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  • Interview: Kelley Polar

    Tue, 13 May 2008 13:03:57

    Interview: Kelley Polar - The Julliard trained violist turned dance music guru discusses the drudgeries of school life, his disdain for MP3s and the practicality of Ralph Nader

    Kelley Polar's sophomore release, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling, keeps one eye on the dance floor and the other on the Heavens above. It's a heady affair that makes sense, in light of the fact that Polar is a Julliard-trained classical violinist. Signed to former classmate and fellow producer Morgan Geist's label, Environ, he has the freedom to explore territory that would be off limits to other dance artists. We recently had the chance to speak with the boundary-crossing musician and he filled us in on the limitations of Julliard, the blandness of MP3s and life in the New Hampshire hinterlands.

    You started off your whole musical career playing classical music. What did you play first?

    I played violin for a while and then switched to viola. That's still kind of my day job.

    Do you play with an orchestra now?

    I actually play with a string quartet.

    Is that the Kelley Polar Quartet?

    No, I play with an ensemble called the Apple Hill Chamber Players. But it's kind of my other life. I try not to mix them too much.

    When you first started playing violin was it something you wanted to do or did your parents push you?

    I have a lot of respect for people who are like, "Oh I want to do that." I was not that way. My parents made me do it.

    You obviously fell in love with it and got pretty good, because you ended up at Julliard. Tell me about how you wound up at the school and your experience there.

    Well, I did my undergraduate at Oberlin Conservatory where I met Morgan Geist, the guy that runs my label. My teacher there was his teacher, and she was kind of an amazing grande dame of viola teachers. She was a super violista of the 21st century. She was right at the end of her career; I think she taught one more year after I left. As much as the school sucked, she was amazing.

    The school is institutionally kind of horrific. It's like some kind of twisted factory.

    It's interesting that you say it sucked. People probably think, "It's Julliard. How could it suck?"

    The players are awesome. The school is institutionally kind of horrific. It's like some kind of twisted factory. It's super uncreative, I think. The orchestra was amazing, everyone could play, but I didn't have a good attitude either. I didn't have a very good time there. It was actually a lot of people who were trying to play the same pieces the same way. They had two awesome little electronic music studios that no one ever went into. I stole the key and hung out in there all the time.

    Were you making music with Morgan the whole time you were at Julliard?

    Yeah, but mostly just the EPs and the string arrangements for Environ. It wasn't until after I got out of there that I started working on the album.

    Were you playing out at all? Were you able to have that creative expression outside of Julliard at the time?

    No. I'd always done electronic music stuff, but that was when it was just starting to roll a bit.

    How has your relationship with Morgan grown over the years?

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