RIP Duncan Michael Wilson (AKA Despo/Justin Case)
At the end of last year I learnt about Duncan Michael Wilson, a Leeds-based DJ who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer at a young age. Rather than let the diagnosis get him down, Duncan decided to create a hilarious character called Justin Case and made a few YouTube videos which were highly amusing. He also recorded several mixes which he posted to Soundcloud – all vinyl, and all very very good.
I got in touch with Duncan at the beginning of the year and eventually managed to conduct a short interview. Sadly, Duncan passed away about a month after we’d spoken – a huge outpouring of love followed the news of his passing, as I’d already discovered, he was loved by all who he had met and left the earth before his time. In tribute to Despo, here’s the interview we did just a few weeks ago. Rest in peace Duncan.
How did Justin Case come about?
There was an acceleration of projects and deep held pieces of work I’d had tucked away, but in the DJ Justin Case, case – that actually came around really quickly conceptually, from a late December visit to my parents house after a gig in Newcastle and one of my best buddies, Adam Shelton. Myself and Adam were at mine, simply mulling over how people love a video over a simple link to just say, a wicked old or new record release. People prefer a video over just a ‘regular’ post you might put out on Facebook, whether or not it’s just a tune you love, or a new release you’re pushing.
I need to say publicly here, Adam has also, like so many friends been much more than supportive through my whole six years of our friendship – but especially through the seven months of cancer I’ve already been through.
How did you feel when you received the news? How did it affect you?
As soon as I had got the brain news, (the most recent ‘bad’ news if you like, received in late November) Adam and myself – amongst a sea of other life stuff, gigs and whatever, have worked so hard – just like my oldest friend Hal Branson (star of the last video and editor, filmmaker and all-round genius) – to make this and other stuff happen pronto, that I’ll use this again as a public thank you.
In Adam’s case – he’s one of very few people that literally has or had all my mixes on hard copy – and straight away after I received some ‘inoperable’ news (terminals mean airports to me – so inoperable is my only ‘downer’ word, for now) he literally built my SoundCloud page for me. We were laughing even then in agreement that ‘Justin Case’ was a daft but poignant name and then we moved on to what-you-see-is-what you-get with the videos. Right up and including the genuine Valentine’s Day Card I received at 7.25am on Valentine’s Day from none other than Samuel L. Jackson (check my Facebook if you don’t believe me!) via Hal’s fiancee, who is currently working with the big man in LA. She got me both a genuine and really well done digital copy. Amazing way to start the day and then, later that evening, posting out our last JiC video – having that card as the opener to the video was outta town!
So since then it’s all been filmed by just myself and my oldest friend, Hal Branson and the fantastic Hot Gulp trio he’s part of too – which I suggest to all to subscribe to on via my YouTube Channel, too. Some hilarious sketches there and expect to see them telly-bound soon hopefully! Hal played both Hampton Lovett and Fabien Gerderburgher – and then we rush-edited it in his office in Newcastle, round the corner from the wonderful Freeman Hospital where I’ve received most of the eight sessions (nearly six-and-a-half months that equates to) of strong Chemotherapy and 10 sessions of (much easier) – Radiotherapy which have kept me more than alive to my best condition yet, now I’m moved full-time back to Leeds, from Newcastle.
So I was having say, one to five of my 10 Radiotherapy sessions, coming straight out of hospital (thankfully without pain or headaches!) and then literally 20 minutes later, conceptually writing on the ‘fly’ – filming and editing with Hal the first two videos at least. They are and were time sensitive videos really, we had to find a funny flow to get them done that fast, then splice in the DJ awards stuff and get a very busy Subb_an and Dave Beer to do their wicked little spots too. Then to get it all posted out. If people get to go through all three on my YouTube channel they’ll see we did obviously manage it!
The first went out exactly on the 21/12/12, the second video on the New Year’ Eve/New Year’s Day switchover and obviously we nailed the final one on time – with just a Go-Pro (note – they are ACE cameras) – the JiC Valentine’s Day message. I have to say, myself and Hal were both surprised when we finished that it’s seven minutes. A bit longer than a viral – but in the timescale we actually had allowed ourselves – we were happy.
I should also have eight videos coming by springtime too, ranging from music to history, to cancer, to heroes and technology that will be on my YouTube channel soon too.
Where did the character come from? What’s the message behind him?
Why ‘Justin Case’? Well, in a nanosecond I had the name – to answer concisely for once! I had just been given the news that I have four ‘inoperable’ brain tumours, spread from the initial (and usually curable!) testicular cancer. So my message is simple, carpe diem – you never know what life – especially past 30 (three really is the magic number) is gonna throw at you.
What gives me extra drive is that this year, for many of my nearest and dearest it literally is all about babies, marriages as well as bad news… (usually parents or grandparents getting illnesses or sadly passing) and in my case, I’m the guy you know who’s got a mental year, future, unsure but totally trying to use science, logic and love. I have this drive to finish these long-held projects and so I’m smashing it out but being as healthy as possible!
I’ve always supported people whenever they’ve shown true love for either music, DJing or dancing. I’ve never been bothered with the hierachary that I think puts off a lot of (in the past especially women – thankfully not now) from getting DJing. Justin Case as a character is literally the opposite of me in terms of how I am for the majority of my time. From early 15-year-old Shindig trips to see Richie Hawtin. For a 15-year-old that’s a good starting ground. Add 13 years of every job in BacktoBasics and five years of Below and I feel like now’s the time more than ever to leave the world as much of this digital legacy as possible.
The mixes were the main thing – but since the videos (and just general absence – I have to say the offers and gigs have been incredible!) – I’ll be doing as many (tee-total) as possible!
Back to the final angle of the Justin Case concept – as stated, this was all a few weeks before the 21 of December – the name has a second kind of funny connotation – and I say categorically that if laughter be (not) the best medicine, trust me it’s more than complimentary – humour kills tumours – a sense of it is absolutely vital. Trust me.
So there we have it. ‘Justin Case’ has two implications. One being that it was pre the Mayan 21st ‘End Of The World’ time, and with Ash (Subb_an) and lots of my buddies at Crosstown Rebels actually doing parties in Iceland, in amongst the pyramids in Mexico, Peru – truly amazing. But as I said, there was an illness-motivated, date sensitive drive to get them linked to something and finally get ‘em out. Justin Case!
You’ve also put a series of eight mixes on Soundcloud, can you explain their meaning?
For years I’d been physically giving away my mixes, and that’s how I met Adam initially (see my SoundCloud profile for a full breakdown of all my mix motivations and moments of serendipidity). Giving out a handmade CD is actually how I got the amazing residency at the same time as Ash at Below, and all that has come from that.
But overall pre-diagnosis, those that know me well, know I’ve always been 100 per cent about vinyl, all about the sweat, too many records, Drambuie and three dayers.
The day I knew I had to stop any shenanigans instantly I found it really easy, a survival instinct took over and I was already very ill symptomatically, the cancer had already spread when I was diagnosed with it back in June/July last year.
On a coincidental note, last night, I had my first trip to Basics for seven months. I was teetotal and watching (James) aka Boggy warming-up amazingly for an ever mega and syncopated Andrew Wetherall with loads of good Leeds heads – and it was absolutely ace. Four people were straight up on my case in a good way, thought I was genuinely Justin Case, so I just introduced myself as Duncan… half the people I know, in cities or from DJing or dancing, know me as Despo… so I guess I’ve gotta manage a three-way personality too! I dunno!
So thanks Marcus for the chance to get it out there more and, as stated, the whole nine yards is all available on my SoundCloud page for all and sundry, with a bit of a history of Leeds and Birmingham and house in general… And eight mixes too!
See you at the front and viva la acid house! Despo XXX
Thank you and have a great day…
Duncan.Tagged in: Despo, Duncan Michael Wilson, Justin Case
Recent Posts on Arts
- Friday Book Design Blog: Here
- A shouting economic adviser, a Nobel Laureate and a rock star scientist on stage at the Jaipur lit fest
- Children’s book blog – the last post!
- Children’s books for December: Herman’s Letter, The Yeti Files, Greenglass House and Winter Damage
- Friday Book Design Blog: The Ariel Poems, and other seasonal pamphlets
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter