Tables Turned: André de Ridder Interviews Channy Leaneagh by Liquid Music


This interview mini-series began with s t a r g a z e's André de Ridder answering questions posed by Pola's Channy Leaneagh (if you missed it, you can read the interview here) as part of Liquid Music's first ever "virtual residency" featuring the two ensembles. This round, it was André's turn to ask Channy a few questions about her favorite things, thoughts on Classical music, and dreams for the future. Enjoy!

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh, Photo Credit:  Cameron Wittig

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh, Photo Credit: Cameron Wittig

Who, What, Where, and Why

Did you have musical parents? Was music present in your house or did you discover it completely by yourself? Do you have siblings and did or do you make music with them?
My mom learned the accordion as a kid. That was a valuable instrument in the small Czech community she grew up in South Dakota with all the polka dances and etc. My dad was a self-taught piano player and pursued songwriting until I was about 9 years old. He is a very talented musician and I learned a lot from him about songwriting and evoking emotion when I sing. They both valued music and put all of their three kids in private lessons and orchestras and gave us access to music both live and on the stereo. I have never made music with any of my siblings though.

What is your experience with and attitude to 'classical' music? Did it change from when you first got into music to how you perceive it now? Do you agree with many that it has an elitist feel and social connotation about it? What interests you about it? Do you go to opera or orchestral concerts when you're at home?
I’ve had four wonderful violin teachers, and they all introduced me to some really great classical pieces for solo violin and also chamber and orchestra; so my first introductions were as a student. I liked classical music as a kid and I still do; it’s soothing to me even when it’s jagged and dissonant. Music with lyrics/vocals can be too stimulating for me sometimes. I often want to listen to sounds without a personal point of viewI just want to feel the music. It’s similar to electronic music to me in that sense. You have to search it out a lot more so than other musical styles; it’s separation from pop-culture makes it seem exclusive but I think it’s just modest. It’s like a shy kid being accused of being snobbish. I don’t discredit classical music’s part in history of being very white and western though; it’s past isn’t as inviting as rap or jazz but I hope that is changing and the future of classical music will be a more inclusive one.

What classical instrument do you like most the sound of and which one are you most intrigued about to feature in our collaboration?
My favorites are the viola and oboe. I like those tones the best. I hope those two instruments will be involved in our collaboration and I am also looking forward to the bass flute.

What's the compositional process in Poliça? Do you personally write songs and then bring them to the band to arrange and develop?
The compositional process is akin to an assembly line. We are very egalitarian. Ryan is always at the head of the line. Most of the time I react first to what he’s made and lay down the lyrics and melody. The bass player, Chris Bierden comes next reacting off of the new combination of Ryan and I. And finally the drums come in to react with their beats. Sometimes I come after the bass and drums but always Ryan starts the clock.

What do you like doing to switch off from everything, what gives you respite and recharges your batteries, creatively speaking?
Walking is my main thing for switching off but I also like reading and drawing for getting away.

Where would you like to live and work/write for a while, if given the chance, outside your home country?
This question was probably the hardest. I never dream about moving somewhere else. I lived and worked in Cambodia for a few years and do miss it now and then. I guess I could see hiding away there for a few years someday.

As a conductor I am often told that life only starts at age 70! On the other hand I have heard people say pop music is a young wo(man)'s game. How do you feel about that and where do you see yourself in say 20 years time? Are you sometimes thinking about musical life after relentless touring and album-cycles? What are your dreams for the future?
I believe that’s true for the life of a conductor; I predict you have a long and fun career ahead of you. I believe the future of classical music is strong and exciting and it is doing such cooler and more rebellious things than pop music! I don’t consider myself a pop musician but the kind of music I make is for sure a young woman's game and; being a “professional” musician also feels like a branding game and a self serving game but I like fighting against those things and seeing if I can still stand on my own two feet.

I always want to make music but I don’t hope to engage in selling myself for too much longer. In the future I see myself screaming into the microphone in a cacophony of noise at night while teaching pre-school during the day and spending my in between time fighting the evils of capitalism.

André de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e,   Photo Credit:   Emanuel Florakis

André de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e, Photo Credit: Emanuel Florakis

Favorite Things

Favorite contemporary/modern composer?
Nico Muhly

Favorite old 'dead' composer?
Fritz Kreisler

Favorite recent band/artist discovery?
Oneohtrix Point Never

Favorite recent collaboration (outside your work), in the music world anywhere, recently?
The Body and The Haxan Cloak; I Shall Die Here (2014 via RVNG).

Favorite music festival, currently?
My favorite collaboration thus far was with Alex Ridha of Boys Noize, Orlando Higginbottom from T.E.E.D (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) and Ryan (Olson). We met up at a studio after a Poliça show in LA and jammed out. Orlando was on piano, Alex on electronics and Ryan was processing my vocals and I just sang over them and we made one of my favorite songs ever. We were listening to each other and reacting without any walls between us. Those are the most treasured moments in making music; when we listen to each other and we are subtracting our own self to combine with others. I hope some truly inspired moments can occur in this Stargaze and Poliça collaboration.


"Raw Exit" from Poliça's Shulamith (2013)

“Relief” by The Dodos featuring s t a r g a z e orchestra at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland (2014)

Liquid Music's Virtual Residency: Channy Leaneagh Interviews André de Ridder by Liquid Music


Collaboration is at the heart of Liquid Music's 2015.16 season. Each show is unique and presents an avenue for unprecedented collaborations from rock meets contemporary classical to poetry and even puppetry. Nothing epitomizes the definition of collaboration more than Liquid Music's virtual residency with Poliça and s t a r g a z e. In order to enhance the collaborative nature of the residency, Liquid Music presents an interview series with the two ensembles. To kick it off, Poliça's lead singer Channy Leaneagh asks s t a r g a z e's founder André de Ridder a few questions about his favorite things, earliest influences, and the sounds he'd like to create with Poliça. 

Read on and stay tuned for de Ridder's interview with Leaneagh in October!

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh


In what space do you best form creative ideas?  
In any space really, if it’s ideas coming up, but mostly in transit, on trains especially, or walking down a road, and often while talking to people/friends. I then have to stop and apologize for taking a moment out to write something down.

Do you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert?
An introvert personally, extrovert musically

If not in music, what other fields can you imagine yourself working in?
Producing radio plays. And if that's too close to music... photography. And if that's too arty... classics/humanities.

One of your top favorite movies?
Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard

One of your top favorite books?
Recently 1Q84, Murakami, as a younger person: Stiller by Max Frisch (identity crisis!!)

One of your top favorite records?
Dinosaur Jr You're Living All Over Me

Favorite scent?
Oooh... Basil... mint?

Since both of your parents were involved in opera; do you have a favorite piece of opera?
Yup. Wozzeck

de Ridder conducting Lee Ranaldo's "Hurricane" with s t a r g a z e and Berlin's  Kaleidoskop  at the Holland Festival (2013)

de Ridder conducting Lee Ranaldo's "Hurricane" with s t a r g a z e and Berlin's Kaleidoskop at the Holland Festival (2013)


You started your musical career as a violinist. Do you play any other instruments besides the violin? How did you become interested in conducting?
Playing in youth orchestras, becoming frustrated with our conductors and becoming obsessed by the medium/phenomenon orchestra and the repertoire

I read in an interview with the Goethe Institute that your entrance into popular music came about from a frustrating experience with a new violin teacher you had as a teen. How did that experience lead you to make music outside the box of classical music?
I simply started composing, playing guitar, and founded a band, as other means of expressing myself musically

What were some of your earliest influences in your bands as a kid? Are there any current musicians that inspire you in the way they blend pop (or rock, electronic, folk) with classical elements?
My initiation was British New Wave, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure then, when I started a band, the reason were Dinosaur Jr, Hüsker Dü, The Lemonheads and Fugazi. The artists inspiring our work today are the likes of Julia Holter, Tyondai Braxton (with and without/after Battles).

You have said, “Music takes the listener from one place to another, changing them, which is the mark of great art.”  I agree completely!  It changes me to perform for people and the truth of a performance is the exchange of energy and ideas between the people on stage and the people in the audience.  The back and forth. I am experimenting with being more focused on a taking the audience to a specific place and change.  Do you ever write with an intentional place or subject you want to take people to?  Do you ever try to control the feelings people leave with or do you let the music lead the way from the conception?
I haven't really 'written' as such creatively for a long time. But when I do, or when writing arrangements I am just trying to colour, to make audible what I hear as overtones, as resonances of the music. A kind of 3-D or 4-D version of what we're experiencing already (or what I am hearing walking down the street). Another dimension? And then, if people find themselves with me in that other dimension, wel.. anything can happen? Out of body experiences is what have glued me to music. No drugs involved I should add...

One of my hold quotes is from Ai Weiwei: “Everything is Art and everything is politics”.  Do you have any thoughts on that in relation to your own work?
I agree! If Art and Music is a means of communication it is all, or can become political. I travelled to Bamako in October 2013 and it heightened my sense of that, in my senses in general, incredibly. Music is community art. Music clubs are a place of political discourse.

Do you have any visions for the sounds you’d like to make with Poliça?  Fast and abrasive textures or slow and calm sounds, ect...?  What sort of musical feelings or sounds are you drawn to these days?
Ah now we're talking!! Both!! I am interested in s t a r g a z e being a punk-noir version of the Ensemble Modern (contemporary classical, who play a lot of Zappa though as well), or a contemporary classical version of Godspeed! I am excited in the challenge and possibilities of playing with two drummers. I think if they play full-on (which I hope) we have to use a more broader, or harder brush stroke, but in the cracks or liminals there can be more lyrical calm and experimental sounds. I cannot wait, Channy!!!

de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e

de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e


s t a r g a z e 2014.15 season trailer 

"Chain my Name" from Schulamith (2013) Feat. in Liquid Music's 2015.16 trailer 

FIRST LOOK: Liquid Music's Virtual Residency with Poliça & s t a r g a z e by Liquid Music

By Lauren McNee

What will the future hold for our year long virtual residency with Poliça and s ta r g a z e? If we were to ask a magic eight ball that question, the answer would most likely be "cannot predict now". With a project of this scope, there are a lot of unknowns. What we do know is that the collaboration between Poliça and s t a r g a z e will be bold, cutting-edge, really cool, and will produce sounds that you won’t be able to get out of your head.

I feel privileged to have played matchmaker to these two incredible groups, who are creatively and spiritually so compatible. As collaborators, Poliça and s t a r g a z e will find a common musical language that will allow them both to share equally in the process of creating new work together. My job was of course the easy part. The terrific challenge for the musicians will be collaborating primarily virtually, with a few hoped-for visits between now and next fall. As always, the inherent risk is lighting a fire under us all.  
                                                                     -Kate Nordstrum, Liquid Music Curator
LM curator Kate Nordstrum with s t a r g a z e's André de Ridder (conductor/founder) and Merle Scheske (managing director) in Berlin

LM curator Kate Nordstrum with s t a r g a z e's André de Ridder (conductor/founder) and Merle Scheske (managing director) in Berlin

The Liquid Music blog is a virtual platform for audiences to follow the collaboration all the way from the early stages of development to the live performance in the fall of 2016. Liquid Music offers audience members a VIP pass to enter into the creative process behind staging an artistic project. Join us for the ride!

Snapshot of Poliça 

Described as “the best band I’ve ever heard” by Bon Iver’s founder Justin Vernon in Rolling Stone Magazine
Promoted in Jay-Z’s  Life + Times

Homebase: Minneapolis, MN

The Make-up:

  • Chris Bierden (bass)
  • Drew Christopherson (drums)
  • Ben Ivascu (drums)
  • Channy Leaneagh (vocals)
  • Ryan Olson (production)

The name Poliça was inspired by the polish word “polisa”, which means “policy”. It refers to the band’s mutual values and rapport when they play together.  

Poliça came together as a band just as quickly as they experienced instantaneous success in the Minneapolis music scene. The band was formed in 2011 as an experiment between Leaneagh and Olson. Formerly a singer with the indie collective Gayngs (also founded by Olson), Leaneagh recorded tracks with Olson’s synth-driven beats with enhancement by Bierden, Christopherson, and Ivascu. Just within the space of two weeks, Poliça’s debut album, Give You the Ghost, was born. Following their live debut in 2011 at Nick and Eddie’s in Minneapolis, Poliça rocketed in popularity.  

Poliça’s sound is a synthesis of R&B, synth pop, hip hop, and alternative rock. Leaneagh’s soulful voice is distorted through Autotune, which manipulates the pitch and in live performances, a Helicon pedal that adds layers of reverb and delay. The use of vocal processors creates an ethereal effect and provides the voice with the flexibility to blend with the texture of each song.

Snapshot of s t a r g a z e

"Orchestral support can often feel self-indulgent and egotistical with the orchestra often only there to serve the band. But here it feels entirely equal; two like-minded musical entities fluidly playing and communicating with each other."
                                  – Huffington Post on the work and philosophy of s t a r g a z e

Home Base: Berlin, Germany

The Make-up:

  • Founded by conductor André de Ridder in 2013. Click here to read a cool article on de Ridder in the Herald Scotland (2015)

  • Collective of artistically compatible musicians who support the creation and performance of current music

s t a r g a z e is an unfixed ensemble, a musical chameleon that finds the right musicians for the right project. The shape of the ensemble is malleable and takes on a new character for each collaboration. The flexible composition of the ensemble allows s t a r g a z e to pursue artistic projects that flow organically.

The pursuit of innovative projects that initiate unprecedented and unique collaborations is at the core of s t a r g a z e’s mission. s t a r g a z e has presented projects all over the world with a multitude of international artists. While perusing s t a r g a z e’s long list of past programs, Liquid Music fans will recognize quite a few artists from the 2014.15 season including Bryce Dessner, Julia Holter, Richard Reed Parry and Nils Frahm.  

s t a r g a z e represents a fusion of classical and contemporary. As a conductor, de Ridder’s career exists between the past and present. He is known as an “astute interpreter of core classical repertoire” and “the go-to orchestral conductor for indie bands, experimental pop artists and composers whose music straddles the spheres of classical and, well, whatever” (Herald Scotland). The ensemble is made up of musicians who are trained in classical and contemporary music and are excited to work with artists whose music exists in the popular and genreless sphere. s t a r g a z e seeks to bridge the dichotomy between the classical and contemporary sound worlds.


"Chain My Name" from Poliça’s sophomore album Shulamith (2013). Also feat. in Liquid Music’s 2015.16 trailer

“Lay Your Cards Out” From Poliça’s’s debut album Give You The Ghost (2011)

Interpretation of “In C” by Terry Riley (2014) in collaboration with Nils Frahm (Liquid Music artist 2014.15 season) at Berlin’s Volksbühne

“Relief” by The Dodos featuring s t a r g a z e orchestra at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland (2014)



s t a r g a z e