Selected by: James Keith
Photography: Lukey

Name: cktrl

Where He’s From: Lewisham, South London

Genre: Jazz

File Next To: Ojerime, S4U, Flwr Chyld

When He Started: “I started making music in Year 7 with no YouTube tutorials. Obviously, it was dead for time, but to me it was a ting and I was always working at it. I was dedicated to sound.”

Sounds Like: “It’s distinctive because I care enough to be original. And it’s personal because it feels like everything I’ve lost has come back to me; every time I make something. It’s made from love at times, you know to comfort yourself? So it ranges quite widely like our feelings do.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “It’s weird because it wasn’t one song that made me want to make music, if I’m honest. It was hearing two completely different songs that made me want to make music, because I could hear elements from both that I wanted to recreate on the same track. That was how my production journey started. When it comes to making music with my instruments, though, that’s solely inspired by a feeling and the tone of that feeling. It’s very lyrical that expression before the feeling makes you play something that tells a story without words. If I did have to pick a song that inspired me, I’d say ‘Fire House Rock’ by Wailing Souls because this a song that encapsulates both a tone and feeling with strong production value in both the beat and the vocal.”

Producer and multi-instrumentalist cktrl, aka Bradley Miller, has fast become one of the most sought-after collaborators in the UK (Sampha, Dean Blunt and Virgil Abloh all count themselves fans). His creations are full of warmth, passion and verve, but defy any conventional genre boundaries. Saxophone melodies gallop and take flight, drum patterns simmer to boiling point, often veering off in unexpected directions at a moment’s notice—but there’s nothing random about his music. Often tying itself to R&B, soul and classical music, cktrl’s music is as direct as jazz gets, propelled by raw emotion but with a laser-like focus that can elude some musicians. However, his influences stretch far beyond the realms of jazz, which is probably why the word ‘jazz’ feels so reductive.

An early, formative introduction to some of the best Caribbean music ever made left an indelible mark on the young Lewisham native. “My parents are of the Windrush Generation so music of their time was played at home when I was growing up,” he tells TRENCH. “You know, roots reggae/revival and calypso/soca. The soca was my mum’s influence as she was the small island one in the household being from Montserrat.” Soon he was hoovering up anything and everything, soaking up music wherever he could find it. “Jazz and rare groove grew on me as I got older,” he adds. “The production and vibration of island music caught me first; classical caught me in primary school when I started playing the clarinet; and I got my R&B fix from my older sister. She had a bad-boy hifi! It was really just growing up Black with all the sounds of the diaspora, to be honest.”

As for the future, in these unpredictable times, cktrl is taking it slow and thinking tactically. His 2016 mixtape, INDi, got rave reviews across the board, but he tries not to get ahead of himself: “I’m an artist, so just sharing work is a big move. I’m always proud because I show up for myself and that’s the hardest part of being an artist—especially when you’re not necessarily commercially motivated and you make work from your thoughts, moods and feelings.” He does, of course, have a plan to keep his prospects bright and, most importantly, long-lasting. “Making life sustainable from my artistry,” he says of his long-term goals. “Range is my thing, so being able to have multiple income streams from my varied output is what I’m on.” The musician’s next EP, robyn, drops November 27 via Touching Bass (pre-order it here), and if the lead single of the same name is anything to go by, he’s well on track to make those plans happen.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on November 04, 2020