In September, Belfast native Carlton Doom — real name Chris Hanna — took to the stage for the return of the city’s very own AVA Festival, after delivering a standout Boiler Room back in 2019. On the line-up alongside the likes of Sally C, KiNK, Cromby and FJAAK, it was a surreal return for the crowd and artists alike. Through a mix of his own productions, some using Slipknot samples, and a tasty edit of T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ by Zeez, Doom reminded everyone exactly why he is one of the city’s most-loved DJs. “It felt exciting, and a little overwhelming,” Doom tells DJ Mag.
“[It is] so much fun to hear extremely loud, bassy music, and so much fun to see so many friends that I hadn’t in so long. But, it was sensory overload at times after being a hermit. I had to take a few moments to myself to just calm down a little,” he laughs.
Returning to the fold was especially difficult for Doom this year, after taking a step back from music to focus on his mental health. He’s transparent, open and honest about his struggles, and shares his journey via social media. “I can now say, thankfully, my mental health is far better managed,” he says. “I was diagnosed bipolar, and trying to get medication that suited me, visiting various doctors and therapies. These things take time and I wasn’t in a great place.
“Alas, I withstood it all, feel better, and I’m now back making music again and feeling more confident.”
In terms of records, Doom has ticked off what he calls “bucket list material” this year, releasing his ‘Binmen, Machine, Insects & More’ EP via Lobster Theremin in September, and seeing his music supported by the likes of Jamie XX and Four Tet. It hasn’t always been dance music for Doom, though, and after first being introduced to sound systems through hip-hop and R&B, he took an interest in artists like Dr.Dre, Polow Da Don, Timbaland and Danjahandz.
“I started going out when I was like 15, to a place called Skye,” Doom remembers. “Seven quid in and a pound a drink all night. It was when ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna and stuff like that had just come out, and I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely loved it. [I] used to be able to convince the DJ to play Busta Rhymes ‘Break Ya Neck’ — what more could you ask for?”
Around the same time, Doom began producing hip-hop and R&B instrumentals, and selling them to singers via websites in the U.S.. Before long, and as soon as he was able, he began frequenting some of Belfast’s parties ran by the city’s beloved promoters — Shine, Stiff Kitten, Yello and Twitch — and the rest is history. “Twitch was definitely when I went ‘Holy Shit — what is all this?’,” he remembers. “Hearing proper house music, deep techno, broken techno, breaks... It was like an awakening. Twitch also gave me my first gig. I owe them guys a lot... an awful lot.”
As a producer, Doom’s work is exhilarating, inebriating and chaotic, peppering hard, abrasive electronics with fleeting samples and melodies. He’s released music via Hypercolour, Scuba’s Hotflush and Deep Sea Frequency, and although his most recent EPs and singles have landed under the Carlton Doom alias, his productions as Chris Hanna, which have seen him team up with the likes of Ejeca, are lighter, house-focused, club-driven tracks. “I think there’s something cool about hiding behind a little persona and creating away,” Doom says, speaking about his Jekyll-and-Hyde methodology when it comes to making music.
“I just find it fun... I had this whole idea that Carlton Doom was some mad electronic music chemist who lived underground in Ireland — performing his experiments like the intro to Ice Cube’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein’. That’s all sorta fallen away a little but it still comes back to me and makes me laugh.
“I think really it’s just freedom. Having more confidence hiding behind a new name, an alias, who is this person? What do they sound like? What’s their craic? Good fun. You get to be somebody you’re not.”
For his Fresh Kicks mix, Doom has dug deep into the archives, mixing 60 minutes of his own productions spanning from 2011 to 2021, “with the help of a few friends in there”. “I’m actually really proud of it,” he says, “It’s made to look back at how much music I’ve released over the last 10 years.”
Check out the mix below.
Carlton Doom / Emby ‘Life On Marble’ (Forthcoming)
Carlton Doom / Jamie Nevin ‘UM Comet’ (Unsigned)
Chris Hanna ‘Gramophonen’ (First Second Label)
Carlton Doom ‘Ghost Train’ (Unsigned)
Carlton Doom ‘Insects In The Jelly’ (Lobster Theremin)
Carlton Doom ‘'Ard’ (Hypercolour)
Carlton Doom ‘E Machine’ (Lobster Theremin)
Carlton Doom ‘2 Fizzies’ (Unsigned)
Ejeca ‘Meme (Chris Hanna remix)’ (Exploris)
Chris Hanna ‘Meat Factory’ (Exploris)
Carlton Doom ‘Butter Finger’ (Unsigned)
Carlton Doom / Mod Man ‘Les Freres Hereux’ (Unsigned)
Carlton Doom ‘Midnight Star’ (Unsigned)