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EDM in-the-making

A studio session with Robert Oleysyck and Ryan Jeffs

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Ryan Jeffs and Robert Oleysyck at Park Studios in Las Vegas.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Sarah Gianetto

12:30 p.m. Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of western Las Vegas sits Park Studios. It’s far from the Strip, but some of the music being blasted in clubs along the Boulevard has been produced, remixed, downloaded, arranged, programmed and tagged right here. The studios are also home to Stainless Digital, an independent local record label specializing in progressive electronic dance music.

“Studios” might be a bit of a stretch. This is all happening in a converted spare bedroom in a house owned by one of my oldest, dearest friends, DJ and producer Robert Oleysyck. He’s known as one of the founders of Vegas’ dance music scene, a veteran who’s been involved with Utopia, held residencies at Spundae, Tao and Empire Ballroom and appeared at Godskitchen and Perfecto. Today he’s joined by another old friend, Ryan “Inertia” Jeffs (also my ex-husband), in town from Phoenix to track out something new after guest DJing at Vanguard on Fremont East.

EDM producers Ryan Jeffs and Robert Oleysyck (front).

EDM producers Ryan Jeffs and Robert Oleysyck (front).

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Robert Oleysyck

“We’ve never actually worked together in the studio,” says Oleysyck. “It’s a good collaboration, because we have similar backgrounds and he’s like my best friend.”

Even with a close friend the process is hard. Producing EDM is more complicated than walking into a studio with a band. Your drummer doesn’t just start pounding out a beat on his kick drum. Here an hour is spent sifting through sound patches to find just the right kick, bass, high hat—a percussive foundation that sounds simple enough, but takes painstaking patience to create.

“It’s very technical, very specific, very situational. And it takes time. We didn’t come together with a goal in mind,” Oleysyck says as the two work through the process of puzzle-piecing together the desired sound.

“I build the track as I write,” Jeffs explains. “I don’t have sketchpad ideas. … I just add what I think sounds good now.”

“Sometimes I’ll write it from the middle out,” Oleysyck says. “I go from what I want to hear when the track’s really moving, then I’ll minimalize it.”

4:30 p.m. At this point, I’ve been listening to a drum at 126 BPM for four hours, with various sounds layered in and out, off and on. Jeffs continues with his instructions while Oleysyck engineers. “Go back one patch. Something to make it a little …” Oleysyck picks up on Jeffs’ instructions easily, molding the sounds to his suggestions. But Jeffs isn’t sure he likes what he’s hearing. He takes control of the mouse and makes some frustrating stabs at the keyboard. “Why isn’t it easy?!”

It’s time for a break.

“It’s frustrating, because you have so many ideas, but such limited time,” Jeffs says. “I’m used to working by myself. When I run into a problem, I completely destroy the track and start over. Whereas in this situation, when I feel stuck, I’m not going to erase everything and go back to a kick drum and waste everyone’s time.”

“At this point, I’ll usually step away from it and listen to music or switch to another project for a while,” Oleysyck offers. “It hardly ever ends up being what it started out as.”

And so the session continues well past sunset. Eventually, the pair will part ways and finish the track remotely through the Internet before releasing it on one or both of their record labels. And perhaps soon it will find its way across the Valley to play in one of the Strip’s nightclubs, a few miles from its birthplace.

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