Despite a string of successes, ranging from his 2012 Boiler Room debut at age 17 to a release with Sampha in 2015 to a series of shows on NTS Radio, southeast London’s cktrl is sceptical. Not pessimistic, but merely conscious of how vaporous the music industry’s perceived achievements can end up being. “I can’t say anything springs to mind for career highlights,” he reveals. “Whenever I felt I was on the verge of something I really wasn’t… You just end up being hard on yourself, depressed and even have breakdowns from not popping nowadays. So I’ve learnt that you have to do you and have fun, and if you keep busy self-doubt doesn’t kick in.”
And kept busy he has. After releasing an EP in 2015, cktrl, whose real name is Bradley Miller, put out INDi, a mixtape that saw him flex his production muscles across a variety of genres, the following year. With every new track dropped since, Miller’s growth and diversity of sound have made themselves evident and commonplace in his work — pulling in elements from grime, trap, R&B, and beyond and, perhaps more impressively, doing so seamlessly.
His latest project, the Colour EP, based around a revisited track from INDi, is a welcome addition to this diverse lineup, featuring vocals from Ophie, Erva Carter and Anajah over soulful, enveloping soundscapes. For Miller, the “grime” tag is one he wears with pride, even as his music drifts sonically from what an outsider might connect with the genre as he believes limiting the label to a single sound is unnecessarily restrictive. “It will always apply. It’s the attitude in my approach… Grime is not a singular thing – I think that’s doing it a disservice,” the artist proclaims.
No matter how one defines it though, Miller can count a range of personal influences beyond his experience in the world of UK grime. He describes his background as “Jamaica and Montserrat by way of southeast London,” and being a classically trained musician, everything he produces is, in his words, “always gonna be a mixed bag, big man.”
A taste of this mixed bag can be heard on cktrl’s NTS sets, a London-based online radio station and media platform. Miller has been on NTS’s digital airwaves for years now, hosting a show that shares a name with his own record label, Songs 4 Girls. “In all honesty, NTS has shown me anything’s possible [and] affirmed that I don’t need to worry about doing one thing if that’s not me,” he admits. In each set, Miller drops tracks from artists around London and beyond, frequently spinning exclusive tracks and reworks not heard anywhere else. Recent favourites to play on the station include “my sister Elle and artists that I work with like Ophie, Wynter and Marti.”
The Songs 4 Girls name is not as flirtatious as it initially sounds. S4G began as a series of playlists and song collections made in collaboration with “black women for everyone that I produced and sometimes co-wrote.” Calling the series playlists rather than albums or mixtapes implied a tailored, curated experience. “It made people listen to all of the tracks rather than pick favourites like you do when you listen to an EP/album-length project or mixtape – you don’t naturally just let it play like you do with a Tidal/Spotify playlist,” Miller explains.
Through every mixtape, playlist and feature after INDi, “Colour”, a track off of the aforementioned mixtape, stuck in his mind. “It was the feeling from the layers in “Colour” that told their own story to me,” he says, “so I wanted to explore them at different and similar tempos – the way the pads and progressions moved to the percussion hit and also the use of different bass sounds in the low frequencies.”
The resultant EP blends dreamy electronic pieces with beats simultaneously grimy and jazzy, closing with a rework of “Colour” now fittingly titled “Soft.” “I wanted to make a project that gave a feeling of balancing light and lightness,” Miller recounts.
Even though the EP is finally out, Miller is never content to settle for long, a fact evidenced by his extensive release history under the cktrl name. “I don’t force it,” he assures. “If it’s not working I stop straight away and work on something else, or I’ll just leave the yard and maybe come back to it a week or years later.”
That said, an incredible output like Miller’s requires consistent time and effort, who admits he’s “constantly working my face off.” Colour’s release is thrilling. “It’s a ting, really excited about it. Making music helps me a lot, so I hope sharing it helps others too, in some way,” he exclaims.
As far as the future is concerned, Miller plans on keeping with the work ethic that got him to where he is today, though he does have some dreams of collaboration. “Teyana Taylor, Rihanna (coz she’s from the islands too), Kid Cudi and Rico Nasty. Woulda said Beyoncé first but I couldn’t cope, would be a mad ting. Beyoncé, you know. Jeez,” the accomplished act gushes. However, collaboration with Queen Bee aside, Miller remains grounded. “Can’t beat DJing with friends and making music for therapy,” he says. Though the EP is already out, as always, “the best is yet to come.”
cktrl’s new EP, ‘Colour’, is out now. Listen here.