Welcome!

Jake Kaufman is a composer and sound designer in Los Angeles, with a truly heartfelt connection to game music. His versatility, charismatic style, and devoted following make him an essential part of any development team — large or small, epic or fluffy — who want to stand out from the crowd.

Click the navigation dots below for a quick overview, or feel free to explore.

Experience

As a freelancer and an in-house studio employee, Jake has held positions ranging from sound designer to audio director, and worked on over 50 games in his 10 year career. All this before age 30!

Meet Jake

Dynamic Music

Jake’s overall sound is generally “big”, with many layers of intricate harmonies. Continuing the traditions of his own favorite composers, even his underscore is filled with detail. For Red Faction Guerrilla (pictured), he joined forces with a team of composers to write 3 hours of huge and contrasting music, which changes in intensity as the player explores the barren landscape and gets into trouble.

The Composer with a Thousand Voices

Big band, Gypsy Jazz, Surf Rock, 50s Sci-fi, Disco, Bhangra, Mambo, Zydeco, Southern Hip Hop – Jake is able to take the integral harmonies and rhythms of a particular style of music and write strictly within them, or even combine them (often in hilarious or mind-bending ways!)

Sound Reasoning

Jake loves creating sound effects, designing atmospheric audio, and field recording new sounds, from footsteps to airplanes. Jake has created thousands of sound effects over the years, from alien blasters to cat warriors, from scripted noises on a Game Boy to cinematic foley for AAA titles.

Not just a rock star

Jake is himself a hobbyist game programmer, 3D animator, level designer, and visual effects enthusiast. This gives him the unusual ability to communicate with programmers and artists as easily as with other audio people.

For example, click the image to see a video he created to promote his recent soundtrack to IGN’s DS
Game of the Year, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge.

All true warriors

Anyone in the game industry knows that the best-planned project is still a minefield of stress. Jake’s professionalism is tempered by humor, a deep respect for Murphy’s Law, and above all, empathy for fellow developers.

When inspiration strikes and time allows, Jake will stay up way past his bedtime, making great stuff for your dev team to enjoy. Click the image to see an example.

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Latest news

Michael…

Words are failing me. I’m ignoring all news and entertainment media, and am very likely to tune out preemptively when MJ is brought up in internet chats or forums. I apologize in advance, but it’s still too much to process.

Know that I’ve shifted some priorities today, with the intent to send him off musically through my own expression of lifelong gratitude and love.

Happy Father’s Day!

One of the things driving me forward in my career is the encouragement of my parents. Although my choices rarely depend on their approval, I’ve nonetheless felt it has been there through most of my adulthood. Today, I want to tell you about my Dad. For anyone who didn’t get to meet him at my wedding, he’s equal parts comedian, muse, mad scientist, and older/wiser clone of me. He stowed a Harry Potter wand in his glove compartment, in case people cut him off in traffic and he had to Crucio a fool.

A fine fingerstyle guitarist, banjo picker, bass player, and singer, he taught me never to stop learning, to always be curious, and that sometimes people will think you’re nuts, no matter how hard you try to explain yourself, and that’s okay. It was following in his example that I became a self-taught musician. After a childhood during which he and Mom could easily have justified shipping me one-way to Mogadishu, I have grown up to feel mighty proud of all the good he’s done — not just for me, but for hundreds (thousands?) of students.

The local newspaper had this to say about him, last year:

Sixth-graders at Hammocks Middle School can’t wait to get to their science class. Walking up the stairs with anticipation, they already can hear their teacher, Harvey Kaufman, warming up.

Kaufman has been teaching science for 14 years at Hammocks Middle, 9889 Hammocks Blvd. When school began this year and he was faced with a less-than-desirable textbook, Kaufman searched for a way to increase interest in learning. While outlining his next lecture, the words on the paper formed into a song, and he grabbed an upright bass. Immediately, he had his first song, Heart of the Matter. Since then, Kaufman has been combining his passion for teaching science with his love for playing the guitar and creating a series of songs that teach his students basic scientific concepts.

I think it’s pretty easy to see how this kind of mindset has affected me, and made it clear that I can do anything I set out to, as long as I do it passionately. Now, conveniently, it’s my turn to make my Dad proud:

Red Faction Guerrilla, my first big next-gen console game, is now in stores, with ads all over TV. It is an action game set on Mars with a destruction simulation that antiquates anything seen before. The game is based around the fact that you can destroy any structure — no hiding place is safe, no building too fortified — and when you do, it breaks apart realistically, not in a pre-determined manner, but with real physics. Glass raining down, rebar everywhere, clouds of dust. It is literally a summer blockbuster.

For an audio team, this is a huge challenge. On top of the normal list of sounds any game needs, we had to design and perfect a system that hooked into the physics simulation, and create a massive array of breaking, crunching, rolling, tearing, shearing, and shattering noises for each type of material. Buildings groan audibly under stress, bridges create a hellish racket as they catastrophically fail, and each chunk of concrete makes its own distinct smack as it rains down on the rusty Martian landscape.

If you can’t already tell, I’m extremely passionate about this game, and highly satisfied with the results. I did the following things:

- Collaborated with Raison Varner, Dan Wentz, and Josh Davidson (all current or former in-house Volition sound men) to compose all of the in-game music. Tim Wynn scored the titles and cinematic cut-scenes with a live orchestra, and I tied his various themes back into the in-game music, so the whole presentation was cohesive and flowing. Music4Games wrote an article featuring the score.

- Revised, mixed, processed, and implemented all of the above music. We used a Raison-designed interactive music system which reacts to how badly you’ve pissed off the bad guys at any given time. It transitions between spacey underscore and two intensities of heroic combat. Each of these, in turn, consists of dozens of segments several bars long, which traverse a flowchart semi-randomly. It was important to write each segment with this in mind, since you never know which of 6 other segments may come next. There are several distinct “collections” of segments, each with about an hour of material, which are introduced as the story unfolds. I also wrote 6 shorter but more intense “collections” to get your blood pumping when you’re engaged in a mission, and for a certain activity where you race a timer to inflict property damage.

- Did a ton of sound design under my freakishly energetic coordinator Kate Nelson, who organized everything from music to voice acting under ridiculous pressure. I made sounds for weapon firing and handling, “clutter object” collisions / explosions / ambient noises, multiplayer “backpack” power-ups, the main destruction system which is the centerpiece of the game (polishing and revising Raison’s first pass), the little fanfare that plays on the news kiosks (the notes spell out the name of the game’s villains, or “EDF”), and various odds and ends.

- Stress-tested functionality of music and sound with the help of programmers Steve DeFrisco and Aaron Gresch, and ultra-skilled QA Testers Kelly McMorris, Mike Bianca, and Kristi Kaufman, who ensured that few audio bugs were shipped in the final game, and that I kept my sanity.

So, Dad, it’s my hope that by relishing every minute of life, using the talents I inherited to their fullest, and loving my family throughout challenges and celebrations alike, I can make you feel justified not only for the twinkle in your eye in 1980, but for resisting the near-daily temptation to drive us to the Everglades and throw me to the alligators. Happy Father’s Day!

Kind of Bloop

Show of hands: Who would like to hear me, beek, Shnabubula, Disasterpeace, and Sergeeo cover Miles Davis with video game hardware?

Because that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Talk about big shoes to fill.

Rampage Original Soundtrack

I have just uploaded my original soundtrack to Rampage [Korkusuz], also known as Turkish Rambo.

It is yours now, free.

Please, please, please show your support for the producer, Ed Glaser, and buy the film for yourself and your loved ones. It’s not something you have to be an internet meme nerd to “get”, it’s simply an awesome dubbed foreign action film. There are many reasons to get the DVD: amazing box art, a collectible poster, commentary tracks, and interviews with me and the actors. It will put all of these cues in context, but I felt it was important to get the music out there — I put a lot of work into it and wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy!

RAMPAGE (TURKISH RAMBO) now on DVD!

So. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the past 4 months, the answer is:

RAMPAGE.

Also known as Korkusuz. Also known as TURKISH RAMBO.

To quote from the site,

“From the director of TURKISH STAR WARS and TURKISH JAWS comes RAMPAGE, an epic tale of murder and mayhem, vengeance and destruction, betrayal and kebabs. Now, Dark Maze Studios is bringing it to DVD for its first official release in 23 years! We sent an elite commando squad to rescue the film from a remote Turkish vault and digitally remastered it… because no one else would dare.”

The film is out on DVD right now, and I’ve spent the past bunch of months giving it a COMPLETELY ORIGINAL soundtrack, sound design, and hilariously straight-ahead English dub along with my super-awesome friend and creative cohort, Ed Glaser. Yes, that Ed Glaser. And the crowd is going wild — even the inimitable Spoony is giving it love.

You can (and should) read (a lot) more about the film at Dark Maze’s blog, including details on all the special features, and ways you street-team types can help us promote the film.

For the virt junkies out there, you may also be excited to know that I’m about to give the entire feature-length soundtrack away for free. I’m working on the post production right now, and will soon have a special page set up for it, where you can download the entire score. If that isn’t reason to buy the film and support our efforts (all donated for the love of Turkish cinema, by the way), I dunno what is. Way I see it is, you buy the film, watch it with your friends on “movie night”, and then come back and download the score. What could be more awesome than that?

Go forth and conquer, for your nation and your country! (And right now your country is Türkiye).

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