Well hey there.
My name is Ryan G. Osborne. I make music under the moniker Poly Gecko. Here’s where I’ll tell you some more about me and the music I make.
Since I have all this space to talk about it, here’s the tale of how I ended up here, doing what I’m doing: It all started in junior high where I started playing bass guitar. It’s not like I chose the bass, but everyone else I wanted to jam with already played drums or guitar – so it was a bass guitar life for me. After being in several jam bands, I started a band with some friends. The band was called Mariposa (yes, that’s Spanish for butterfly) and after writing four or five original songs, we decided it would be fun to record them. During the recording sessions for our demo CD, the band fell apart. Even though nothing was ever kept from those sessions, I was introduced to the concept of recording, multi-tracking, mixing, etc. After the dissolution of the band, I began to focus more on recording and production over writing music, preferring the supervisory role as ‘producer’ in a recording. “How could I make this great artist even better on an album?”
During High School, I continued to record different artists with different techniques over a vast plain of genres. The first thing I ever (loosely) produced was a hip hop mixtape for my friend Michael Earle (then Top Notch, now MAJE). It was a lot of fun; he brought me the beats, I recorded his vocals in my bedroom with a $75 condenser microphone, and (loosely) mixed it. I was always fascinated with mixing techniques like doubling the vocal track and treating it with different plug-ins, using panning techniques I thought were untraditional, etc. I would go to Staples and buy those pack of CD inserts, print them out with the cover art I (loosely) designed and would bring them to school the next day for Michael to sell. I never asked for more money than what I spent buying the materials for his CDs – it was just a fun thing to do. Following Michael Earle’s New Yearz Revolution, I worked on some metal, pop, folk, rock, punk. You get the idea. I remember at a point charging $2/hour for recording. That isn’t to suggest that **grandfatherly voice** back in my day, you could buy a movie ticket, a bag of chips and a chocolate for a nickel **end grandfatherly voice**, either. I just really enjoyed it. I remember the first $20 bill I earned for recording – 10 hours work! – I remember writing on it ‘RECORDING MONEY’. It was single-handedly the coolest thing. I had it taped on my bedroom wall for a very long time.
I realized sometime in early High School that there was extraordinary amount of talented musicians around and all they need is the right sort of exposure. I launched a lil’ record label and ran it from 2009 until 2012. I had some really great artists signed on, but with High School, part-time work, and post-secondary on the horizon, a lot of people – including myself – lost focus. Whether it ‘worked’ or not, it was a very fun experiment and taught me a lot of lessons about this industry, which is like no other.Included on the artist roster on the record label was my best friend Joel: a modest, brilliant musician with his head in a lot of different genres. Finally, here was some music that I could really experiment with! We released a single on iTunes named Rain and a full length album titled Nobody’s Home which honestly remains one of my favourite albums to this day. I wasn’t as experienced as an audio engineer as I am today so that part is lacking, and becomes striking clear when I listen back to it. But the content and writing shines through and gets me every time. It’s amazing projects like this that remind you to stick with music. Sure, I could go out to Alberta and make gobs of money drilling for oil but where’s the fun in that? It’s projects like Nobody’s Home that further staple your commitment to this industry in one way or another.
During my final two years of High School, I was completely sold on going to NSCC Waterfront for their Recording Arts program. I was so excited to be formally trained in how to record and mix and to keep the dream alive of working in a recording studio someday. And then one day in September 2010, I started at NSCC for Recording Arts – the first day of the rest of my life (pause here for the dramatic effect). The course was designed as a program so the same twenty-or-so people in the course were almost the only faces I saw in the nine months I was there. Some of the peers I met that classroom remain great friends to this day. It was so cool to get your hands on the world’s most expensive gear and study how it can be used. Inside the course, we learned about everything to do with recording, mixing, post-production, sound design and MIDI – as much as one can learn in nine months, anyway. We brought in artists and recorded them periodically to get some hands-on (ears-on?) experience which was probably my favourite part. We did have to do this one part of the course in MIDI. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and without getting too complicated, it’s a digital language that allows electronic instruments to control other electronic instruments, including quite commonly virtual instruments inside a recording program (DAW). At the time, MIDI seemed so unnatural, inorganic, even cheating in a way. We had to make a quick little song using only MIDI to demonstrate we could do it. I made a little drum loop and some synths and added an arpeggio – DONE. I never wanted to touch MIDI again.
A few days after I handed my MIDI project in, I went back and opened it again in Pro Tools. I had this urge to work on it again – maybe adding another drum track, a bass synth, maybe automate some effect plug-ins. With multi-tracking I could clone myself to do multiple takes with an instrument – but with MIDI, I could clone myself and play different instruments. I found myself knee-deep in a song that was apart of a genre I had previously disliked: electronic music. I didn’t care very much for electronic music – it seemed so cookie-cutter and predictable. I spent more and more time on that very first electronic song, titled Self Existence. I still struggled with actually liking electronic music but for some reason it was fun, and surprisingly enough, challenging to create. Not only did I have to record something and mix it, I now needed to select the instrument and manipulate it to be exactly what I heard in my head, too. In May 2011, I graduated from the program – diploma in-hand and electronic music in-head.
I guess you could say that song is the beginning of Poly Gecko even though I hadn’t got to the point in my head where I picked out a name. I guess around that time, I came up with the name Poly Gecko and it kinda stuck with me. I came up with artist / band names left, right and centre and at some point I told myself to just pick one and stop wondering if it was the right name. I was just going to pick a name and wear holes in it. **SPOILER ALERT** Poly Gecko was awarded my moniker.
Shortly after graduating from NSCC, I got hired at a Halifax radio station. This was pretty damn cool. I remember promising myself at 18-years-old that I wouldn’t work another job that didn’t directly have to do with music so this was a good start. I was hired as a lowly street team member but almost immediately got the call from the Program Director to record the bands and artists that stopped by the studio for a set. Obviously, this was turning out to be a really cool opportunity. I got to do live-to-air mixes for awesome Canadian talent like Hey Rosetta!, City and Colour, Arkells and plenty more. Sometimes these sessions were few and far between so I’d just go back to giving out bumper stickers and t-shirts in the mean time. After an expansion in my role as a street teamer, I became full-time and my ability to commit to recording bands and writing music greatly decreased. I thought that working in a place like a radio station would inspire and drive me to be a better musician and engineer but it did just the opposite. Sadly, the radio station was explained to me as “an advertising firm more than a place to listen to music” and that really discouraged me. That summary of what a radio station really is stuck with me and admittedly changed how I felt about my job. There were certainly worse jobs to be had but this one suddenly became much less appealing – even with the perks of recording super cool artists. Over the next year being full-time, my musical output had slowed almost to a standstill and had become more of a pipedream than a possibility.
However, my music did not completely come to a standstill. Most of the time I was working full time at the radio station, I lived with Luke, a gentleman I met and became friends with in Recording Arts. On top of graduating from Recording Arts, Luke previously received a degree in Music from St. Francis Xavier. For seemingly every style of music, Luke can prove to be a really talented musician, or a great audio engineer. If there was one graduate from Recording Arts who deserved a job in engineer, it absolutely should be him **SPOILER ALERT** he’s got one. Anyway… in 2012, Luke and I started writing some instrumental electronic songs together. I was still trying to understand the idea of everything so my input was much less pronounced than Luke’s. We worked on about five songs together – most of which started by Luke’s design. It’s some of the coolest “ear candy” music I’ve been a part of making. I think sometimes people find it hard to enjoy a song without vocals, but I think these songs are entertaining enough to distract you from the fact that there are indeed no vocals. I learned a lot of valuable information about constructing a song from Luke and I know if I need a set of ears to give me an honest opinion on a song or a mix, he’s my guy. Through the years, he’s been a wonderful friend and ally. Soon enough, we’ll finish the aforementioned songs and you can feast your ears. It’ll be worth the wait.
After leaving my position in radio, I found a well-suited home at a music store in Dartmouth. And not only do I have customers as musicians inspire me, but all of my colleagues are great musicians, too. I found that being around them really pushed me to work on my own music more and focus a lot of attention and energy in writing. Working full-time in a music store really made me take the music I write seriously. And of course, I have met so many talented customers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with musically. I’m in a very prosperous environment for creativity, which is all I can ask for. I’m exactly where I should be.
After releasing my first EP as Poly Gecko in July 2015, I started an online course at Berklee titled Composing & Producing Electronic Music. I wanted to learn more of the fundamentals of what I’m doing and what I want to do. I really had no experience composing upon entering the course. Twelve weeks later, I have another piece of paper proclaiming my ability to both compose and produce electronic music. But I didn’t do it for the paper, I did it for me and my own personal development. I feel a huge improvement over my previous self when it comes to all things writing, composing, channelling creativity and music theory.
The more I spend time as Poly Gecko, the more I get to understand what kind of music I want to make. I’m inspired by a variety of artists over many “genres” and I want to express all of those inspirations via Poly Gecko. I’m an ambitious young man and I have so many goals I want to achieve with music. I want to release album after album. I want to score a soundtrack. I want to fuse electronic music with acoustic guitars. I want to do a hip-hop project. I want to collaborate with all my talented friends. I want to know my synths like the back of my hand. I want to record in nature. I want to have fun and dance.