Carole Pope is a Genuine Original. Singer, Songwriter, Half of the Duo That Created Rough Trade -By: Dick Beach

Written by on January 11, 2022

RRX: We’re speaking with Carole Pope.  Thanks so much for your time.

CP: Glad to be here.

RRX: You were born in England and moved to Canada and subsequently all 

around.  When did you start to become interested in music and the arts?

CP: I think that started when I was nine. I don’t know. I seemed to always get 

into circumstances where I can make things happen. I started playing music and

meeting other musicians, who helped me along the way. Eventually, Rough Trade

was born. Rough Trade is still happening. I have a whole solo career. 

RRX: As I counted it, you had many interesting gigs, from the time you moved

 out. As I guess some would say, you were on the dole for a year. You found a job

 as a hat check girl. That lasted two hours. 

CP: Yeah ’cause I’m hostile. 

RRX: Let’s fast forward a bit. You met Kevan Staples. The impression

 I have of that is that you guys are soulmates. There’s a sensibility about who you

 are and what you do.

CP: Yeah, we just connected right away. He was just great to hang out with. All

 we did was talk about music, and play music, and go and see music. We were

 just obsessed with all of that. He’s like family to me. I really love him to pieces.

 He’s an amazing person.

RRX: When you and Kevan put what we now know as Rough Trade together,

 there are two things that jump into my head over that. The first of which is that

 for its time, the production is amazing, just the sound. The second thing is that

 the lyrics are, in one space of the world, perhaps a little upsetting. In my space of

 the world, they’re sarcastic and sardonic in an entertaining way. Where did that

 come from?

CP: I don’t know. I often have a very dark sense of humor. I think the whole 

family was like that. I read a lot. I think I’m more inspired by writers than other

 musicians. I remember being a kid and reading six books a week. But I read

 dark. I’d read Henry Miller, Anais Nin, William Burroughs, and

 Viollet-le-Duc. Not a lot of happy reading. I think that influenced me. And I

 definitely have a dark sense of humor. 

RRX: If you were to take from the Avoid Freud period one song, do you have

 particular piece from that period that maybe you’re most proud of or you think

 says the most about who you are and what the band represents?

CP: Oh god, that’s a really difficult question. It’s hard to pick one song. I would

 say “All Touch No Contact.”

RRX: Great song.

CP: Thank you. But yeah, if I listen to Rough Trade, I just obsess on different

 songs, so. I guess I would say that one.

RRX: You’re very public about the time you spent with Dusty Springfield. What

 about her personality and the time you spent with her has lasted this long? What

 would be the thing that was maybe the fondest experience or

 thought you carry forward? 

CP: Wow.

RRX: Yeah, I don’t make this easy, do I?

CP: No. Well, she was an alcoholic. That was difficult. But she had an amazing

 sense of humor. We used to laugh our asses off. We talked about music all the

 time. She loved music. I was fascinated by her recording process and how she’d

 just fight for her sound. I just think of her very fondly. But also, I will never, ever date anybody who is an alcoholic, or in recovery, or anything, at all. That really pushed me over the edge. ‘Cause it’s a lot to deal with. She was a brilliant musician and kind of underrated. 

RRX: The lyrics and the nature of “Lesbians in the Forest”- on the one hand, it’s

 an anthem for people in one direction. On the other hand, it’s oh jeez, look at all

 of these crazy people running around. Where the heck did that come from?

CP: Well, it comes from being at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which I

 wrote about in my book, and the fact that I don’t think lesbians have much of a

 sense of humor. ‘Cause I just did this EP called “Music for Lesbians.” That’s

 where it’s from. I love, love, love the Michigan Womyn’s Festival and I’m so sad

 it’s not happening. But I had to do a little bit of a parody of it. Because lesbians 

are funny. They have funny, quirky things about them. 

RRX: My wife worked at Fire Island pre-AIDS. She and a bunch of people would

 go out and they’d go to a bar. Her male friends would just look around the room

 and go, “Mine, mine, yours, yours, mine, yours, yours, mine,” in that sort of way

 that says okay, I know who these people are, and I understand it. There is a

 community, whether you are straight or gay, but there’s a community of people

 who understand that not all of us are playing the same card game all the time. 

CP: Of course, of course. And it’s so great to have that community. And yes, more

 straight people are getting it now and don’t care, which is what I want. I don’t

 even want the whole thing to be an issue. I don’t think it is as much of an issue

 especially with the younger people. They’re much more experimental and who

 cares? There’s so many more important things going on in the world. Who cares?

 I don’t care who you sleep with. I just care if you’re a good person. That’s the way

 I wish everybody would approach everybody else.

RRX: I know your brother passed of AIDS, which is heartbreaking. But you’ve

 recently turned to putting a musical together that follows his life. Where are you

 with that? How is that going? Where do you expect it’s going to premier and all

 of the things that go along with creating what really is a big project?

CP: I call it a rock musical. We just did a reading on Zoom with seven actors

reading and a sing-through, which is really hard to do on Zoom because

 everything has to be pre-recorded. There’s a time lag. So, we did that. In

 December, we’re doing a scoring workshop. Then next year, we are going to

 workshop it live in Toronto and hopefully in New York. But yeah, it just costs. It

 costs a million dollars to put on the crappiest musical because you have to pay all

 the actors, and musicians. It’s a very expensive endeavor. But I’m very happy

 with the direction that it’s going. 

RRX: We’ve spent nearly the last two years basically sitting with our thumbs

 firmly placed. How do you manage to keep your head together during a time like

 this?  How did you keep yourself in a good place?

CP: Well, I just stayed away from people, got vaccinated as soon as possible. I

 went to Toronto to hide out, which was a really stupid move because of

 the Premier.

We did a socially distance “Lesbians In The Forest,” some footages of Peaches

 that I had that I’ve never used before. What else did we do? I recorded “World’s a

 Bitch” about COVID with my friends Church of Trees, which is getting a lot of

 airplay in Europe and Canada still ’cause it’s funny, it’s very funny. What else? 

As soon as I could, I went to New York to get vaccinated because they didn’t have that together in Canada. Yeah, I got vaxed. I’m still masking up. I’m just trying to be as safe as possible because I don’t trust anybody, really. I trust my friends that they’ve been vaccinated, but in general… You have to be really careful. 

RRX: You’re having a hard time finding an apartment in New York. There’s a


CP: It’s insane.

Well, I’d love to live in the West Village, but I can never afford it. That feels like

 New York, but not New York, you know? I like the whole vibe. I’ve lived in the

 East Village and yuck. I don’t know what’s going on. New York is really getting

 very corporate. They really need to straighten up the whole housing thing. Just

 applying for an apartment is insane. You have to make 40 times the rent and

 blah, blah, blah. 

RRX: Exactly. Thank you so much for your time. 

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