy: Ha! That was the first time when we wrote the three other tunes we first released together, the four of us. The same session those photos I mentioned were taken. That was a hilarious couple of days and we had a lot of enjoyment of making the music. That’s where Arthur came from. I think… On Logic there’s a recall button. I didn’t know it so I rang Daryl from Invaderz and he said it’s ‘r for recall’. So we were like ‘that’s it, you’re Arthur recall’

Digital: I think it was one of my favourite sessions ever. At some point me and Quiff were downstairs on my big speakers, just being twats basically. We’d go upstairs and see what Smithy and Duncan were doing and they’d done loads more than us.

Smithy: I got so many fond memories of that session.

Are there more unreleased wips with Duncan in the pipeline?

Digital: There’s one little thing between all of us, one between me and Dunc. Dunc never had spare tunes, see? He never made loads and loads, he’d make them in spurts and gradually put them out. But he was kinda at the end of a spurt. There’s something we’ve done with a Photek break that’s coming on Function’s 50th release. Then there’s one we’ve got together with Smithy and Duncan started which needs to surface at some point. But sadly there’s not as much as you’d think…

Ah man. Where has he left his mark on you? When can you hear his voice in the studio?

Digital: I’ll get back to you on that. I’ve been the least productive I’ve been since he passed to be honest…

Smithy: Likewise

Digital: I need to get my shit together. And that’s actually something I’d always say to him. He’d have these spurts and then stop for a bit and I’d be like ‘WTF is going on with you? These tunes are wicked man!’ So I need to sort my head out and read a page of my own book.

Smithy: Same here. Actually I was working on some pads the other day which reminded me of him. Kinda on a techno vibe. As I was listening to it and I thought of him and knew he’d be into that vibe.

Digital: He set standards for us all to look up to. That’ll always carry on….

Smithy: I’m glad we even got the time to write music together. Our friendship has gone back years and it took a long time for us all to write together. We could have missed those chances and I’d be devastated not to have spent time in the studio with him. I feel blessed that we got to write music with Dunc and will continue to write with you Steve…

Digital: Absolutely. Just love to Duncan and Marcus from us lot. Forever.

Total Science & Digital & Spirit – Salvation / Coookie Monster is out now