Jun 2012 22

Jim Marcus (Die Warzau, Go Fight) shares his memories of friend and fellow Chicagoan and musician Jamie Duffy and offers some insights into the artistic and creative mindset.

I can’t tell you exactly when I first met Jamie Duffy because, for a while, it kept happening over and over again – one night, at Metro, backstage, at one of our shows, he stood by the dressing room door asking quick, excited questions about the routing of the samplers onstage. I don’t know how he got there and, honestly, 10 minutes later, it didn’t matter. He was fascinated. How did we trigger drums? Did we have to reload the samplers between songs? Why did that guy almost cut my head off with a chainsaw near the end of the show?

Actually, that last one was a really good question and I wondered it myself.

He just fit in. He belonged there. It was a loud club full of crazed half drunk fuckers scrambling to slam their heads into the guy in front of them to see the band. It was bad for your health, bad for your hearing, bad for your soul.

But he belonged there.

And maybe it was a couple weeks before that when I ran into him at Chicago Trax recording studio. Here he was Porgy, a second engineer in a world where everybody got a nickname immediately and was judged by how fast they made that word mean something. It was probably only a few weeks later when that word meant something. Some sessions just worked and some didn’t. The difference between a session that resulted in something brilliant and loud and one that ended up with tapes scattered everywhere and nothing to show for it was frequently Porgy.

He learned quickly and just did things. If he didn’t know how to do something, he jumped in and did it, bullshitting his way past the five minutes it took him to learn. If the engineer requested something stupid, he stood up and did it, pruning the stupid along the way. It was that simple.

The studio environment is completely different from the club environment. The chaos is completely controlled. It has to be. In the club, you listen with “big ears.” You try and get the form of the music and you recognize that sloppy is part of the live experience. The songs move by you quickly, like a train. You try to avoid being hit by that train and you paint the sides of it in broad strokes so that the people watching from the side think it’s quite a nice train. You know they can’t look too hard at any one car. Jamie belonged there. No one could conduct that train better than he could. I say this completely without fear of contradiction.

But in the studio, you listen with “little ears.” You know that every mistake you leave in the mix will annoy people for decades. You paint with the most delicate brush you can, slivering the differences between volumes, EQs, effects, over and over. You listen to the track hundreds of times, often making nearly inconsequential changes and frequently reversing them on the next pass. You bus the track to a different room and listen, record it and take it out to your car, and finally, blast it and listen from the other room. It is exhausting and anally retentive and sears your ears with a resolute wash of sameness until at the end you’re not really sure what anything sounds like anymore.

But he was at home there too. He belonged.

From then on he was in the right sessions for him to be in. Maybe that’s me projecting, but he was right where he should have been. Trax was the recording center of the Chicago industrial world at the time and it was a center that seemed focused on what was real. People showed up in the middle of the night to sing on friends’ albums, despite what their individual labels may have said about it, and no one really talked about money. Remixes were things people did as trades – favors even. It was about the music.

Just like Jamie, we thought our job was to prune the stupid; to remove the crap, eliminate what didn’t work. We were all sculptors, chiseling away at everything that didn’t work, everything boring; and leaving behind what was new, loud, amazing. We would cut the stone like no one ever had before. We were all, in one way or another, on the same team.

15 years later, I could walk up to Jamie in a club and say, “We have a show booked,” and he would look at me and start asking what we needed for inputs. In his head, he would start putting the right questions together to make sure we could chip away at the stupid, chisel away at the bad to get at a great show. He would ask every question and propose smart things…

…every question except “how much does this pay?”

He didn’t ask it ever; not then and not when he showed up, like a living tornado… except tornadoes leave upended mobile homes and dead witches in their wake. His tornado left DI boxes, cables, and order in its wake. It chipped away at the stupid, no matter what the venue was. It eliminated the boring. He did it then, he did it on his records, his own live shows. Hell, Jamie chipped away at the boring when he showed up at NEO to hang out. It’s just what he did.

Before I go any further, it’s important to me to say that no matter what kind of music I ever make, I will still be proud to say I am a member of the Chicago industrial community. And it’s because of people like Jamie, people like Chris Connelly, people like Brittany Bindrim, Paul Barker, William Tucker, Jason Novak, Jared Louche (honorary Chicagoan), people who make the world more interesting; people who make ideas better and don’t stop to ask how much you are about to pay them for it. I am proud to say that these are my people…

… In every way…

…which is where the problem comes in.

In a recent study, a logistic regression analysis of data from 21 states finds that artists have 270% higher risk of suicide than non-artists. Male artists seem to outnumber female ones, though, in self-reported polls, and men have a higher suicide rate than women. Artists also tend to cluster in certain sociodemographic groups with high concentrations being lower middle class. This may be because of how difficult it is to make large amounts of money through art. When you control for gender and socioeconomic variables, the risk level drops to about 125%; still a significant index, but less terrifying. (1)

Some studies also suggest that the there are variations in the serotonergic system that can be associated with depression and impulsive suicides and that these variations may also be responsible for an element of risk taking that identifies high level creative and innovative people – people psychodynamically predisposed to being creative. This may be part of the extended depression cycle. (1)

But many artists experience additional conditions that can dramatically increase that number. Night Shift Depression, for example, is a condition caused by working later shifts, as many musicians do. You find yourself out of sync with the world and it’s hard to connect. In fact, many mental health experts recommend a full spectrum light box to make people feel more like they are part of the light – part of the population that lives in sunlight. This may add to the cycle as well. (1)

And interestingly, a 2001 study found that the mean age of suicides among artists was about 44, showing a very different pattern than the general population where suicide risk is higher among older people. As well, many artists tend to find their inspiration from the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. It’s not unlikely that, as a means to get there, they expose themselves to an environment where drugs and alcohol, more catalysts for depression, are common. (2)

It’s easy to look at people like Kurt Cobain and say, “You had everything; you were an idiot” and dismiss what they did. Those of us who loved Jamie can tear apart his final decision the same way. He was doing what he was good at. He was loved. There was likely no less than 200 people he could have called that morning at 5:23am that would have answered the phone and met him anywhere he liked for breakfast to talk to him. Many of those people knew that he had battled with depression in the past and that he could be bigger than life with his ups and downs. Not one of them would have begrudged him the couple hours of sleep they would have missed to make sure he was ok. But none of us got the phone call.

Jamie had no problem texting me to crack me up about how bad the band was he was mixing right now, or to give me his schedule so we could plan something, or to make a point about sound, or to help me out if he could. But I never got a call. And the people who surrounded him who were essentially his brothers and sisters; they didn’t get a call either. Neither did his mother, someone who was well known in the community as a mom who just seemed to understand what her son did and loved. Not all of us got that lucky.

None of us got a phone call.

I see musicians and other artists in our scene every day. I watch them chip away at the boring. I see them wake up and get to work at chiseling away everything that doesn’t work. And I get it. It’s sometimes a 3:00am thing, too. Wake up because you see it in your head. It’s just a little muddy. So you pull away the dull, smash everything you’ve seen before, tear down the mundane. And you hope what is left behind is great. But there are days when I walk over to the mirror and I’m the thing that has to be torn down. I’m the boring, the mundane. I’m the thing that needs to be chiseled away. There are days when I get so committed to the job of stripping away the stupid that I can’t see anything else. And at the end of that day, I’m the stupid.

I’m the thing that needs to go.

As an artist, it’s your job to see the things that need to go. And it’s part of that job to realize you aren’t there yet. It’s necessary to tear yourself down and hate what you do sometimes, hate yourself sometimes, hate it all sometimes. From that collapse is going to come something great, right?

It will if you save something.

That’s the part that I’m asking you to remember. Save something for tomorrow. Save something for the light of day. Save that piece and don’t let it go. If you feel like you need to tear yourself down, if you feel like you need to chisel away at yourself, save something… because that thing can make tomorrow more interesting. Imagine what Kurt Cobain would have done tomorrow. Imagine what Jamie would do tomorrow. Imagine what Ian Curtis would do tomorrow. Imagine what William Tucker would do tomorrow… what Jeff Ward would do tomorrow. Rozz Williams, Wendy O Williams, Jim Ellison…

If you are an artist or a fan, a musician or just someone who loves music, I don’t have any right to sit here and tell you how you feel or what you should do. I don’t have any right to tell you to put down the pills or the bottle or any other tool you are using to chisel away at the world today. But I can tell you that you are normal. I can tell you that this feeling is a part of the “artist package” we all bought at birth and it doesn’t mean you’re broken beyond repair. It just gives you something to get through to make music.

I don’t want to turn my friend into a lesson. But I also don’t want to let this opportunity go by to let him do something he would have wanted to do. If it were my life on the line or any one of a thousand of his other friends, he would want them to hear this.

Save something for tomorrow.


Jim Marcus
(1) Stack S (1996). Gender and Suicide Risk Among Artists: A Multivariate Analysis. Suicide & life-threatening behavior, 26 (4), 374-9

(2) Preti A, De Biasi F, & Miotto P (2001). Musical Creativity and Suicide. Psychological reports, 89 (3), 719-27


  1. Iffer says:

    I have been struggling with a lot of the stuff you describe here. I am so sorry to hear about your friend Jamie, thank you for your words, encouragement, respect and heartfelt sentiments. Save something for tomorrow…. a good idea.

  2. Pat Duffy says:

    Jim, with all heart and all my soul, reading this aloud has given me the salve for my savaged heart. My brother, John, said “I have never heard more elegant words in my life. May we have your permission to use this in his memorial tribute card. I would be so honored. Thank you. You will never know how all this feels to a mother.

    • Jim Marcus says:

      Pat, of course you can use any part of this you like. I can’t ever pay back Jamie for all the help he gave me, all the good times and the inspiration, but the very least I can do is keep alive what a great friend and artist he was. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Emily Land says:

      Our family would like to send heartfelt wishes that you find peace in knowing Jamie is finally free of tumoil. We learned over the years what a genuine guy he was and what a tremendous heart he had. We will remember him always.

      Please let us know the chapel in charge of arrangements so we may make a direct donation.

      Emily and Russ Land and family

  3. Rebecca Cady says:

    Very passionately written & moving.I am Jo[friend of Jamie’s]Legner’s mother, & also I used to babysit Jamie’s mom.I knew Jamie, but not as well as all of you.So sad for the loss of one so talented~your memories will comfort you through the coming years.Being an artistic-type myself I do appreciate what you have expressed here & wanted to say thank you.

  4. Wow. I didn’t know Jamie. However, I live in Chicago and I LOVE industrial music. This is a lovely, eloquent tribute.

    Also: I work in mental health. I just have to say, if someone feels suicidal, they can always go to any hospital emergency room for help.


  5. Kyle K says:

    Save something for tomorrow…
    Very poignant article about Jamie. I had met Jamie briefly at past Acumen and Acucrack shows, but did not know him personally. I am a big fan of his music.
    I was very sad to get this news this morning, but I am glad I found this tonight. Thanks for composing this. Having played in bands this hits closer to me than I care to admit.

  6. Mike Fisher says:

    Inspiring words. Thanks Jim.

  7. Joe Michelli says:

    Jimi, it is an eternal struggle, your words eloquently capture the the nature of this. I cannot however fathom the decision to just end it all. I would rather makes shitty music and art than reside in eternal oblivion. I sense you feel the same. I have watched you go from a bright eyed kid enamoured by the music scene into an icon of it. You do me proud. Your words are born out of a genuine love and sensitivity to the attempts of others to achieve in this oft thankless vocation. I tip my hat to you my friend.

  8. Carlos Ortega says:

    Jim, your thoughts were poignant and wonderfully expressed. Thank you for sharing for as you know our small, grand Chicago music community (family) is hurting over this and the healing after the shock needs to begin. You just gave us all a heartfelt boost. ANYTHING that I can do, my services are yours.

  9. Eileen M says:

    Heartfelt condolences to Jamie’s family and friends. Saving Jim’s words to share tomorrow.

  10. laura gomel says:

    Beautiful Jim. Well put and right on.

  11. To all of our Brothers & Sisters, I wish you peace.
    Thanks Jim

  12. RankZero says:

    Very well written. I knew Jamie for a long time and fully agree, he was an amazing guy and had huge talent.

  13. Cathy Dodge says:

    Wow, Jim. Thanks for such a heartfelt and insightful letter. I say letter rather than article because it feels like you’ve written a letter to each of us who’ve been there at some point. Thanks.

  14. Tapsonic says:

    Your words are so eloquent and true. Jamie meant so much to so many people and your beautiful words will live on with Jamie’s memory. Thanks, Jim.

  15. Ann says:

    This article is the most beautifully written, compassionate tribute anyone could ask for. You are clearly a great friend, and insightful human. So sorry for your loss. I hope your friend has a lighter heart and happiness on the next leg of his journey.

    “Be kind- for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” – Plato.

  16. Tom H says:

    Thank you, Jim. Incredible, heartfelt, and all needed to be said… My condolences to all of whom knew Jamie.

  17. Jim says:

    I met Jaime one time over the years, i think it was Cubby Bear or CB North, and as a photographer i always say hey to the techs, sound engineers, light, management to say i was going to shoot and ask if there is anything i shouldn’t or couldn’t do and he took the 2 mins away from what he knew to give me a few tips – so sorry to hear of Jaime’s passing and this tribute, memory is beautiful, but in a total of my 5 min conversation i walked away and said to myself, thats why i do things the way i do them, because of cool people like that… unfortunately i never got the chance to photograph through his sound / work again as our paths never crossed… seeing the outpouring of the Chicago Music Scene and the artists i love to work with so much tells me, Jamie will be missed and i missed my opportunity to know him better… to his family, to his friends, my thoughts and prayers go out to you during this very difficult time.

  18. E says:

    Well said. In regards to the input regarding artists have a much higher suicide rate, I believe this to be a completely worldwide confirmation. In fact I wrote a paper in psych class 20omeyears ago, which stated the same 88% artistic people are bi-polar. Fact, due to the majority of them using both left and right brain, therefore causing chemical in balance.

  19. Mark Durante says:

    Sometimes this world we live in makes no sense.
    Jamie was such a great guy, always seemed so positive, but lifes struggles can take a toll…
    All of us in the Chicago music scene will miss him, he was one of the good guys.

  20. Cassie Weatherford says:

    Very well written, I was not aware of those staggering statisics. Having worked with Jamie this is even more poignant. And as a visual artist I must add that tho I am unaware of statistics, I am aware of the same correlation between depression, risk-taking, and pre-disposition for creativity in both visual artists and artists of the written word. What brings us the most joy often brings us the most sorrow as well. Thank you making us all more aware.

  21. This article hits the nail on the head. Jamie helped me just because…….We were nobody in Chicago and he just jumped up with enthusiasm and said “I’m mixing you guys at Cubby Bear”. I barely knew him. We were a female-fronted hard rock band just starting out. I blew it off figuring he was like so many people I had met in the city who just talk. I get to Cubby Bear 2 weeks later, and there’s Jamie at the back door….”Where you guys been? I’ve been here for an hour.” I couldn’t believe it. I said “Jaime, I can’t pay you much”. He looks at me like whatever and says, “hurry up, we gotta get this gear in here”. And he made us sound better than we were then of course. Last time I saw him was about a year ago….He was tearing down after a Steel Panther gig, so I ran to the bar and got 2 shots of Jamesons and came back to the stage. He didn’t say anything, but he nodded at me, and that was it. I don’t know what made me do it that night, we hadn’t even talked, but I’m glad I did in retrospect…….

  22. Brian Liesegang says:

    wow. Jim, I just heard and was pointed to your post. Eloquontly written, a fitting tribute, and much much food for thought. This year started with losing Critter, now this. Godbless. He will be missed.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Very well written Jim and such amazing words. It is very easy in this world of being an artist or musician to feel out of place. I to have been in a room filled with people whom I loved and knew they loved me back just as much,and yet at the same time felt like I was alone. Such an awkward feeling and there is no explanation for it. We all experience these very big highs and some extreme lows,and disconnect,but some people just don’t know how to bounce back. As I know no one got the call we all wish he did…Seeing that picture on twitter that next morning seriously my heart just broke. I wanted to go back into time reach into that picture and knock those pills right out of his hand,but as crazy as it sounds what was fate was fate,and I truly do hope he has found some sort of peace and he is free from what ever broke him down. I believe everyone in this world has a gift to share,and when you leave this place of living you leave that gift for others to never forget. So when you say save something for tomorrow brilliant. Jaime has left so many and will always inspire,and be remembered,loved by many. RIP Jaime

  24. Andrew Markuszewski says:

    I didn’t’ know Jamie personally, but coming from someone else who understands those high and lows, thank you for writing and posting this.

  25. Eric Powell says:

    Jim, your words touched me and brought tears to my eyes. Jamie was a good friend and I am still in shock and deeply saddened. I am feeling very lethargic and just want to crawl in a hole. I know we are all dealing with this and mourning in our own ways. Your words summarize beautifully a great friend, and a great artist. Thank you for it.

    • Kyle K says:

      I am not sure I can make it to the fan event at the neo club in Chicago next week. Could someone forward me a link to donate $$ to cover Jamie’s arrangements?

      • Kyle K says:

        oops.. nevermind. saw on facebook that there is a benefit show forthcoming with paypal link for donations.

  26. howie beno says:

    wow jim! as always, you have distilled a lot of how we think and feel into some few powerful words of eloquence. it’s pure poetry but thats what you’ve always so effortlessly (it seemed) been able to do. and to echo brian’s sentiments, i’m now doubly heartbroken- first critter and now 6 months later this. it’s ironic i i got back to chicago and had a chance to chat with jamie at critter’s funeral back in january (and with you, for a very heartfelt one on one hourlong chat) . in retrospect, i’m so thankful that we did. jamie, since the moment i first met him, i knew was super amazingly gifted. i’m thankful for the hours upon hours upon hours of endless seeming drudgery we spent in the trenches only to arrive at the meaningful by the end.

  27. Michael V. says:

    Thanks Jim, this very eloquently put into words something I’d been thinking but hadn’t been able to articulate. I only knew Jamie well enough to have the occasional conversation in clubs, but his death bothered me in a way I couldn’t quite grasp.

  28. William Ellwood says:

    I worked with Jamie at H.O.B. Chicago. He was fearless and so talented, i was always a little intimidated by him. He was the REAL DEAL. Your words are indeed a fitting tribute. Thank you for your eloquence in expressing what is only a jumble of emotions in many of our minds.

  29. Neil Kernon says:

    Thanks for your eloquent post, Jim – beautifully put. Jamie was a terrific, very talented guy and will be terribly missed here in Chitown. On another note, I didn’t even know Critter had passed until yesterday – horrible news also. R.I.P.

  30. Gary Schepers says:

    Thanks, Jim. Your words help to prune the jumble of emotions my head is producing right now.

  31. Tim "Bunky" Titsworth says:


    Well said. Jaime will be missed, but never forgotten.

    Save something…


    • Tim "Bunky" Titsworth says:

      Pardon my typo on Jamie’s name. Typing too fast and I am broken to say the least. Too much to take in.

  32. Lynne says:

    Absolutely gorgeous essay. just beautiful, thoughtful and moving. I knew Jamie. he mixed my band often at Cubby. I’m sharing your post with other artist friends. Thank you.

  33. Jim Brill says:

    I read this article a couple of days ago, and it touched me. It was an honor to meet you yesterday at Jamies memorial, however I regret that it took the passing of someone so amazing for this to come to light. If anyone else is interested, I would like to start something, what exactly, I do not know, but would like to start something to bring this issue to a greater light then just here. If anyone is interested on starting something up, please let me know.

  34. Brian Elza says:

    For all those wonderful people who expressed an interest in helping defray the cost of Jamie’s arrangements, this secure page was set up to accept donations for Pat Duffy in care of Cracknation Inc.


  35. […] The name Jamie Duffy probably doesn’t mean much to most of you. It didn’t mean much to me when my friend Arthur held out the first Acumen CD I had even seen, with this gleam in his eye and grin on his face – He knew he had a good thing, and was eager to share it, with me, and on our show on WDGC. I never met the man, but hearing about his death saddened me, and I trolled the webs, looking for some explanation for the events. I haven’t really found one, but I found a great post about it on Regen. […]

  36. Michelle Colombini-Montgomery says:

    Jim – What seems like a hundred years ago now, I was the local rep in Phoenix for Acumen’s label. I’m sitting here with tears on my cheeks but also with a smile thinking of the fun times and of the music. To all who knew Jamie and read this please accept my condolences on your loss. Jim, I’d like to share your words with everyone I know. Maybe its because 99% of the people in my life are creative types that I’ve known so many who could benefit from them. Myself included. The light of day isn’t always easy to see. Rest In Peace Jamie. Over and over in my head I’m hearing “…I just wanna be heard, at 33 1/3…”

  37. Craig Williams says:

    Wow I’m just finding out about Jamie this is so sad. Jim such a beautiful, heartfelt expression it brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart. It’s been many years since I’ve been back to Chicago on the scene but I have always remembered it felt so much better and more like a family I miss those days. God bless Jamie and his family he will be truly missed and I am so sorry for your loss Jamie was a great guy! I remember Jamie learning and honing his craft when he first started at Trax and he was always there and ready with a smile!

  38. Jim, thank you for writing this.

  39. Yep, I loved Jaime too. Just learning of this now, thanks Jim for distilling a tiny piece of Jamie’s essence here. Floods of memories coming back from the early 90’s when we were friends. Pat if you look back at these comments, just want to express my condolences.

  40. Blayne says:

    Thank you Jim, this is absolutely amazing. The best so far.

  41. Homepage says:

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  42. […] I know this is older news but since the last time I wrote, I’m sorry to say we’ve lost another friend. As many of you already know, Jamie Duffy, Long time Chicago musician and fellow artist onstage with Connelly, Barker, Van Acker, Buford and Brill last year, passed away earlier this year. Jamie was crucial in recreating from scratch most of the samples and music that were used for the Revolting Cocks songs during the Retrospectacle. It would have been a completely different show (or no show at all) had he not been involved both on stage and behind the scenes. Last month, a sold out benefit concert was organized. The 13 band lineup was an amazing bill…created in response to a not so amazing circumstance. We know the Retrospectacle lineup, sans Van Acker, were honored to close out the night playing most of the Revco songs they had performed with Jamie last year. The outpouring of support encouragement was wonderful but not surprising considering Jamie’s contribution around Chicago. You can find more about Jamie and the past event at coldwaves.net as well as read a touching piece by fellow artist and friend, Jim Marcus about Jamie at RE GEN. […]

  43. […] of that scene’s foremost figures to remind us all of that, but as Jim Marcus had said in his memoriam to Jamie Duffy, “Save something for tomorrow.” Even amid the turmoil, the arguments, the squabbles and […]

  44. Alex Reed says:

    Thanks very much for this, Jamie. It’s hard to make it through the night sometimes, and this is both a touching tribute and a powerful bit of therapy.

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