Entering the world of Carla Rhodes is like opening a minefield - you just don't know what's going to come next. One minute she's on MTV with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards doing her rock & roll comedy ventriloquism act and the next moment she's hooking up with her ex pouring out stripped down songs of loss and heartbreak. Designer Magazine caught up with Carla to look how she balances her seemingly schizophrenic personality.
Q: One minute you're on stage with a puppets of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the next you're recording songs are heartache with your ex. How do you cope with the seemingly schizophrenic nature of Carla Rhodes?
A: My schizophrenic artistic nature is totally out of control but very contained. My inner artist is the life of the party, can't you tell? Dontcha wanna just take it out on the town for a few drinks? Hey, it could be a lot worse. I could be on-stage singing songs of heartache with my ex whilst the puppets of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards pranced about behind me doing interpretative dance. Hmm... That actually sounds like a great idea..
Q: If we start with your comedy act and ventriloquism as that's what we know you for. It's unusual for a musical comedy act to gain a following, but you seem to have attracted attention from New York to Manchester. Is there a certain mindset that makes you think guitar / comedy - lets combine the two?
A: I combine guitar and comedy because I have an extreme love of music and wanted to add a musical facet to my comedy act. That's the most basic explanation I can give for singing/playing comedy songs in my act. I simply love music. It also stems out of a love for variety. The more things in an act, the better. Comedy, music and ventriloquism. How odd! But how different. I decided a few years ago to promote myself as a rock band would. I treat my comedy act like a rock show, from the way I dress to merchandise to my insatiable appetite for groupies that line up outside of the stagedoor after my gigs.
Q: You've got the Stones and Bowie in your collection. How do you decide which stars you're going to do in your show?
A: I came up with the idea for the rock and roll puppets when I was 15 years old, which would take us back to 1997. I was head over heels in love with the Rolling Stones and their music. What's a teenage ventriloquial superstar to do? Combine a love of her heroes and apply it to her art. That's what I did. I thought Mick and Keith would make hilarious puppets. I thought it would be completely original to have an unoriginal character, to manipulate pop culture by using a celebrity puppet. It just hasn't been done before. If you were to pick any rock and roller, you might as well pick the best, which would bring us to Mick and Keith. A year later I fell in love with David Bowie, so then the Bowie puppet appeared. The Bowie puppet was more for my amusement than anything else... He's never quite fit into my act.
Q: A while back you met both Mick and Keith - how did they react to your show / puppets?
A: The real Mick Jagger and Keith Richards loved the puppets. I've got a great picture of Keith Richards with the Keith Richards puppet, and the puppet looks more lifelike than the real Keith! The whole situation was quite surreal for me. It really was like being trapped in a movie. Mick was very entertained by the puppets and really showed an interest in them and myself. He seemed genuinely entertained and flattered. One member of the Rolling Stones' entourage later said to me, "In the 40 years the Rolling Stones have been together, they've never seen anything like your puppets!" That was a great compliment to me, because the Rolling Stones surely have seen just about everything.
Q: Who are your Comedy Heroes?
A: The Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Steve Martin, Shari Lewis, Gilda Radner, Tom Lehrer, Jennifer Saunders, Monty Python, and Derek and Clive.
Q: Moving on to the serious music project - Girl On Boy. How hard is it working with your ex on personal songs?
A: It wasn't that hard at all actually. We kept most of our silly love emotions out of the studio and focused on the music. We were surprisingly patient with each other and really worked well together. All of the songs that were on the EP were written before I had met Ryan Breegle so their were no direct digs or references to our relationship. When we started rehearsing for some gigs, we had new material that reflected upon our relationship and that was quite interesting!
Q: The initial EP is quite stripped down, do you plan to expand the sound in the future or keep it the way it is?
A: I would love to expand the sound in the future. The current EP is really just a collection of demos. We recorded it in less than a day, and most of the songs were recorded live (myself playing guitar and singing live while Ryan played along on piano) with very few overdubs (some harmonies and other piano/guitar parts and minimal percussion). I really love the stripped down sloppy but together sound. I think it gets across the emotion without being too elaborate. I would like more percussion on the songs and some Tony Visconti-ish strings would be ideal for 'No Vacancy.'
Q: For people who haven't heard it how would you describe the music and what you're trying to get across lyrically?
A: The music is stripped down and rough. It's simple, but meshes and unifies itself somehow. It's a bit girly (but not whiny) and brutally honest. Lyrically it sounds dramatic and sad with glimmers of hope sprinkled in.
Q: Finally, Comedy or Music - if you had to decide what would it be?
A: I think I would pick painting. Did I mention that I'm also a painter? Sorry, that artsy schizophrenia is just outta control!
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