Words: Everett True. Photo collage: Yoko Ono
Reprinted from Careless Talk Costs Lives #11 (2002)
… What motivates you to work?
“What motivates me?”
To still make music …
“Music is the beat of life for me. It’s like my heart. You have to keep on going. Motivation is too light a word for it. It is life itself to me. It’s like I have to keep on breathing, it’s a way of survival, a way of being alive.”
You move between different musical styles on your new album …
“It’s good, isn’t it? I’ve always done that. It’s like my diary, and in your daily life you do go from one thing to another.”
That song where you’re talking about walking in Central Park and it’s got a kind of reggae beat to it. I’m really bad with song titles …
“Isn’t that great? Usually reggae is an upbeat thing. This is kind of upbeat but also down as well.”
It’s kind of sad as well. I felt that the music you were playing was reflecting the sounds of Central Park …
“Well, it’s a woman thing. All women understand it.”
The album seems to have quite a sad mood.
“You feel that?”
Yeah. Not always, but there’s a kind of melancholy …
“Yeah, probably because my life was pretty rough, you know.”
There’s a song on 2001’s Blueprint For A Sunrise, ‘Rising II’ – actually a reprise of a record Yoko made a few years back that ended up being remixed by artists like Tricky and Sonic Youth and the like, people who understand that far and away the most interesting people in rock’n’roll are the outsiders, the ones ostracised, and who could be more outside than Yoko, the woman who emasculated The Beatles and caused the mainstream to come into contact with strange art that it usually never encounters – that is pure beauty. It’s a live track. The NYC hipsters’ voices come whooping in at the song’s end like they appreciate beauty (rather than are merely grabbing another opportunity to prove how cool they are). It builds and builds, and doesn’t let go of its stately melancholy, its grace. Yoko, throughout her reams of experimental albums and occasional pop song – witness Galaxie 500’s icy reading of her ‘Listen The Snow Is Falling’ and Fuzzbox’s disco attempt on the chilling ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ – has always carried herself with considerable dignity.
Or maybe she hasn’t? Maybe she was a gold-digger who got lucky? It’s your call. I’m not going to upset decades of accepted hegemony with a few words here: just remark upon how strange it is all these rock men with their love for the rebel stance of James Dean and Mick fucking Jagger despise Yoko so greatly. My introduction to left field art came through Yoko’s 70s albums and the underground female cartoonists. I’ll admit I’m prejudiced.
And you aren’t?