BigWheel ElectroSoul Denver
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BigWheel ElectroSoul Denver

Denver, Colorado, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
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"Best Live Hip-Hop Band - 2011-Bigwheel Electrosoul"

If live instrumentation were a living organism, you would find it alive and well at Appaloosa Grill on Tuesday nights. That's when the trio of DJ Check One, Charlie Parker Mertens and Qknox join as BigWheel Electrosoul and set the place ablaze with their progressive and confident brand of hip-hop. With Check One on drums, Qknox on keys and Mertens on bass, the threeome serves up classy and innovative music that makes you want to dance — or at least enjoy a drink at the bar. Big Wheel isn't just a bar-residency band, however; these musicians have a full-length album in the works, not to mention a "brunch" collaboration with DJ Vajra titled The Guac Vol. 1. - Denver Westword


"BigWheel Electrosoul keeps on rolling at Appaloosa Grill"

We're BigWheel Electrosoul," DJ Check One announces after the band's first song before adding, "and we're here every Tuesday at Appaloosa."

Before the percussionist can take his next breath, a highly inebriated gentleman begins to chant with slurred thunder, "One more song! One more song!" which inspires sardonic shrugs and a laugh from Check One and the rest of the crew before they launch into the next song in their set. Seemingly satisfied, the drunken man screams and claps. "Thank you! Thank you!"

The legend of BigWheel Electrosoul's Tuesday-night gathering begins about eight years ago. From its earlier incarnation as DragonFly (featuring Dominique Lolly of Big Gigantic and Jared Sayers of the Motet), the trio now comprises Damieon "Check One" Hines, Charles Parker "Murder" Mertens and Jerod "Qknox" Sarlo.

BigWheel keep on turning: Damieon "Check One" Hines (from left), Jerod, "Qknox" Sarlo and Charlie "Murder" Mertens are BigWheel Electrosoul.
BigWheel keep on turning: Damieon "Check One" Hines (from left), Jerod, "Qknox" Sarlo and Charlie "Murder" Mertens are BigWheel Electrosoul.
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Appaloosa Grill
535 16th St.
Denver, CO 80202 Category: Bars and Clubs Region: Downtown Denver Photos
Details
BigWheel Electrosoul,Tuesdays at Appaloosa Grill, 535 16th Street, free, 720-932-1700.

To the untrained eye, it appears as though the three are merely meshing sounds, Check One on drums and making beats with the MPC, Qknox on the keys and synthesizer ("and the occasional shaker," he notes) and Mertens with his monstrous bass. What's actually happening is that the three beatmakers are playing live over beats — their beats. It looks easy, but the guys say they've played together for so long, the chemistry is almost natural.

"There's a lot of screaming, a lot of hand signals," Mertens explains.

"I always feel like if I stare intently at them, they'll look up at me," says Qknox. "I'll intend to stop a tune, and I won't be able to get Charlie's attention, so I'll just stop, and he'll stop it anyway. That's just years of working together. I've been playing with Charlie for 30,000 years, it feels like."

The inspiration to perfect live beatmaking came when Check One witnessed Mark De Clive Lowe's signature live production on stage at the Jazz Cafe in London, a sight that so moved him, he began honing his own skills in that regard. "I saw him making beats with the MPC and said, 'Man, I gotta try this,'" he recalls. "It's been a growth and sticking with it; it kind of bled into everything." Hines, who is also a producer, DJ, drummer and T-shirt designer, is a classically trained percussionist. Live, he employs electronic drum sequences with live drumming and his trusty MPC 2500.

"When I moved back here," Qknox remembers, "Check One was the only one doing this. I didn't have the MPC, so I didn't have the capability to do that live stuff, but when I saw how he was using samples and live music, it was like, 'Duh!' This was before Ableton and all of those programs."

The tremendous talent that exists in each of these musicians is what drives BigWheel forward and has kept the trio at the forefront of the live-music scene. All three make beats, and each of them is involved in a smattering of individual projects.

"Each of us has 200 beats that we go through," Check One points out. "I have pages of beats. We've done a bunch of projects when people die, like Michael Jackson and Teddy Pendergrass. We'll drop these beats and then bring them back. Halloween beats, compost beats, where we chop up radio hits. We've done shows dedicated to Too $hort — there are just a gross of beats that we have to work with."

In addition to these three pieces of the puzzle — Mertens, Qknox and Check One — there's an interchangeable fourth element, which might be an a cappella vocal or a horn solo. "If I play an a cappella and no one is on stage," Qknox explains, "the fourth person is whatever element we use. If we use a sample of 85 people singing, the fourth element is 85 people."

Qknox is the melodic spoke in the turning wheel. Trained on the keys and experienced in artist development, he studied at the New School University's Jazz and Contemporary Music Program in New York City. A traditional foundation of jazz informs his playing, even in progressive projects like BigWheel. "To make beats for BigWheel was different than making beats that were not intended to be made live," he points out. "There's a certain sound that fits well with all the instruments together and fits in a live setting. You could make these amazing beats and wonder what it sounds like live, but it's always completely different when a band plays live behind it."

Originally the trio was trying to create loops on the fly with the bass, hi-hat and snare drum, and make up lines along the way. But then they started bringing down the productions that each of them had been working on, and that's when the magic happened. "Everyone was trying different things," Check One recalls, "and so many different parts came together to make the sound more musical."

There's a mathematical formula to making the music work, however. "Just like a jazz musician will compose a song and bring his chart to the music session, it's the same with us," Mertens reveals. "We compose the beats and we bring a beat down to the session, but we listen to it, pick it up by ear, find the notes and the keys and react to it. We make up our parts that work against the beat to rock along with it." - Westword Magazine


"Best Live Hip-Hop Band Denver BigWheel Electrosoul"

If live instrumentation were a living organism, you would find it alive and well at Appaloosa Grill on Tuesday nights. That's when the trio of DJ Check One, Charlie Parker Mertens and Qknox join as BigWheel Electrosoul and set the place ablaze with their progressive and confident brand of hip-hop. With Check One on drums, Qknox on keys and Mertens on bass, the threeome serves up classy and innovative music that makes you want to dance — or at least enjoy a drink at the bar. Big Wheel isn't just a bar-residency band, however; these musicians have a full-length album in the works, not to mention a "brunch" collaboration with DJ Vajra titled The Guac Vol. 1. - Westword Magazine


Discography

Bigwheel ElectroSoul LP-Released December 24, 2011

Bigwheel's Live Remix Show- That Guac Vol #1 feat Dj Vajra-Released October 16, 2010

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Bio

Bigwheel Electrosoul is a Denver-based project under the direction of DJ Check One. The sound is half electronic half Live and frequently uses some of Colorado’s top musicians, singers and MC’s.  We are 3 producers and performers and we focus on beat production matched seamlessly with our live performance.  We have a funky wall of sound that hits and makes you want to move.  At times Bigwheel has acted as a house band for national acts such as Bahamadia, Camp Lo, Eric Roberson, Phat Kat, Les Nubians etc. 

Members: Dj Check One on Drums/Production/DJ - Charlie Mertans on Bass/Production - Qknox on Keys/Production

Sounds Like: The Roots, Soulive, keys in crates, Big Gigantic, Lettuce

Band Members