You don’t see him headline big stages, neither make a lot of anthems or have huge marketing campaigns on social media. But he’s a very experienced figure in the Hard Dance scene that’s been involved with all sorts of music since a very young age and that’s been focusing on producing since his early teens. Today we’ll do an overview on someone who explored uncharted territory in the Hard Dance scene: Chris Oberman, also known as Jack of Sound and Mashup Jack.
Chris started producing at just 11 years old, copy pasting samples from tracks and mixing them up together. He then started listening to Hardstyle in his teenager years and had Zany as one of his biggest inspirations. In 2005 and at 19 years old, he attended the X-Qlusive Pavo event, and this was the big turning point for him: he decided to fully focus on producing Hardstyle!
It took some time from when he first fell in love with the genre until his first release. Through the way he had a few performances and he’s participated in a few contests, and even had the chance to perform at Decibel in 2008.
His first breakthrough came in 2010 during a Noisecontrollers event where he reached up to Johan van Korven from the Donkey Rollers. This resulted in him having an opportunity to head over to the Fusion studios and present A Ghost Story, which then became his first release on the famous label, in early 2011. This track in particular had a unique characteristic that has been prevalent since then in Jack Of Sound’s music – the vocals in the break and the lead melody create a unique atmosphere and transport the listener to another world entirely. The artist often tries in his tracks to portray a story, which is rather unique. Quoting an interview he did in 2015, “it’s important that you can visualize a story in your mind when you close your eyes and listen to it”. This isn’t something easily attainable by just any artist.
This type of sound was in a track of his following release, Kaylee’s Nightmare, that has rather spooky environment.
During that year, he was booked for the Purple stage at Defqon.1, which to the artist’s surprise was full to see him perform.
He continued with his success with releases such as Eternal Night, Zombies and then Machine, which was somewhat different from his previously releases, being a bit more focused on the melody and not the roughness, but still having a story or at least a very peculiar “mechanical-like” atmosphere behind the track. As the artist said himself, it is important to experiment, and that’s precisely what he did there and in many other releases in his career.
At this time we were in 2013, and that’s when the artist somewhat went back to his roots, with copy pasting samples and mashing them up together, to release a few interesting mashups, like S.T.F.U Britney, where he took his collaboration with the Frequencerz and put it together with Scream & Shout from will.i.am with Britney Spears – an unlikely but interesting combination that generated a bit of buzz and turned a few heads to him back then.
This led him, in 2014, to launch a new project: Mashup Jack. According to the artist, given his love for mashups, it was always his idea to launch such a project since he first joined Fusion. When he was ready to present this live act to the world, he reached out to Q-dance, who got interested in the concept and decided to include it in Qapital’s lineup in 2014.
He did very interesting work with this alias, such as a mega Donkey Rollers mashup featuring elements from more than 10 of their tracks, a mashup between 2 Best Enemies and Florence + The Machine and even fused together Noisecontrollers and Adele, to mention a few.
Work as Jack of Sound continued and right after he made one of his biggest hits, and one of his personal favorites: Das Weite Land, together with Alpha2, a track that had a very positive crowd reaction and that was remixed in 2018 by Digital Punk.
In 2015 came a request for an anthem for Wasted Festival and in that same year he did a follow up of A Ghost Story, releasing an EP together with 911, two tracks that, in good “old” Jack Of Sound style, transport the listener to creepy scenes as if they were witnessing a horror movie!
High level collaborations followed – another one with Alpha2, and with Delete as well. He also made the anthem for Fatality in 2016
By this time, the artist had already established himself rather well, and has already gone through all the “major league” festivals in the scene.
The period that followed was of a few changes to the artist. Between 2016 and 2018 he released either at Unleashed Records or Roughstate. During this period the artist seemed to go somewhat undercover, but still produced heavy bangers, which culminated with the release of Stories in late 2018. This album is what’s probably one of the highest points of this man’s career. It is an absolute masterpiece that went under the radars, and just like he did previously, there are a few follow ups here: Machine had its follow up with Machine Error; A Ghost Story and Another Ghost Story saw a follow up in the form of an interlude in the album, named A Witch Story; and there was a quite heavy and outside the box collaboration with The Outside Agency included, named Some More.
Last April, Unleashed Records ended, and the last release (the 50th) was Jack Of Sound’s Machine Error. After this, we’ve not been hearing much from Chris, and the future is somewhat uncertain. Given his previous ties with Roughstate, he may end up releasing there, as it would probably be a label that would be fitting for his innovative and heavy sound.
This brings us back to the beginning of this overview. Why’s this such a great but underrated artist? I believe we can easily tell this by listening to Stories… It is an album that’s undeniably a masterpiece, however most tracks may not be suitable for dancefloors. It is one of those albums that’s better listened to at home, with good headphones or an amazing sound system, where you just sit down and enjoy the Stories that you’re being told! Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee bookings, and if you’re not booked, you’re less visible – such is how music works. But to be fair, the Hard Dance scene needs more of these kinds of artists. History tells us that these do well in the long run, and there’s a big example lately, which is Ophidian. We need more people showing us their vision of Hard Dance, and not simply what works well live. Dancefloor oriented music is great – but often lacks the substance and care put into more elaborate tracks like the ones Jack Of Sound does. And it is amazing that we have the choice for both “types” of tracks!
This is Jack of Sound – someone who was, and still is, willing to push Hardstyle to its extreme boundaries and bring you his vision of what the genre should be.