Today has been a particularly challenging day for the industrial rock/metal community. We lost a friend, a brother, an artist, and an individual that meant a lot to us. How he came to pass is not important, what matters is that he is now gone. Jamie Duffy was someone that I have known of for almost 20 years now, and someone that I got to call my friend for only the past few years. What I am about to do is put my thoughts to writing. I hope that they are not meandering or disrespectful. If you choose to read them, then that is fine. I am genuinely interested in your thoughts, so feel free to post them in the comments section at the end of this blog post. I am merely writing this to collect my thoughts and memories, and commit them to a public record. I apologize in advance for the lengthy nature of this entry, but I am a writer, and writers tend to have lots of things to say.
So let us begin.
My awareness of Jamie came about in pretty much the same way most of you knew of him: he was the guitarist for Acumen Nation. Jamie was much more than that, but that is probably what people on a global scale will take from his life. If you were in Chicago, you probably saw him as a much different person. Perhaps he was doing audio engineer work, working sound at House of Blues or Cubby Bear, or maybe doing Front of House at The Metro. Maybe he was someone you drank with at Neo, or perchance you were a part of his many circles of friends. Maybe you were even lucky enough to have him as a family member. However you knew him, it is important to realize he was a contributor to the music scene, and had ears like no other human I knew.
I met Jamie rather auspiciously, in Chicago on a cool May day. I was on the second date of my travels with The Midi Ghetto tour that featured 16volt, Chemlab and Left Spine Down. I had just arrived in Chicago, and hooked up with Sean Payne of Cyanotic. We drove over to Jamie’s house and picked him up. Jamie got in to the back seat of my car, shook my hand as Sean introduced us, and gave me a suspicious and studying look. He wore a heavy leather jacket, black cargo pants and combat boots, with a hat turned around backwards on his head. I found him to be slightly intimidating, but polite none-the-less. As we drove to the Darkroom to catch the Midi Ghetto show there, Jamie loosened up and began to give me the tour of the Chicago music scene, as it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s. He pointed out where Wax Trax Records once dwelled, and showed me where he spent countless hours recording music, whether it be with his band Acumen Nation, or engineering for the seminal industrial band Ministry. He dropped a few anecdotal stories that conveyed the grittiness of the times, but he certainly gave you the impression that he had seen some things. Crazy things. He also revealed to me that evening that he was asked to participate in a Revolting Cocks reunion, something that would actually occur, but not for another year.
The rest of that evening was a blur, but there are 4 memories that I have that stand out about Jamie from that night. The first memory is of him joining 16volt on stage to sing along to “The Cut Collector.” The second is of Jamie attempting to stop Jared Louche of Chemlab from climbing up on the glass top bar that was positioned at the center of the club. Jamie tried to halt Jared, with great futility I must add, but what I witnessed was a man that at first was attempting to protect the bar’s assets, followed by acceptance of the unstoppable event, which in turn led to Jamie acting as a protector of Jared, shadowing his moves in hopes that he wouldn’t have to rescue Jared from falling through the fragile bar top. The third memory is when I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall while Mike Peoples of 16volt and Jamie had a walk down memory lane together, reminiscing about the good old days, talking about times in Texas with Adam Grossman and Mike’s time when he played with Skrew. As a fan, this was a dream come true. The interaction probably lasted less than 10 minutes, but it was a memory that I will never forget: 2 old battle worn musicians comparing tales from the road. The final memory of Jamie from that evening was when we returned back to Sean Payne’s apartment later that night. Sean wanted me to interview him and Jamie about the making of “The Medication Generation,” an album that was still in post-production. I got to hear some of those mixes that night, and I got to hear stories of its making first hand from Sean and Jamie themselves. Again, memories that a self-professed music nerd will always cherish.
And about that interview that Sean persisted that we should do? It never happened. I was weary and road worn, and I faded long before those two even finished their nightly mixing activities. You should never have regrets in life, but I have many. Not doing that interview is certainly one of them.
Jamie and I didn’t become fast friends after that meeting, but he and I had mutual respect for one another, and we had dozens of common friends, so we eventually became part of a circle of like-minded individuals. He would message me every so often, one time telling me that if I skipped out on seeing Lords of Acid and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in Dallas, TX, 2 years ago, that I would regret it. Yes, because of him, I did go to the show. Some times he would just send a friendly “What’s up?” or just click a “Like” on my Facebook page. We weren’t always in contact, but we knew enough about each other and were aware that we were monitoring each other’s moves.
Fast forward to April 2011. I flew up to Chicago to see the Wax Trax Retrospectacle show that was happening at The Metro. Jamie was participating in the reunion of The Revolting Cocks, something that he seemed to approach with youthful invigoration. My first night in Chicago found us going to Neo for a post “Fix!” Ministry movie viewing celebration, and to meet up and hang with old friends. Jamie Duffy joined us late in the evening, having just spent time rehearsing with The Revolting Cocks. The evening found it’s way with us all making our way to Sean Payne’s apartment, drinking until the wee hours of the morning, and discussing everything from Acumen Nation, The Revolting Cocks, DJ Acucrack, Ministry and whatever other topic we could cover that night. That evening (or early morning actually), I had bonded pretty well with Jamie. I was honest with him, telling him what I liked and didn’t like about Acumen Nation. I revealed that my favorite album was “Psycho The Rapist,” which genuinely disappointed Jamie. He expressed his dissatisfaction with that release, and told me why. It was an honest conversation, and I think Jamie really appreciated that I didn’t kiss his ass about anything. We had become better friends.
The Retrospectacle show was awesome. Jamie played fantastic and it was truly memorable. We found ourselves at Neo again after his performance, and he said something to me that night that I will never forget. Jamie was fighting a cold or possibly a case of laryngitis, so he could only whisper. He took me outside of Neo to the smoking area and put his hand on my shoulder, drew me real close, and thanked me. He thanked me for what I was doing with Razor Blade Dance Floor. He said that he didn’t have much time to listen to it, but when he did, he enjoyed it. He thought that I was doing a good thing for the scene and told me to keep doing it, no matter what people told me.
That meant a lot to me and still does to this day. Having an artist acknowledge that you are actually trying to do something good for the scene is a very special thing to me. Jamie took the time to make that recognition, and that was one of the most important things I took from hanging with him out that weekend.
I only had the chance to hang out with Jamie one more time, and that was on the last night of the WTII Records Minifest II event that occurred in June of 2011. He was doing sound on that last night there at The Abbey. When I arrived that evening, Jamie greeted me with open arms, giving me a bear hug that I wasn’t expecting, and we treated each other like old friends. And that is the Jamie I get to remember: the one that was happy, accommodating and respectful, remembering true friendships and making you feel warm and welcome. We talked a few times throughout the night, usually about the work that he was either doing at Cubby Bear, or at some random street fair. He asked me about my life, how I was doing and how my family was. He cared.
Later that night, we made our way over to Neo, riding with Derek Newhall as he drove us to the club. Jamie had a few stories to tell, none of which I can remember, but they were all witty and insightful. He even expressed alarm and self disappointment at the fact that he forgot to ‘check-in’ on Foursquare while he was at The Abbey. This amused me for some reason. There was an incident when we finally arrived at the club where Derek attempted to find a parking spot near Neo, and Jamie insisted that he had the ability to park any car ANYWHERE. After unsuccessfully playing the game of ‘push the big cars with the little car,’ and eventually setting off one of the car alarms on the car Jamie was hammering against with Derek’s car, we took off, only to find ample parking a half block away. Derek, Jamie and I joined Brendan Seven from Defcon, Tony Smith from MindFluxFuneral, Eric Gottesman from Everything Goes Cold, and Steve Pompa of The Fury radio show, who were all already at Neo waiting on us. We drank, we laughed, and I sat and listened while the musicians rattled off dozens of great stories. It was an enjoyable end to a fun weekend. And I was glad to have spent that time with Jamie there at the bar in Neo.
I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I saw Jamie. I guess nobody really ever knows those sorts of things.
The last thing that Jamie said to me happened this past Saturday. I was having a really difficult time with my recording software, and Jamie, always the audio pro, quickly sent me a message, unsolicited, about what I should try, and where I should go from the point that I was at. The end result was him recommending some new software (“Reaper”) that I have yet to check out. You can bet that I have total faith and trust in Jamie’s opinion about all things audio, so I will be obtaining “Reaper” posthaste.
There is no need to ramble on any further. My point has been made. My encounters with Jamie were brief, but they were productive and rewarding. I’m glad to have had the short bursts of time with Jamie. I respected him and grew to love him like a brother.
There are certainly many more people out there that have far more stories and much deeper relationships with Jamie Duffy than I had, but my purpose here was not to create a sense that I was extra important in any fantasy musical world that only Jamie and I dwelled in. I just wanted to collect my thoughts together, fashion a respectable memory of a man that meant something to me, and commit it to some sort of semi-permanent record. I don’t know what you gained from reading this. Perhaps nothing. Maybe you have something to share. Or maybe you will see that interactions with individuals can be important and memorable, no matter how mundane they seem at the time.
If you have read this far, it shows that you cared for Jamie Duffy enough to see something more about the man. Again, it’s not important why he is no longer with us. It’s important to understand that his time on Earth meant something.
My heart goes out to all those that Jamie touched, especially to those that were in his immediate family and extended families. Your pain over this loss is incomprehensible, and I wish that you didn’t have to endure it.
Now take a moment to reach out to a loved one. Call them, text them, go in to the next room and talk to them, send them an e-mail or a Facebook message. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it right now. Tell them how much you care for them. Tell them that you love them. Tell them how important they are to you. Do it right now. You don’t have an excuse. You never know if it will be your last chance.
I love all of you. Even you, Jamie Duffy. Rest in peace. I’ll see you again on the other side…