Yoko Ono: The Lowdown – Sit down interview with Yoko
Below is an interview we conducted at AltSounds in 2010 with Yoko Ono. Over the coming months, we will be posting some of our favorite pieces from the AltSounds days of yore for everyone’s enjoyment and so that they don’t get lost forever.
This interview was conducted by @mitchunlimited and was initially published on January 10th 2010, seven years ago if you can believe that?! I also wrote the forward below all those years ago!
Yoko Ono: The Lowdown
Yoko Ono needs no introduction.
She has been making music for 40+ years, is an artist, a political activist and most famously of all (for me anyway) she was the love of the late John Lennon’s life. Together the pair proved an unstoppable force, both making music together and in particular for their infamous efforts to promote World Peace. Her art, music, and activism was and is still WAY ahead of the crowd and the world would be a much better place today if people had just listened to what John and Yoko had to say way back when. In fact, the world could heed a lot by taking their advice even now.
More recently Yoko, released a brand new album, “Between My Head and The Sky” with her Plastic Ono band, she has had ‘Gimme Something’ remixed by both Morel and Dave Audem – a continuous long line of people remixing her work – and she has received a collection of lifetime musical awards. Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band will be performing live at Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York on February 16th, 2010. All of this at 70 years of age and with absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon!
Imagine our delight when we were offered the opportunity to sit down briefly with Yoko Ono to chat to her about her life, inspirations, music, art, John Lennon, collaborations, World Peace and much more. Let’s just say that we are still beaming :D. Thank you for your time Yoko and good luck with everything you do. Much Love and Respect. Peace.
You’ve had 5 x #1’s on the US Billboard chart since 2003 when you were 70. MANY CONGRATULATIONS! Forgive me, but how do you manage to keep abreast of musical trends at a time when many people considerably younger have lost interest in things current, let alone make those trends happen?!
I don’t really believe in the usual concept of age. Let’s say that it took me all this time to be what I am now, which is a person who, through a roller-coaster life, has learned a few things.
The Yoko Ono remixes project has become something of a global dance phenomenon. Why do you think that is?
I think it challenged other indie artists to make good music in partnership with me.
You clearly still enjoy performing your work and your live club appearances are rapturously received. Do you still enjoy going along to see live music? What performers currently excite you?
I don’t check out performances by other artists so much. I’m right now busy just meeting the deadline of my own music.
I’ve read the remixes project started in 2002 when the guys from Orange Factory came to you and asked to remix “Open Your Box,” which you originally wrote in 1971. What was your initial reaction to their request? And when you heard the first remix, what did you think of it?
I choked up and started crying. Tears. I thought they did a lovely version.
How did the current and subsequent dance mix collaborators first come together?
Each one of the artists wanted to do it. It was a project of love, and I felt John smiling.
The “Walking on Thin Ice” remixes realized John’s belief the song would become your first number one. He can’t have imagined it would be on the dance chart. How much does it matter to you that it was “Walking on Thin Ice” that achieved such amazing success in 2003 and re-launched this new phase of your music career?
Well, John would have said, “I told you so!” He had that kind of amazing perception of things.
The “Give Peace a Chance” remixes turned on a new generation to John Lennon’s writing as well as to your musical work and peace activism. First time around, “Give Peace a Chance” established you as much more than just a Beatle’s wife. When the track became so successful second time around, thirty years later, do you think the young dance crowd even knew of your background at first? Did it make a difference?
Give Peace A Chance is a very important song for everybody in the world. Even someone who doesn’t know the song. It doesn’t make any difference to me, if they know it or if they don’t. I am happy when people are singing the song with joy.
Who or what would you say has most greatly influenced your music? Who are your musical heroes?
I have many. Mostly classical composers who affected my musical experience in my earlier life. Bach, Beethoven, Schoenberg, Berg, Mozart, Schubert, Menotti…I just can’t list them all.
On the face of it, there’s a world of difference between the Pet Shop Boys, Cat Power, and the Flaming Lips… Clearly, something in apparently disparate performers and innovators resonates with you. What is it that generally first sparks your interest in their work?
I think it is better to ask what sparks their interest in my songs that they would bother to spend the time to remix them. Well, from my part, I love their daring, cutting edge creativity.
I enjoyed your collaborative 2007 album, “Yes, I’m a Witch” but “Starpeace” is my all-time favorite. Your new album, “Between My Head and the Sky” is exquisite. Many congratulations to the Plastic Ono Band. What was your inspiration for this collection?
I just thought it’s time I should go to the studio, encouraged by my son, Sean, and the musical inspiration that was waiting inside me came out like a flood.
Of all the activities with which you’ve been involved, what musical endeavor has given you greatest satisfaction and has been the most fun?
Music making is always nerve wrecking, and fun at the same time.
“I’m Not Getting Enough” was brilliantly re-interpreted by Dave Aude and others to achieve your 5th dance number one this summer, sufficient success for many but then they aren’t Yoko Ono! What musical aspirations do you still have to achieve?
Music is my security blanket of my life, just as Art. So I’ll just go on with it.
Do you think you might perform again with jazz musicians, as you did with John Cage and Ornette Coleman in the days pre John Lennon?
I enjoyed my friendship with John Cage. With Ornette, we are still good friends. Would we perform together sometime in the future? I don’t know.
You’ve said many times that for you and for John, when people started moving their bodies, “you know you’ve made good music.” On that basis alone you’ve made some immensely good music in the past 6 years! If he were here now, what do you think John would make of it all?
He would probably say he was proud of me. He stood by me even when the whole world thought of me badly, and never stopped saying that he was proud of me. Thank you, John.
After a lifetime of making and performing art and music, speaking out against racism and sexism, promoting feminism and world peace, you are almost globally respected and revered. How would you like to be remembered, as an artist, a musician, a peace activist…?
Here lies a woman who was in love with life, and she still is. – y.o.
Good luck with “Between my Head and the Sky” and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Wishing you continued success and good things always.
Thank you for thanking me. Yoko.