Yoko Ono will make a special appearance at ArthurFest on Monday, September
[more info
] The concert will comprise performances of Ono’s songs with her son Sean
and their band, as well as some surprises that will require your willing participation
in events that could change your life, the life of the person next to you and
the person next to him/her. That change could spill over the fences at Barnsdall
Park, into Los Angeles and the rest of the planet, representing an opportunity
for open-minded well-wishers to be a central, revolutionary part of history.
L.A. WEEKLY: Last year you allowed Basement Jaxx and other DJ types
to remix several of your songs, including “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him,”
which, amid the debate about gay marriage, became “Every Man Has a Man Who Loves
Him.” But sampling and remixing are nothing new for you, are they?
YOKO ONO: Sampling I did very early, like on Plastic Ono Band. In the process of making it in the studio, I’d say, “Well, don’t you have this or that sound?” [Laughs.] On these new mixes, I just turned it over. This is like big-time delegating to the people who wanted to do this. I really respected and appreciated that they wanted to do it, and so the least I could do was to say, “Well, please do it the way you want it.”
Visual art and music are kind of the same thing for you?
Totally. Especially my lyrics, like “Greenfield Morning” on Plastic
Ono Band.
“I pushed the baby carriage” —whenever I hear that, I get these
brilliant green colors, you know. There’s a part of my brain that is connected
with visual and auditory at the same time.
Possibly dating from when you met John and started hanging out with the
rockers, you didn’t turn your back on more abstract musical statements, but you
obviously got interested in more direct means of expression.
Definitely. I really think that it saved me from becoming totally intellectual
and sort of stuck in the complex mind or something like that… When I went into
rock, I said, “Oh, this is what you can do.” It’s fine to use very simple
harmonies, because you’re actually communicating with your heart, not with your
head. I thought it was a much healthier direction than being in an ivory tower
and just communicating with each other, you know? [Laughs.] So I loved
that, and I think I was reborn.
The more theory-bound you get in your art —
You can’t move! You’re stuck!
The idea, then, that you were going to communicate with large numbers of
people must’ve seemed positively avant-garde.
The avant-garde world was getting so stale to me, it was no more avant-garde,
because it was an establishment of itself, and there’s a hierarchy, etc. etc.
In short, you discovered the power of making music that appeals to the body?
Exactly. We forget the body — I mean, we are the body. In the avant-garde
world, I was crucified for using too much body. I was too sexual or too, I don’t
know, too emotional, too dramatic or something.
Going into rock was a worthy tradeoff, though, because suddenly you had
a huge audience.
No, I didn’t. I had a huge group of people who hated me instead of a small
group of people who hated me. [Laughs.]
But it’s better for you now, because you’ve got a younger audience that
doesn’t care about their older sister’s hang-up about whether you broke up the
Beatles or some nonsense like that.
See, that’s another thing. You know, in short, I didn’t break up the Beatles,
so that’s that.
As my late friend Jac Zinder once said, Yoko Ono didn’t break up the Beatles,
but so what if she did?
[Laughs.] Thank you.
You continue to inspire. I wonder where your fervor comes from. What drives
You know, when Clear Channel said they wouldn’t play “Imagine” on the
radio, I immediately put that in a full-page ad in The New York Times.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace.” My rebellious and emotional side
of me just comes out like that. I have to be very careful in a way, too.
I keep saying that to myself. I have to make sure that I can be doing it without
totally destroying myself, by making me become less free. In the end, I’m a person
in this society, and this society can ostracize me. Like what happened to John
when he was just being himself and they tried to kick him out of America, or something
like that. You know what I mean.
Doesn’t a terrible kind of isolation accompany celebrity?
I think that the circumference of loneliness is equal to the circumference
of awareness. You get used to it.
When I became 70, something happened in my brain, like — wow, great! I found out that I still learn things every day. Like in tens, not in one or two. And each time I learn something I think, what would I have done if I died when I was 60? I would have not known all this.Terrible things happen each year, in some ways — I mean, not very notable terrible things, just one of those things. Somebody sues me or something — which is kind of routine in my life — so I thought, “If I hadn’t lived this long, I would not have encountered this experience.” It’s almost like it’s a new play, right? I haven’t seen this before, and now I’m seeing it. So it was like, not a pleasure, of course it wasn’t a pleasure, it was, hmmm, okay, I’ll see this through, you know. That’s how I felt. Now I understand how, when people say they went through a near-death experience, from then on they had a totally different take on life.
In the end, what would you like to have achieved?
I’m — this is like a competition, it’s a race between the people who’re
trying to destroy the globe and the people trying to better and heal the globe.
In the Bible they say, “In the beginning there was the Word” — the word is very
powerful — “and the word was God.” Well, I think the word was Love. Because Love
is simulating what God said, by having sexual intercourse and creating babies.
That’s what happens on the universal level. So we’re simulating, all the time,
the memory of having been gods and goddesses. Same with baseball and all the ball-playing,
because the ball was the planet, and we were gods who played with the planet.
I’m thinking we have to cover the Earth with love, and to do that it’s a race between us covering the world with love and the people who are covering the world with the results of hate. It’s a race, you know. And I really think that we’re gonna win. And one of the things that we’re gonna do is just show each other how much we love each other.
Perhaps it’s like you’ve said, that we have to do something, otherwise we’re
just paralyzed, frozen.
I want to tell you something: I really trust in the survival instinct
of the human race. And I really think it’s such a pity if we have to destroy this
beautiful culture civilization that we’ve created in 2,000 or 3,000 years. And
you know, I love it. I love life, I love what we’ve created as a human race, and
I love this planet, I love the universe, and every day I’m very thankful that
I’m still alive.

LA Weekly