Once a music man, always a music man. Case in point: Jim Kaufman.
Best known as the guitarist/synth mastermind behind post-hardcore rock band, Opiate for the Masses, Kaufman is busy parlaying that success into another arena—developing and producing artists.
For Kaufman, it all boils down to one simple equation: “I like to create careers for people.”
On Kaufman’s front burner right now is Nashville-based singer/songwriter Elliot Collett and his band Future Thieves. The pair, who began working together two years ago, have been in the studio of late with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. The latter has co-produced three songs with Kaufman and Collette for the newcomer’s debut rock album.
Kaufman’s work isn’t limited to rock. His songwriting and production credits run the gamut from country and pop to world music. Within the former, he’s worked with the late Tim Johnson and Stereo Snakes, a country band from Spain. The latter includes Kirtan act Govind Das & Radha, headliners at the 2013 Bhakti Festival in Joshua Tree, which attracts some 200,000 attendees each year. On the pop side, he produced actress E.G. Daly’s last album, The New Collection.
But he hasn’t entirely forsaken his artist side. Kaufman will be releasing A Party of One, his selfwritten and produced solo album via iTunes on XX. A skillful fusion of electronic instrumentation and old-school songwriting fundamentals—verse, chorus and bridge—the set features E.G. Daly on the mesmerizing track “A Rifle in My Hand.” Other standouts include “The Artist” and “Breathe.”
“Coming from my background as a piano player, programmer and synth man in Opiate, this was something I really wanted to do,” says Kaufman of the 2 ½-year project. “It’s a little scary, but cool. I just wanted to do something creative.”
That’s an itch he’s been scratching ever since he was a kid growing up in his native Phoenix Arizona. The youngest of four siblings, Kaufman was born to an amateur musician dad and a mom who was “super adamant about classical piano lessons.” Playing in bands during a childhood influenced by rock’s yin and yang— Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails—Kaufman attended the New School for the Arts during his senior year of high school.
That’s where he took up guitar. And later forged
pivotal creative alliances with two other students.
Two years later in 1999, Kaufman—with
drummer Elias Mallin [Ke$ha, Filter] and lead
singer Ron Underwood [9 Electric]—created
Opiate for the Masses.
An EP produced by Nine Inch Nails’ keyboardist
Charlie Clouser led to the group signing a label
deal. A series of releases ensued, including the
2001 and 2002 EPs Seven and Goodbye
followed by 2005’s The Spore and 2008’s
Manifesto before Opiate disbanded in 2009.
Before leaving the group himself in 2008,
Kaufman segued into work as Clouser’s
assistant. That relationship later led to his role as
assistant engineer for alternative metal band
Helmet’s 2004 album Size Mattters as well as
Kaufman assisting Clouser during the scoring
of Saw 1. From there, Kaufman scored indie
films for Lionsgate as well as the Internet
television show “Models Turned Superstars.”
Those endeavors eventually sharpened Kaufman’s present resolve: to become a first-class producer. “Working with Charlie, and other platinum producers like John Travis [Kid Rock], Ulrich Wild (Pantera, Static X), and Ed Stasium [Talking Heads, Ramones], I witnessed their production process first-hand and learned how they handled artists,” explans Kaufman, whose producer idol is Rick Rubin. Like them, I always try to make sure I’m telling a story about where the band/act is in their life. How we record reflects on the future of that act.”
Kaufman divides his time between his own studios in Culver City, Calif. and Sedona, Arizona as well as such L.A. studios as Ocean Way and Nightbird. Always on the move, the music man is also a savvy businessman. In addition to co-owning Nashville publishing company the Song Factory, Kaufman coowns popular Phoenix pizza food truck Saffron Jack and helps manage his family’s real estate company.
But at heart, Kaufman is a studio guy who possesses a unique, innate talent. “Watching an artist grow as a musician and/or songwriter, capturing his or her body of work, documenting a piece of history. If I can influence that,” declares Kaufman, “and the world can hear that artist through my ears, then I’ll feel like I’ve done something really great in music. That’s what I strive for.”