In the weeks leading up to this year’s AVA Festival in Belfast – for which the day-by-day lineup has just been released – 909originals will be catching up with a number of Northern Ireland-based artists to discuss their plans for the festival, the current state of the club scene in the North, and their approach to music.
We kick off this series by chatting to a producer that has been on the scene for close to a decade, first through his work under the alias Unknown, alongside fellow rising star Gemma Dunleavy, and more recently as Carlton Doom.
Having cut his teeth at parties for Twitch and Shine, and with releases on labels such as Lobster Theremin, Hypercolour and Hotflush under his belt, Doom, aka Chris Hanna, has carved a reputation for blending a myriad of styles – taking his influences from techno, hip hop, breaks and all points in between.
And at AVA Festival, he promises, he’s going to bang it out. 909originals caught up with him.
Hi Chris, thanks for talking to us. What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently waiting on six records to come out, so I’ve been making music pretty steadily. Every day is a dabble, some days have hours and hours of music production, some have hours of watching movies and half an hour of music. But I always try and make something, even if it’s a drum pattern.
You’ve been a regular at AVA the past few years. Why is the festival so special to you?
It’s basically a meet up of most of the people I know, ha ha. Playing it is never a bad gig – it’s always so good to have so many friends in one place, and to meet so many new people with the same interests as well. It’s also nice to meet people I’ve been “Internet” friends with and finally meet them in person. Then you have the constant constant stream of great music over two days.
Post-pandemic, do you think that the club scene in the North is in a good place? Positives and negatives?
I’d say its been pretty flat out with good bookings. People like Free the Night are trying to work on later licensing at the moment but that doesn’t stop gigs from happening in the meantime, you know? Even when it was tighter before it never stopped parties happening.
I’d say a negative is lack of venues. There’s not the same amount of clubs we used to have – so many places have folded since before the pandemic and even a bit before that, which is sad.
Last year’s release on Lobster Theremin showed off your idiosyncratic style – there are elements of techno, breaks, dubstep and more in there. Would it be fair to say that you don’t like to associate yourself with any genre?
I guess I’ve never really considered it one thing or the other. I like being a part of the several styles I really like. Elements of house, garage, electro, wobbly basses and liquid-sounding synths, and trying to take some elements of ghetto house and breaks. Taking them and adding in parts of one, and then parts of another. But it’s all sort of unconscious, not a conscious decision. It all becomes a sort of ‘Carlton Doom stew’.
With that in mind, how would you describe your music? When planning a track, where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m awful at describing my music. Even when I think something is straight up garage or electro, people tell me it’s this hybrid mutation. I leave it to people with jobs in describing music.
When producing, I just start with a sound and try and see what I can make from it – be it drums, or starting with a bassline. No two tracks of mine have ever been made the same really, and I never plan a track beforehand. Even edits end up being done on the fly, and finding something that works by accident and trial and error.
It’s a constant stream of titting about till I get something I like the sound of, then I just run with it. I add stuff I think works, and just make everything on the fly. It keeps it fun, too.
A year or two ago, you were behind a number of cheeky edits of some pop classics… which perhaps we can’t name for legal reasons. Any more of those on the horizon?
I couldn’t possibly say ‘yes there is’.
It’s quite a few years since your last release as ‘Unknown’. Is there unfinished work there, are we likely to see another release in the future?
There’s definitely unfinished work there. An EP I made during that time will be getting a release, something that never had a proper release before. But it will be under Carlton Doom. I’m still excited about it because its nearly 10 years old and I’m still proud of it.
Its sort of between moving on from Unknown, and starting something new. So, it lies between what I did then and what I do now.
Both yourself and Gemma Dunleavy have gone on to build strong musical careers since your Unknown days. Are you planning on working together again?
We have spoken and caught up, cheered each other on, but we don’t have plans to collaborate or anything. She’s doing so well at the minute – it’s amazing to see. She’s always been so talented and it’s great she’s getting that recognition now.
What do you have in store for AVA this year?
I’m going to hammer it. I think I’m actually gonna plan my set this year. Usually I have a pool of music and wing it. That being said, no matter when I plan something, I never stick to it, ha ha.
Carlton Doom will appear on Friday 3 June at AVA Festival. More information can be found here.