Clarinetist, saxophonist as well as a producer and DJ. It’s fair to say Bradley a.k.a cktrl is a man of many talents. 
cktrl might be known best for his producing and DJ’ing, but what you might not know is that his musical education started aged eight in Saturday sessions at Lewisham Music Service, complete with theory class, concert band and instrumental lessons. Since then, cktrl’s music has evolved into – well we’re not quite sure, but we love it with its influences of grime, R&B, reggae, garage and more!
We talked to Bradley about his journey as cktrl and the importance of having music in young people’s education. 


Interviewed by Sophie Ogunyemi & Renée Jackson 

What was your first introduction to playing a musical instrument?

I was in year 4. I remember I’d just got my first hi-fi and had two CDs which were by Bob Marley and Michael Jackson – two really different albums. From listening to them I knew that I wanted to make some kind of sound in some way. 

Then a music teacher came and showed us some instruments at school and I had the opportunity to start playing. We were shown the flute and oboe (which I thought was really cool at the time because it reminded me of snake charmers) but the clarinet was the sound that I liked the best. The oboe sounded really duck-y to me haha. But yeah, the teacher made the clarinet sound cool and it looked cool when he did it so I was sold really!

The teacher was young and just out of uni, and he was the one who told me about the Saturday music school in Lewisham as he also taught there. The whole team at the music centre were so dedicated and involved which made it easy to get stuck in. They obviously really cared. We got involved with other things, like recording music for a radio station advert and playing in different countries in old peoples homes which was great – they always gave us cake!

Who inspired you along your musical journey?

No one in particular really. My dad had a big record collection but the reason I kept playing after the music service closed down was for me. Working full time was stressful, so playing for myself was like a therapy. I find playing really personal, so even performing feels like a lot. Music is a type of self – expression; some people get that release from crying in the bath, but I cry/let it out whilst I’m playing. Even now playing in public, I feel quite exposed. It’s very personal. 

How did you move and evolve into your current style of music-making?

When I was about 16, all the changes happened at the music service and you had to start paying monthly, so everyone pretty much left, including the teachers. After that – well I was making beats from year 7, so as I continued I started playing over the top of what I was creating. I guess it evolved from there.

How did you move from your previous job to being a full-time musician?

I’ve only been a full-time musician for a year and a half. I basically had the opportunity to leave my old job as they were restructuring, which made it easy for me to leave. I used to have to use my annual leave and work flexi hours to fit in performances and just make it work! 

What effect do you want your music to have on your listeners?

To feel something. Whatever that emotion is.

What has been the hardest thing to overcome in the music industry so far? 

I suppose the hardest thing to overcome is yourself, actually. It’s nothing to do with other people – there’s always going to be trends, fads, things happening or whatever, but you just need to know what you’re saying and believe in it. I think with the industry, social media and all the pressures of life you can lose sight and it’s easy to be discouraged or despondent. You just need to need to know what you’re doing and do it.

A black, masculine adult playing the clarinet behind the scenes
What do you enjoy most about being a professional musician?

I guess it’s freedom. I’ve got my own time to put things together and do my own thing. I don’t think I’ve had that properly since I was 18 – so yeah, it’s good. My biggest fear is having to go back to a ‘normal’ job.

What impact has music had in your life?

Like I said, it’s always been more of a therapy and an escape for me. I’ve set up my room so I only really need to leave for food! My daily routine always has time in it to either practise my instruments, practise DJ’ing or making beats.

Do you think Take it away is beneficial to young people wanting to learn an instrument?

Yes, I do think it’s beneficial for young people because access is important. I was incredibly fortunate that I got to learn and play for free through the music service. Take it away is great because it’s making it easier for all young people to play.

Make a scene around what you’re doing. Create your cult. Find your tribe and build it. 

Community music was obviously a huge part of your musical development. What would you say to the government to try and prevent more cuts to musical education?

Growing up, you don’t know your options so you’re not sure what careers are actually careers and what could actually make money.

There’s so many jobs out there music-related, like making music for adverts or soundscapes. It’s not just being a pop star, but you don’t know that without exposure to these options which comes from learning about music from a young age.

If you minimise what’s accessible to the younger generations, you’re doing a massive disservice as you’re not allowing them to work out their own potential and what they can do. It effects their quality of life too. 

We’ll also lose a whole generation of diverse people in the music industry, which is such an important part of our culture. 

What is your favourite track at the moment?

Trending by Squash

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?

Beyoncé 👑

A bald. black, masculine adult that is wearing a blue jacket and blue trousers is holding a clarient.
Do you think you need to study music to be successful in it?

Nope!  I did all my grades and I studied music at college but that put me off to be honest, but I’m sure it also depends on what teachers you have. Sometimes the set of rules you’re taught in a traditional setting can be restricting.

I got into the Royal Academy/Trinity and Goldsmiths, but I decided that path wasn’t for me…

Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young people starting out in music?

Hone in on your sound and know what you want to say; first impressions are really important. You want to keep you trajectory going up so you need to keep building on that.

Try and do things in a community, so work with friends when you can and support each other, whether that’s by being on a track or helping out with a show.

Make a scene around what you’re doing. Create your cult. Find your tribe and build it. 

Listen now on SoundCloud or Spotify:

Keep an eye out for his upcoming gigs by following cktrl on:
You’re in for a treat!

Tell us what you think: @Takeitawaymusic