Qknox and Kalyn Heffernan on Quantized Fitness, their new monthly hip-hop showcase
With whom did you hook up to play music when you moved back to Denver in 2007?
Q: I went to middle school and high school with Charlie Mertens, who plays with Impromptu, Big Wheel and a ton of other bands. He called me and hooked me up with Big Wheel, and I started playing with him and Damien. Then I started playing with Casey Sidwell, and through him I met Gyp Dahip. He is how I hooked up with a lot of the rappers in the scene like F.O.E., Whygee, Kalyn Heffernan, Turner and the major hip-hop groups.
You also worked with Lady Speech?
Q: Yes. I finished her album three or four months ago. She came to the house and did a bunch of poetry into a microphone. Then I took six or eight months to drop music behind it.
What attracted you to doing hip-hop beats specifically?
Q: I'm an '80s baby. I grew up with hip-hop. It was always around. I love all different kinds of music. There isn't really one or two people that lead me into hip-hop. I could name my five favorite producers, like Premier, Dre, Dilla, Mad Lib and Hi-Tek. I always liked the independence of hip-hop. With jazz, I played with trios and some solo stuff. And the hip-hop community reminded me of the jazz community -- the lifestyle aspect of it.
Everybody kind of builds off the other one. Those two worlds interacted well together.
The standards that Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson or Bud Powell played were from the popular musicals at that time. So it was a logical connection for us to play hip-hop songs because that's what was happening in our time.
When we do jazz gigs now, to do a J. Dilla beat is a standard. Or a Mad Lib beat. As a jazz head you would recognize samples in a hip-hop song. Production and live music have really melded in these last five years. Players like Robert Glasper do a lot of improvisation with the production. The line was there, and it got super blurry as technology developed.
How did you two meet?
KH: I had just started Wheelchair Sports Camp when he moved back. I wasn't really connected with the scene, and I'd always been an outsider. I had always been into hip-hop but never really knew the scene locally. The more I did gigs, the more Wheelchair Sports Camp became its own thing. I'd heard this record by Ace called Ronan, and it was produced by the Girl Grabbers. I'm so picky and cynical about everything, but I heard that Ace stuff, and thought it was so fresh. This was from Denver? You've got to be kidding me.
So I got a hold of Ace and said, "Man, those beats and your flow..." He said, "Yeah, it's Qknox and Gyp Dahip." So I finally reached out to Qknox because I was so impressed. He said, "Yeah, come over." He lifted me out of my chair, and we went in his house and he ended up giving me ten beats I'm still sitting on. It was crazy because he had so much. I'm a producer, too, but I never sit on that many beats. I picked ten to fifteen beats, and we decided to do a project.
I don't think I realized at the time how much Gyp was part of a lot of this. So we decided to do a Girl Grabbers project that we played live once. I think Qknox is the most polished diamond in this community. He's so prolific, and he does so much. I don't know how he has time to eat or shit. He's always doing something new and playing with other bands and teaching. He's a mentor who has been in the community longer than me. Now that we have this monthly at Unit E, it has solidified our relationship and building each other's communities.
Q: Our circles coincide on the outer edges, so it's nice to bring those folks together.
So you're planning on doing this Quantized Fitness event at Unit E every month?
KH: I've been close with Gregg [Ziemba] every since we graduated from college, which is where we met. After he got busted, I contacted him regarding [what we could do about that situation]. A week later he said, "We're still going to keep it going. I want you to do a hip-hop monthly." So I called Jerod and asked, "Do you want to help me? At least I want you to play it." He said, "Yeah, why don't we just do it together?"
I'm more the cynic between the two of us and get frustrated with the scene. If you play on Broadway or even Santa Fe, it's hard to do real hip-hop without only playing it for hipsters. We did an experiment with having the real hip-hop community into a certain club, and it failed us.
I didn't want to give up, but I wanted to get around that. We have this indie scene we kind of have to pay attention to. But I'm trying to bring that together with the hip-hop scene. It's taken me so long to really feel comfortable in this scene and say we have amazing-ness. So if we could start promoting that to people who don't yet know that. I think we want to create this exclusive event, that, no matter what, we're going to be booking dope acts.
There's Low End Theory that's a weekly or monthly in L.A. that started as resident DJs like Daddy Kev and Gaslamp Killer. Now they're taking over. It's a Wednesday night in the 'hood, and now there's a line around the block. That was kind of my idea for it. Building up Unit E, building up our local community, and now keeping it so it can't become like Low End Theory. We're going to arrange it so each event can be completely different. But hopefully we're going to have this little community that always knows that every third Saturday, that's where you have to be.
But that's hard now because there's so much hip-hop. Like last night I knew there were three great DJs playing: Gyp Dahip's party, Damien was playing at Local 46, Candy Camaro was also on the North Side. Do you limit the shows or create better shows? I think we're in a place where we just have to keep doing better.
Qknox, with Kalyn Heffernan and Joshua Trinidad, Kid Hum and Quiz, Friday, December 28, Unit E (for time and other details please contact Jerod Sarlo or Kalyn Heffernan at email@example.com).