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Off The Record:With CKTRL

Musician. DJ. Producer. Multi-instrumentalist. cktrl, aka Bradley Miller, is changing the narrative. 

Case in point, his  EP, Yield. Created out of grief and heartbreak, it’s an achingly beautiful compilation of classical music that feels like an awakening – for both the listener and the artist. And a new move for the musician. “It very much stands alone,” he explains. “There isn’t any other music out there like it, which is what makes it exciting for me.”

Ft. five tracks, from ‘Yield’ to the already widely hyped ‘Love + War’, it’s cktrl at his best. Style. Substance. Smart thinking. Originality. Pure talent. And now, cktrl has curated an exclusive playlist ahead of our FLANNELS X pop up with The House of Creed. 

cktrl sat down with us to talk changing 
the narrative in Black British music, his Lewisham roots and using your voice for good. 

It’s time to meet cktrl. 


What are your earliest musical memories and what did you grow up listening to?

All kinds of Black music really, everything: revival, roots, reggae, jazz, soul, country, dancehall. It was all going on. Music was the heartbeat of the house and there was always music playing - I can’t remember times of there being any kind of silence.  

You were born, raised and live in Lewisham, South London. How has this shaped your music and identity?

Sound systems are very much a part of the fabric of Lewisham… Saxon [Sound System] had Genesis [Radio] too and I used to have a show on there. Being at school and the culture of making beats. [It was] just about originality. It’s very much how Jamaica is, but in a micro kind of way because obviously, Lewisham is a lot smaller than Kingston. But it’s that type of energy where you just had to be original or the best or have some kind of flare. Lewisham has always been about being fresh with your ideas and being first and making noise about it as well.

It’s changing the narrative because when people think ‘classical music’ they don’t think Black music. But it is Black music, as all music is.

You say that Yield was ‘Born from a desire to change the narrative around contemporary Black British music’. How do you hope it’ll change this?

I wouldn’t say I necessarily have any hopes for stuff, it’s more about making something that reaffirms things. That reclaims something. Rather than hoping to do something. I know that it does that. A lot of the time when it’s instrumentations and a Black artist, it’s put in the jazz category, it’s not looked at as classical music. When you look at the London jazz scene, what I’m doing with my work is definitely very separate to that, even though there is some crossover with some records and the fact that similar instruments are being used, like the saxophone, but that’s the only similarity. I think it’s important to own the spaces that we’re in. It’s changing the narrative because when people think ‘classical music’ they don’t think Black music. But it is Black music, as all music is.

Representation is so important. Both in terms of those who inspired the next generation and being the representation you need to see growing up. What does this mean to you? 

I think it’s very important, but… I think with a lot of things in the world at the moment, it’s the echo of substance. People like the look of something or think that something is interesting but when you look into it, it’s just that on the surface. If people come across me on the internet… if they hear the music first, then that’s one thing. If they see me first and then hear the music, that’s another. Both are equally as important because the world is very visual at the moment but aside from your aesthetic you have to have a voice and you have to be using it for the greater good where you can. 


What does the name of your EP, Yield, mean to you?

I’ve got two meanings. You can look at yield as what you get back from a harvest: what you put in and what you get back out. And other people look at yield as submitting to something or surrendering. It’s kind of both of those things. It’s like you’re basically surrendering to yourself to get the best from yourself, from your own harvest… you need to show up for yourself, show up for your loved one, show up for your relationships, show up in business… whatever it is you need to do, you still need to try and show up for yourself and try and make things happen. 


You have such great personal style and clothes are obviously important. What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is kind of like family in a sense. I got into fashion from my older sister and when it comes to my presence in fashion or things I’m doing around fashion, it’s always with friends. We’ve kind of got our own family in fashion so we’re protected. I remember watching The Devil Wears Prada and thinking ‘sh**t, fashion’s a mad ting.’ Or Zoolander or something like that and you think ‘mmm there’s some crazy characters here.’


Fashion, music, art and design – it all goes hand in hand and there are quite a lot of people who straddle all of those worlds; meeting and colliding in interesting ways that I think are perfect for a true expression.

How would you describe your own personal style?

Comfy-casual. Wavy. It’s just a reflection of how I’m feeling. It’s quite similar to my music in that sense – I’ll only wear certain things if I feel that…

Aside from your sister, who or what has most influenced your style?

It’s more movements I guess – like the Rude Boy culture in Jamaica, with the Clarks and stuff. That type of energy has always been an influence. Jamaica is definitely a big part of [my] style choices, but in subtle, less overt ways, like silhouettes and how things kind of drop rather than emulating the actual clothing itself. 


Do you think there’s a relationship between fashion and music? 

100%. Fashion, music, art and design – it all goes hand in hand and there are quite a lot of people who straddle all of those worlds; meeting and colliding in interesting ways that I think are perfect for a true expression. It’s like some people do just do music and couldn’t give a s**t about fashion, but the way that the world is now with society and culture, everything kind of moves everything else. It can’t exist without the other, I don’t think. 


You don’t dress like a ‘typical’ classical musician. Do clothes help form your identity?

I just think it’s important to be who you are in everything. People talk about identity a lot but then they’re hyper-aware of how they want to come across or be perceived. I don’t really come from that kind of place. I’m just me.


You’re very much part of the Black cultural renaissance in Britain at the moment. Who is most inspiring you on home soil?

I’m always really inspired by my friends. So, everything that Maximilian Davis is doing. Ed Kamara. Campbell Addy. I feel like my friends are just killing it in all their areas at the moment and it’s just amazing to see that. 


Speaking of friends, you made a cameo in Beyoncé’s Black Is King. What was that experience like? 

That was crazy. Just to even know that I’m on Disney+ is kind of jokes. I’m just trying to get back to Disney+ again for something else – that’s still on the bucket list. My friend Jenn [Nkiru] directed the video, that section of Black Is King. Initially, I just went along because I really wanted to just be in any work that she was doing. We had no idea it was something to do with Beyoncé, which made it madder. When we got there, we had to sign an NDA and that’s when everyone was like ‘oh, this is for...’ Mad. That’s when it landed. But I would have been there anyway just to show up for Jenn. That’s another person who is really inspiring. She’s come from South London as well and been able to do amazing, amazing things. I’ve seen her go from strength to strength and putting out amazing art every time.

There’s actually no competition at all if your voice is your own.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Everything that people tell you that is cliché when you’re growing up, you need to actually listen to it. When people are like ‘do your thing’ or ‘believe in yourself,' you think ‘yeah whatever’ at the time but… it’s the basics. I think because of social media or because of your peers or people you consider your competitors are doing, you can start to really doubt yourself or compare your work or try and compete with something they’re doing. But the more your voice is your own, the easier it is to just exist and keep putting out your art or doing whatever it is you feel. There’s actually no competition at all if your voice is your own. 


Is there anything you’d like the next generation to learn from you?

Just the ability to be yourself all the time. So, if you want to explore something that your friends don’t or your cousins or whoever, if anyone is ever telling you you shouldn’t do that you should do this, but you’re actually interested in something, follow it and do it and it can still work. I think a lot of the times when we’re younger if our friends are not interested in going to a museum or going to watch something or see something that’s a bit different to what everyone else is doing, you kind of get resistance or you get people that don’t want to know but you should still go on your own. If you’ve got an enquiring mind, then you should feed it. 


What does music mean to you?

Everything. I couldn’t do anything without it.