Artistic visionary Yoko Ono has opened her arms and embraced dance music as a way to share her love and thoughts with the world. Taking an active role in the remixing of her music, she sees dance as a way for us to come together in these difficult times.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: You’ve always been on the cutting edge of art and technology. How did you decide to make your music available on the Internet and through iTunes?
Yoko Ono: I thought it was a very logical step. I didn’t have any kind of resistance with it and its worked wonderfully.
RS: A friend of mine mentioned the Water Talk Event you did in 1971 and was thinking how remixing is similar. Both reflect how you collaborate with other artists and shape your art into new venues and configurations.
Yoko: I know, I love that. There’s an album I put out in two versions with John, Out to the Lions, was it? All those albums I said were unfinished music. The reason for that was because I felt that people should put their own thing on it before it’s finished, so it’s unfinished music. But nobody did that then, they just felt that all of my albums are going in the trash can, so to speak. That’s just funny when you think about it now. So now it’s happening and it’s great. You should really be very careful what you wish for because you wish it and you think it’s never going to happen, and sometimes it takes some time but it does happen.
RS: You’re always ahead of the game. You’re definitely raising a lot of messages in your music. What about dance music do you think makes it such a great medium for political change?
Yoko: I think so, definitely. I’m so glad that people are remixing my song, I think it’s thirty-nine remixes, is it? I mean it’s just staggering to hear remixes of “Hell in Paradise” and all the bands feel that it’s very important to put that out now. To know that people are dancing to “Hell in Paradise” is great.
RS: You decided to take on same-sex marriage by changing the words to “Every Man has a Woman” What about that issue means a lot to you?
Yoko: Well that issue means so much to me. I had to do it because it’s a very difficult time for all of us and love is getting more scarce in a way and love is not going around too much. So if two people love each other so much that they want to get married, I mean marriage is a gamble, let’s be honest, I think they should be able to do it. To try to stop it is incredible. So that’s when I thought, I’m going to make “Every Man has a Man” and “Every Woman has a Woman” and its turned out very good. I have many friends who are gay and they never told me. There was a friend of mine who said his mother was always saying, well Yoko says, “Every man has a woman.” Now he’s saying, “Well, she’s saying every man has a man dear,” which is great.
RS: How are you deciding which songs to have people rework for your current releases? Like why Walking On Thin Ice, for example?
Yoko: It wasn’t me who went around saying why don’t you do “Walking On Thin Ice.” “Walking On Thin Ice” I think was a certainty, it was a natural for this kind of thing. There were many bands that kept asking me if it was alright for them to remix it. That was going on from 1981 and I kept saying no, because I was kind of hung-up on the fact that John remixed it with me and everything. It was just kind of one-sided stuff. But then when I decided to remix my other songs for dance music, they came back and said well what about “Walking On Thin Ice? ” They kept asking, what about it? So I said alright, let’s do it. I was kind of softening a bit by then.
RS: How involved are you with choosing the remixers and producers for your songs?
Yoko: It seems like the people who are coming to ask if they can remix it, they’re such incredible people and musicians that I respect very much, so there is no way of saying no. It wasn’t like, “well not you, but this one, ok.” No, it wasn’t like that at all. Each time it was a surprise for me, and I said it’s so sweet of you to want to remix this song and it’s an honor. That’s how I felt each time.
RS: Do you go out clubbing yourself, do you go out to nightclubs?
Yoko: Well I don’t really club around. I don’t know why I’m not doing that because I love dancing, but I think I’m a bit shy. It’s a little bit different when I go dancing now and I miss the days when I could just anonymously go out and dance. I did go to many clubs this time to perform the remixes and it was wonderful.
RS: Digging back to the 60s, people said that dance is about peace, love and the beat, so much like the 60s counter culture and their music. Do you think dancing can lead to more acceptance and tolerance?
Yoko: I think dance is a very important thing, it’s for our bodies and minds. I always say don’t march through life but dance through life. Of course, it’s important to make a statement by going on a peace march but in the big picture, we have to keep on dancing. That’s how I feel. I mean life is how we dance, not how we march.
RS: That’s a really cool way of saying it. Do you find similarities between the art scenes and the dance scenes and how they’re willing to express new and often confrontational ideas?
Yoko: Well I didn’t think it was confrontational. We share things that are in my head and quite often people think it’s controversial, but for me it’s just normal.
RS: What do you think of when other people record your songs, like when Fuzzbox or Elvis Costello took on “Walking On Thin Ice”?
Yoko: Oh I thought it was an honor! Elvis Costello did an incredible job and I was amazed.
RS: Awesome. Has there been any personal motivation for you, like in the past few years, to really get into dance music?
Yoko: You know I was always into dance music.
RS: It seems like in the past few years, the remixes have really started coming out.
Yoko: Yes I know, that was because of the Mindtrain thing and that started to take off. I was making my own album at the time and they came and asked if we can do something. Then when I heard “Open Your Box,” which was the first one, I just couldn’t believe it was so good that I started crying. I was crying because I took a beating a lot in my days especially with my music, and now people are bothering to remix it in such a beautiful way and I couldn’t believe it. So the first time I was just crying, now I’ve got used to it and love it.
RS: I want to ask you, this is something from your wisdom that I really want to take out of this. What can we as a genre that accepts all cultures, all races, all sexual orientations, what can we do to empower ourselves and the message of our music?
Yoko: Come together, always together. I think that in the beginning there was a word and the word was love and love is what created the world. If love could create a world and the universe, then it could certainly heal the world. I think that this is a time that we should keep dancing with love.
By DJ Ron Slomowicz, About.com