Mid-November Update

Hey friends,

Winter is coming. But so is sweater season, an excuse to grow my beard and reasons to stay indoors and write music. Admittedly, I have been delinquent with updating this blog of late. I’ve been stupidly busy between work and school. But I only have one more month of school until I’m done… where did the time go?

Musically lately, I’ve been refining my process, thanks to the course I’m taking at Berklee Online. My instructor Loudon Sterns is showing me the way to enlightened electronic music crafting. I’m just a young padawan still, but soon I may become a Jedi Knight.  The last project I did for school was a Trance song I call COCO.

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This week is just a light automation project before diving into House for three weeks and finishing on French House / Electro, which I’m really excited for.

My drummer Andrew and I went over some Poly Gecko songs both released and unreleased last week and it’s slowly coming together. It’ll still be a few months before we’re able to play live, but I’m beyond words for how excited I am to be moving in that direction finally. Andrew is such a talented dude and it’s gonna be super fun sharing a stage with him.

James and I are nearly done with Immigrant Song. It’s all recorded now, I just need to put on my mixing hat and make it sound pretty for you guys. You’ll hear it before the end of the year. Speaking of 2016, I decided to stop drinking until such time. Once and a while I need to prove to myself that I don’t need liquor to have a good time. I’m about three weeks without it now and I feel much more productive and energetic, but maybe that’s just placebo. Either way, I’ll revisit my friend Whiskey in the new year. Until then, not a drop shall enter me.

Things I’m hooked on right now:

  1. Play With Me! Collection by Matador. I can’t even remember who told me about Matador, but I’m glad they did because he’s dope. Continuous mixes are growing on me – Andrew Bayer did it so well on their latest release – and Matador is no exception. All the songs off this album are great but the 53:00 continuous mix is where it’s at. The songs are even better when running into each other. My favourite cut off the album has to be Bsunday. It’s kinda repetitive, but #DatBass
  2. Evergreen by Broods. I live and breathe Lorde and when I discovered this act, also from New Zealand and produced by Joel Little, I had to check them out. I listened to their EP, titled Broods EP for a long time before scoring this full-length album and it’s so good front-to-back. Right off the bat you’re hit with Mother & Father, and forever attached with Bridges and L.A.F. It’s a super fun album with really great textures and dynamics.
  3. Good For You by Selena Gomez. I don’t even care what you say, this song is catchy.  As much as I might like to, I can’t stop jamming this tune. It kinda reminds me of Royals how it;s mostly that same groove the whole way and it doesn’t have some big explosive chorus, it’s just chill and sexy and I love it.

 

Stay friendly,

Ryan

Mid-October Update

Hey friends,

I hope you’ve been well. Let me brief you on what’s up with myself.

I’m now three weeks into my course at Berklee Online and I’m learning tons of great information. I had to design a kick drum from scratch using Native Instrument’s Massive and that was hard, but a really cool experiment. Then I went ahead and designed an organ sound for something to do. I’m familiarizing myself with all the control in Massive. It’s a super deep program so it’ll take a while before I fully harness it’s ability. If you’d like to download my kick drum I made, click here. You will require Massive to open that file.  Aside from designed kick drums, I’m also learning lots about sampling. I never really got into (external) sampling because I had such an extensive library of samples already but it’s pretty neat what you can do with recycled audio. It’s probably not a practice I’ll have a lot of use for in Poly Gecko but it’s a great lesson to learn nonetheless.

Aside from that, I’m working on a few new tunes. The FrostAtomsArcade @ Midnight and Escapable. Atoms is going to be the coolest song I have so far I think. I’ve started to figure out exactly how to marry organic instruments and inorganic sounds. I want to share it so bad, but I want to make it presentable first and there’s much more work to be done. My friend and graphic designer James and nearly done our remodelling of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. And it is almost nothing like the original. We dropped the tempo, but most notably dropped that driving bass line. We’ll be done recording parts by this Monday and then the mixing process shall start. Expect to see it in November sometime.

Also expect to finally see my remix of Joel Freck’s Take My Hand finished. Finally. Finally. Finally. I keep going back on it and making minor adjustments, but at some point it’s going to be released and it should be now. When I asked a friend if it sounded done, he quoted Leonardo Di Vinci by saying, “art is never finished; only abandoned”. And that’s exactly what I needed to hear.

What am I listening to currently? Well…

  1. Do Androids Dream by Andrew Bayer // This EP is just so deep, rich and well-produced. I must have listened to Tomorrow Boys roughly 100 times this last few weeks and I’m not remotely tired of it. I think this would be considered Trance music and if it is, it’s without doubt the very best Trance I’ve heard.
  2. In Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous // Much like their previous album, Passive Me Aggressive You, this album is so dynamic. It can go from single piano notes, to a tsunami of guitars and drums. Often times when a mix is intentionally overdriven I have a hard time liking it, but this group and Sleigh Bells are the only two groups I’ve heard pull it off. Kudos to the engineers.
  3. Caracal by Disclosure // These two are rapidly becoming one of my favourite groups.  Their combination of pop and techno and fat basses is #winning. Also, any group that features Lorde on a track gets an automatic A+ in my books. Their new stage setup is so cool, too. They each have a giant oval of a desk with synths, drums, guitars, software, etc and they actually play electronic music live instead of pressing play and walking away like a lot of other acts. Check out their performance at iTunes Festival from September because it’s the greatest.

Come party with me at Purity Ring at HPX next Saturday,

Ryan

The Last 12 Months

The humidity is dropping, the leaves changing colour and football is back. September is upon us. Even though I’ve been out of school for years now, I still think of September as a new chapter of sorts, and a fitting time to look at the last twelve months while  simultaneously look ahead at the next twelve months.

Here's me a few days after the surgery when I was able to walk a little bit

Here I am about a week after the surgery when I was about to have the tube taken out and finally get to go home. 

Exactly one year ago today, I was in the hospital with my second pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and awaiting surgery. I had to be put to sleep for the first time and that was a little scary. Although once the IV was in, I was a happy groggy camper. Using video cameras in me, the surgeon basically stitched and stapled my right lung shut with titanium. I have three scars now from that day. One for the video camera they interred into me; one for the instruments; one for the chest tube I’d become quite familiar with in 2012 and would spend another week with after this surgery.

September 21, 2014 was quite probably my weakest point. And it’s quite uplifting to have moved on from that experience and be where I am now. I’m writing a lot of music, I’m learning lots about music and music theory, I’m collaborating with a lot of great musicians and about to start online classes at Berklee to learn even more about writing and producing. When I look back twelve months and look at all the little baby steps I’ve taken since then as an artist in that time, I’m elated. I’ve released my long-awaited debut EP, PGEP; completed two different collaborations with my friend Karver; worked really hard on a TWRP remix; but honestly more importantly, as I discussed a few weeks ago, I’ve truly developed a love for writing.

I can’t wait to see where I am in another twelve months. I know I’ll at least have another EP out and will have played a few live shows. I’ve plenty more exciting plans than that but you’ll have to be patient and see.

thanks as always,

Ryan

Mid-September Update

Hi friends,

How are you? Good? Good. I feel like we haven’t talked in a while, even though we did less than two weeks ago. Let me update you with the current affairs in GeckoLand.

Tupper Ware Remix Party picked the winner for their remix contest for The Hit (featuring Ninja Sex Party). It was a Polish gentleman by the name of Phortify, and it’s dope as heck. A previous me would’ve been jealous and sad but the current me is rockin’ out so hard to this. When they announced that Phority won I was actually so happy. I went to work with a spring in my step. I just truly enjoyed the process and am so thankful they released their stems for me and many others to play around with. TWRP just released their new EP, Believe In Your Dreams. I just purchased from BandCamp and can’t wait to listen to it.

Download my version of their remix here: [purchase_link id=”416″ style=”button” color=”green” text=”Download The Hit Remix!”]

I’ve been practising a lot with the talk box lately and damn, it’s hard. I can get all the vowels down alright but sounds like B, H, P and V are actually so tricky. In due time… I’ve met with Poly Gecko’s live drummer now a few times and now the live keys / guitar player once. We’re going through PGEP and another unreleased song and deciding what parts we should each do and which parts Ableton can do. Obviously the more we can do live, the better – but we can’t do everything live.

I’m also really exciting to be going back to school in September. I’m going to Berklee School of Music. But no, not in Boston… I’M GOING TO THE INTERWEBS. I’m going to be taking Producing & Composing Electronic Music online for 12 weeks starting next Monday. Having gone to school for Recording Arts, some of this may not be new knowledge but there sure will be plenty of songwriting tools I will pick up. I’m really excited to learn more about this genre and put things I’m learning into action in current songs and upcoming ones.

Finally, the mid-month tradition of the music I’m listening to! Emiliana Torrini has been in heavy rotation lately with her album, Tookah. I’m truly a sucker for female vocals and she is no exception. My drummer Andrew has got me really deep into London Grammar and their album If You Wait. This is some very ethereal stuff that lets loose from time to time and oh man it feels good. Check out their live performance from Montreal to see what they’re all about. And finally, Wolfgang Gartner. I always meant to check out Wolfgang Gartner ever since he collaborated with Deadmau5 on Animal Rights and then again on Channel 42 and I’m DEVASTATED I put it off for so long. His 2012 album Back Story is absolutely so money. Almost every tune from the album is unreal. I can totally see why him and Deadmau5 got together – they have a lot of the same sort of ear candy and I love it deeply.

 

Stay dope,

Ryan

Process Vs. Product

It was pretty early into my teen years when I knew I wanted to be a musician. I was playing bass guitar in a band and playing mostly covers but we’d write the occasional original tune. At that point, being a musician in the loosest definition, I just wanted songs. I didn’t want to actually write them. I just wanted to have them, and to brag and to play them for people and be famous. I was in search of a magic button that just created fun songs that I could attach my name to. Of course, that’s not how music works.  Even when I started writing electronic music I still struggled with this. I wanted to obtain songs with my name on them but not bust my ass to create them. Looking back, that’s a pretty selfish way to look at music, and writing music.

Now into a few years of writing electronic music, I’m starting to really appreciate the process. And it’s not just the songwriting process I’m enjoying, it’s choosing the title, choosing artwork, collaborating with other people and learning from them. Even when a song is in it’s infancy, a title really matters to me. I’m not the kind of guy who can name a song “untitled_1“. Even little voice recordings on my phone have titles. Since I first thought of Poly Gecko as making mainly instrumental music, titles really would be the only word used to represent a song, so I instantly gave them more value.

Artwork is a fun process, too. Lately I’ve been really into visual art and photos. *cue hipster music (on vinyl)* I’m starting to really put stock into a good cover and visuals for a song / EP / album, etc. This part of the process however is a task that I can not perform. I’m lucky to have a few good friends who are talented with a camera and Photoshop to make things I envision come to life. My friend, and collaborator Karver Hitchcock have just finished a song, State of the Obvious and it’s now my duty to find or create artwork for it. Wish me luck.

But, okay, back to the actual songwriting. As you might know, I just finished my submission for a remix contest hosted and judged by Tupper Ware Remix Party, one of my favourite groups – certainly my favourite to come from Halifax (not to mention the FUTURE). Upon finishing the remix, multiple people were telling me “oh, you have to win”, “this is amazing! Nobody can beat this!” While I truly, truly appreciate those words and am so flattered by them, that’s not exactly how I’m looking at this. TWRP released the stems to their song, I experimented, learned a lot, worked on a deadline, and completed a remix that I’m really happy with. You could say regardless of the winner, I’ve already won. It sounds cheesy but that’s honestly how I feel. And besides, if there’s another cooler remix to The Hit, I really wanna hear it. Of course I would be honoured if I was selected as the winning remix but because the process was so enjoyable, I feel like I’ve already met every level of fulfillment.

The more I write music, the more I’m really developing a love for the process instead of just the end product. It didn’t happen overnight, but now I’m really beginning to feel it. It’s still so important to have an amazing end product because that’s what ears will consume but the real magic and fulfillment comes from the creation – because that is the art.

Have a good week,

Ryan

Mid-August Update

 

Hey friends,
Sorry I’ve been terribly delinquent about blogging this last month. Jeez. I’ve been putting a lot of energy lately into a remix of The Hit by Tupperware Remix Party. It’s due at the end of the month and I’m only about half done so the pressure is on. I’ve got the basic gist of it but it’s actually a steep challenge to remix a song that is perfect to me already. Here’s their video, also quite possibly the best music video of all time:

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I saw them live earlier this month at the Seahorse in Halifax and god damn… what an experience. My knees are almost done recovering from all the bruises incurred from my run-ins with the stage. Much like when I saw St. Vincent and she inspired me to buy an analog synth, TWRP has inspired me to buy a talk box. And I shall do just that today!

I’ve also been working hard on The Narrows with my friend / live drummer, Drew. He’s a really good writer and it’s awesome to have his input on my songs. The songs make sense to me but he’s really good at trying to make them make sense to everyone else.

My graphic designer / colleague / friend James and I are also working on a cover of Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. I’m playing Maschine and synth on it while he’s doing the guitar, vocals and piano. We’re going to spend some more time working on some of his originals and other covers and see where it takes us.

I’ve been listen to Random Access Memories by Daft Punk like crazy lately. The song Beyond has been in my head seemingly for days now, which further justifies the purchase of a talk box. The whole album is really great though. Of course the hits like Giorgio by Moroder and Get Lucky are the most popular but songs like BeyondContactThe Game of Love, and Within are solid tunes as well. It’s a little bit of departure of what I hear in my head when I think of Daft Punk but for me, it was instantly a timeless album.

 

Talk soon,

Ryan

Mid-July Update

Hey friends,

I just thought I’d do a quick post to keep everyone in the loop of thingys. PGEP was released on Monday and I’m pretty happy with the feedback I’m getting so far 🙂 Thanks to everyone who’s downloaded or checked it out! If you’ve yet to download it, use this free button to add it to your cart: [purchase_link id=”109″ style=”button” color=”white” text=”Purchase”]

I was going to try to take the rest of July away from writing and just mentally unwind a little bit and make sure all my ducks are in a row for “chapter two”. I took about 70 hours and then dove back into some tunes, mostly collaborations that with any luck will be released by the end of the year.  I’ve decided that my next EP will be titled The Narrows EP and will probably three or four songs on it. As for a due date, I’m uncertain. There’s a few other collaborative projects that I’m putting most of my energy into.

Most importantly, I’m ramping up for a live show. Poly Gecko has never played live and it does present some challenges but I’m waist-deep in tackling it. Hopefully this ol’ MacBook can handle it. I’ll be running Ableton Live to spit out a few stems while I attempt to play a combination of Maschine, synths, vocals, vocoder live. Oh, and I think I found a really cool drummer who’s willing to do this stuff live with me. That’s a big deal. Not only will it be unreal to have drums coming live from someone’s capable hands but he’ll feed me energy live and it’ll be a way better show overall. I’m also looking at picking up a DMX interface and writing a sick live show to go along with these tunes. I’ve got plenty on my plate entering the later half of 2015.

Transition Roads - Ominar

As always, I’ll include some music that’s entertaining me of late. Solar Echoes by Nigel Stanford is an amazing instrumental guide to why I love electronic music: nothin’ but ear candy. Meridian EP by Zola Blood has also caught my attention. The group reminds me of Tremors by SOHN. Super fat synths, really spacious songs and beautiful hooky vocals that’ll stick in your head all day, but in a good way. Last by certainly not least, Transition Roads by Ominar. You know when an album starts with the lyric “Like a candle strike, we are the perfect match” that it’s going to be amazing. Every single song from this album is really great but my favourite has to be Distance. This is my favourite album to come out of Halifax in a little while. Ominar calls herself Dream Pop and it is most certainly that. It’s super chill and I urge you to take a listen for yourself.

Until later,

Ryan

The Importance of an Audio Engineer

Back in December when I really started to focus on the completion of PGEP, I figured I would write, record and mix it for myself. Well, I followed through on the writing and recording aspect, anyway. When it came to mixing, I decided in the spring that it would be better if someone else performed that task. Even though I graduated from a Recording Arts program, I still thought it would be best for PGEP to get mixed elsewhere. There are a couple reasons for my decision: I don’t have a proper listening environment to mix (sorry Dartmouth apartment!); I wanted to remove my biases towards parts and allow it to be mixed for an audience instead mixed for me; I wanted a knowledgable, experienced set of ears engaging the project to bring out it’s full potential. His name is Luke Batiot and he is the Chief Engineer at Village Sound in Halifax.

Luke and I have a great history. We were classmates in Recording Arts, then roommates in 2012 and 2013 and now we watch Game of Thrones together. Maybe you’re thinking that I picked Luke to mix PGEP because he’s my friend. I suppose that’s maybe partially true. I selected him over any others because I trust him. I trust his ears. I trust his mixes. I’m so happy he was able to mix this project. PGEP now sounds like I always heard it in my head. I couldn’t have reached those heights without Luke, Dave and Jason at Village Sound.

I’d like to use this space to demonstrate the importance of mixing and the importance of finding an audio engineer you trust.

This recording is Forrest at a rough mix stage (before Luke):

This recording is Forrest post-Luke:

Hear the difference? I hope so. The drums are tighter, more impactful. The vocals shine like they’re supposed to. That bass pad at the end is suddenly taking up every square inch in your room. The use of delays and reverbs is much more refined in the Luke version as well. The mastering really smooths out the tracks and makes it way more listenable. Overall, Luke’s version has so much more life, texture. The rough mix falls flat in comparison.

I don’t want this blog post to be a butt-kissing parade or an awkwardly long thank-you, but merely a tip of the hat to Luke, Dave and Jason and Village Sound and to stress the importance of finding an audio engineer you can depend on. It certainly has a cost but all the important things do. If you want your music to be the best it can be, get it mixed, get it mastered. Your future self will be thankful.

Sidenote: PGEP is done (that was fun to type). On Monday, pop on back to this website and hit the PGEP tab for your free download. 

I’ll see ya then.

A long slow goodbye,

Ryan

10 Days Until PGEP

Hey friends,

It’s now only 10 days until I release my debut EP, PGEP. It’s kinda weird because it feels like I’ve always been working to release something, anything. And now that it’s finally done and nearly ready to be released, I’m still rather shocked. That being said, I have plenty of upcoming musical adventures to keep myself occupied – and you entertained, of course. For each of the songs on PGEP, I made a short teaser video. So far I’ve uploaded one of Forrest, Num3rology, 82 and Infancy <See below>. This Sunday I shall upload the final one, Only. Only is probably my favourite song on PGEP, but ask me tomorrow and maybe it’ll be a different one…

After PGEP, I’m going to piece together a live set. I’m aiming for about 30:00 to start and play a few shows and see how I feel. I really have very little experience playing live, let alone by myself so it’s a bit nerve-wracking. I’ll get over it though, this is what I want to do. I think my live setup will consist of triggering stems from Ableton Live using my APC40 MkII, then using Maschine and a Roland JDXI live for synths and drums. And of course, an SM7B for vocals. It’s challenging to do everything live off-the-floor so I’ll employ Ableton to spit out some basic stems and I’ll play and loop overtop. Oh, also, a lot of lights and lasers.

Alongside the work for a live set, I’ll start work on my follow-up EP, tentatively titled Thresholds. I really haven’t decided many details but I have a rough picture of what songs should be on it. One is called Utifi and you can find a demo of it on my SoundCloud. Listening back to that now, woah, it’s come a long way. There’s about 5 other songs in contention to be on Thresholds but I’ll narrow it down more as it draws near.

I’ve been working a lot on my music theory as of late and I’m learning a lot. A year ago, I knew shit all when it came to the language of music. I knew a major scale on my bass and that was about it. I’m finding my writing is improving immensely as I spend more time learning the theory behind it.

I’ll check back in on Monday I imagine after the album is mixed and mastered by my good friend Luke Batiot. I’ll probably post a comparison of my songs pre-mix and post-mix and you’ll be able to tell why a good mixing engineer is worth every penny.

A long slow goodbye,

Ryan

Mid-June Update

Hey Friends,

Just checking in with ya. PGEP is coming along swimmingly now. Of the 5 songs, 3 are absolutely complete, waiting to be mixed and two more need just a little bit of work before I’m done. Check out the premix of 82 here! It’s truly so excited being this close to finishing this project; it has taken me years.

At the same time the EP will be mixed, I’m also getting my remix of Take My Hand (Joel Freck ft. Cameron Hawes) mixed for release. It’ll be released this summer and will need to be danced to pronto.

There are some cool acoustic guitar and Maschine songs coming down the proverbial pipe, too – inspired heavily by To Record Only Water For Ten Days. Also, another collaborative song with Karver is in the oven and baking on 450°. There’s plenty of projects to keep both you and I entertained.

Lately I’ve been listening to Noontide by Canadian electronic duo known as Humans. I’m devastated that they played in Halifax in March and I didn’t know of them at the time because I would’ve loved to see their jams live. It’s the perfect mixture of dance, techno, and reverb. I love all the different sounds they employ on their songs: huge, badass synths and then another synth part over it, so tranquil. The vocals are also excellent. Whenever I hear some awesome electronic music like this, it lights a fire under my ass.

Until there’s more,

Ryan