Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono excellent new album, Take Me to the Land of Hell, is heavy on collaborations. Wilco’s Nels Cline, ?uestlove, Cibo Matto, Julian Lage, Cornelius and Andrew Wyatt all appear, and Beastie Boys Mike D and Adrock and Cornelius provide remixes. Yet for all this it has a cohesive feel with Yoko at the core of every song. The songs flow effortlessly from one to the next, varying moods and textures and delighting with sonic surprises. Listen for yourself at yopob.com. In support of the album Yoko will appear on Late Show with David Letterman on October 2nd with some of her other The Flaming Lips.
That the album is getting rave reviews suggests the public rethink of who Yoko is and how valuable her art is – possibly off-putting quirks and all. It helps that Yoko is extremely communication tech savvy. If you follow Yoko on social media you probably have realized she is prolific and wildly popular. She currently has 4,541,622 twitter followers – significantly more than The Beatles (1,656,149), Paul McCartney (1,519,768), and Ringo (237,618) combined!
Most of all she is brilliant – the rare celebrity who understands the range of reasons people use the technology in the first place, and applies to that to create her own platform to communicate and inspire. Not that this should surprise anybody. The short, Haiku-like writings in her 1964 book Grapefruit basically perfected the 140-character-form decades before twitter was a glimmer in anybody’s imagination (as one follower pointed out). Still there are skeptics. Is Yoko really behind all this? In fact, that was the first question she ever answered for
#yokoQandA, over four years ago:
bbent63: “Of the “”famous”” people on my twitter page, you are the only one willing to get direct messages . Says so much about you. Thank you!“
Yoko: “Some people ask me if I am really me. So what can I say to that! Yes. I am. But even if I said that, some one can still ask Are you? So what can I say then? The world is full of impossibilities! Love, yoko’”
Baileynews: “What are your reflections on Grapefruit 30+ years later? It was almost Twitter pre-Twitter, a mon avis.”
Yoko: “I don’t reflect. I’m still moving on.”
Yoko’s replies on twitter are often vague, but in a thought-provocative way. Occasional it reads like an advice column. Other times she tells personal stories, awnsers questions about John or snaps back with wit (like one of the Beatles charming the media at a Beatlemania press conference). Anybody who still does not see what Lennon saw in her can remedy that just by reading through her replies. And for the rest of us, they are amusing at worst, inspirational at best.
Anyway you take it it’s clear
#yokoQandA twitter replies for example aren’t just phoned in. They are thoughtful, thought provocative, sometimes funny, often clever and surprisingly revealing. Below is a collection of some of the earliest responses from her (almost) weekly self-hosted interaction with followers, dating back to over four years ago:
“”We’re All Water”” is one of my favorite songs! Please restore full-length version to any future reissue. The ending totally rocks!
if you could collaborate on a song with any artist, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Do I have to? I like being an individual.
Of your accumulated knowledge on earth, what is the one piece of advice you have to offer for future generations?
As we are also the future generation, let us move on with the feeling of victory of our spirit and wisdom. Let us not waste our time and energy on hate and revenge. Choose life of love. Then health will be with you. If you choose life of anything else, your life will be confusing and boring at best.
How do you feel about Sean and his girlfriend recreating the Rolling Stone cover you and John did?
Wow! I didn’t know that they were doing it. I would love to see it!!! You see, it’s good to stick around so you are surprised by weird stuff like that…
Have you ever wanted to be anonymous?
I don’t have the time to indulge in thinking of “”what ifs.”” I just deal my hand every day in the best way I can. And be thankful of all the blessings and blessings in disguise I am receiving in life. Life is quite educational. Even now, for me.
Yoko, do you ever procrastinate – ever put off things you need and want to do, just to stare out the window for hours?
I do. But I know that I only give myself problems later by doing that. So I try to use every hour of the day constructively as possible. For instance, I am so busy on this tour, I don’t have the time to go to the gym and also make time for a morning confirmation in this brief hotel living situation. But I found a way to solve this problem. I now do my confirmation of the day, as I am on treadmill! Well,that’s an easy one, you’ll say.You don’t have to be a genius to think that one. Right. I’m just giving you an easy example.
where do you think ideas come from?
From an idle head.
What is your favourite word?
what is your favorite karaoke songs? Do you sing Japanese songs sometimes?
I just don’t have the time to go to a karaoke bar now. But that is not true, actually. Sean and his girlfriend were at a karaoke bar last night until dawn. I Just thought I needed the sleep to cope with the next day. Well, I could have gone with them instead… Again, it’s all in my mind, what I can’t do…
what is the first song you remember having a visceral reaction to upon hearing?
Wozzeck by Berg
Telephone by Menotti
Three Penny Opera by Weil & Brecht
What are some songs you like to listen to when its raining?
Indian music with tabla and voice.
if you were to be stranded on an island w/ only three albums that you could listen to…?
I will try not to be stranded on an island. I may just start to look for coconuts, instead of albums if I were stranded. on an island.
Yoko, what are you reading now?
1) Creative Visualization – a book you should read many times to just be reminded yourself of this wisdom
2) This is Your Brain: a good book to know about music in relationship to our brain
3) The Slave Next Door: to know what is really happening in our society. It’s painful but you cannot keep sweeping reality under the rug.
What is the most interesting book you ever read? Your favorite?
I’m like a goat that eats paper. I’m constantly reading. Three books at a time. So I can’t think of the most interesting book. Any book I read to the last page was an interesting book.
what kind of films do you enjoy?
I love films that are not phony.
If you could play only one song to explain to someone who John Lennon was, what song would you choose?
John’s songs were all so real. He was not afraid to sing about all aspects of his emotion, postivie or negative. But if you want to choose one that really spoke what he believed in, it will be ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE and IMAGINE.
How do you think John would have felt about The Beatles: Rock Band?
He would have loved it. The Besatles: Rock Band is about to create another revolution. . . Rock Band is an educational video game. The Beatles’ Rock Band is the second revolution. The first one was when the Beatles became the Beatles, initiated and put together by John Lennon. By the music education they get from it, the next generation will make our planet into a planet of music, sending music out to the Universe. Universal Peace is right around the corner.
It’s said John was very fond of Ringo, almost protective. True? And, if so, to what extent. Thank You, YOKO
Yes. He was very protective of Ringo. Eventhough the extent never had a chance to be shown, since Ringo, in his gentle way, was not the type to ask for help. He could take care of himself.
If I were to get a tattoo of one of John Lennon’s quotes, which one would YOU say holds the most meaning of his words?
It depends on what you like.
Did you ever offer chocolate to John Lennon as a token of affection?
No. I didn’t like chocolate, myself. I also knew the sugar content of chocolate was not good for anybody. John and I were macrobiotic most of the time, as you know.
do you turn the tap off when you brush your teeth – it saves 6 litres water per minute!
Well, something like that. I use a mixture of natural water purifier and regular tap water to wet my brush with. This not only saves water, but the natural water purifier gives you immunity to colds and such.
Yoko what to you is the most prominent issue the world faces? Global warming? Famine?genocide? Etc..
My mental and physical health. And yours.
What interesting questions do you ask yourself?
The question I ask myself is not exciting or interesting… But if you want to know… I often ask if I am doing the right thing.
You have a gift of eloquent expression! What do you attribute this to?
You, I have to communicate to.
What got you interested in Twitter?
A chance to communicate with you.
Did you meet Arthur Janov in the 70s in person? If so what was your impression of him?
He is a very warm and intellegent guy.
From reading your comments I get the impression that Carl Jung is one of your teachers. Not sure. If not who has taught you?
They say aquarians are like this. So I don’t think it is a very special trait of mine. But I usually like to learn of a balanced situation, in real life or in philosophy. If I’ve read confucius, I also want to read Lao Tsu. If I’ve read Cal Jung, I also want to find out what Sigmund Freud have to say. They are all like blind men touching parts of an elephant and thinking what they are touching is the elephant!
Where do you find peace in such a troubled world? Which places make you feel at one?
Inside of me.
Which – if any – spiritual teacher of our time has been MOST inspiring to YOU personally?
Yoko who are your personal inspirations? Do you have a Muse and who is she/he?
I am my personal inspiration. I and my very long experience of survival.
who are the artists whose work interests you now?
The truth is I don’t have time to be interested in an artist’s work. I’m just totally into the work I am creating now.
Do you think anyone can be a good artist if he/she tries?
Of course! It all depends on what you love. If you love to be an artist you will be. If you love to be a truck driver you will be. I don’t know what you mean by “”good”” one. Are you a good one if you think you are? Are you a good one if others tell you that you are? How many people or kinds of people must tell you that you are a good one before you think you are?
In Art who is more important the artist or the viewer ?
A viewer becomes an artist, too, by viewing the work. You require the sensitivity of the artist, to understand the work. So both the artist and the viewer will be on the same page. They are both equally important in that sense.
How many Fluxus artists does it take to change a lightbulb?
First you must find out if the lightbulb needs changing.
how can we make real art and pay the bills?
My solution was to earn my living by doing somethig else, so I won’t start to make art hoping that I could sell.
Is art necessarily/always political or can “”autonomous”” art effect social change as well?
All art is communication. All communication sends vibration to outside. All vibration effects social change.
Yoko, why are we not satisfied with all we already have and always want more?
Actually, that is not that bad. There are still so many of us suffering injustices in this world. If you are dissatisfied for them… well….let’s want more for them and do something about it.
after 40 years, do you believe our planet and it’s people are closer to peace? Thanks.
Definitely. Many people are talking about it. Like you are. This did not happen 40 years ago.
What are some small, local steps you think people can take to promote peace in their daily lives?
Just be yourself. I have to tell you this story. I always thought and said that everything we do and think will influence the whole world. So we don’t have to feel we should do something special. Just thinking is enough. Now two scientists researched for two years how waves are made in the ocean.
They came to the conclusion that anything, even a little pebble you throw in the ocean, effects the whole ocean! Figure out from that, if you want to know what people can do in their daily lives to bring world peace. Just be your good self, with good thoughts.
What do you think happens between death & birth?
As if I care!
How do you deal with the passing of time. I miss being young. And miss people and places too long gone. Your thoughts?
They are not gone. You are now carrying them in your thoughts. They give you pleasure each time you think of them.
what is your perception of time? how do you perceive the immediacy of the present moment with the long view of history?
I don’t separate the two. The present moment can be an eternity in time. History can be a blip in your memory.
what’s your favorite childhood memory?
I was two and half years old in a hotel room. (Yes. I was very aware that it was just a hotel room.) My mother said the woman will be there for me. But the woman left, for whatever reason. The room was getting darker, and darker. I was getting really scared. So I pushed the chair to the wall where the light switch was, climbed up the chair with a great effort, and turned the light on. The room looked bare. But it was light. I always remember that look of the room. I felt proud that I turned the light on all by myself.
How do you feel about fame and infamy?
All fame is infamy, and all infamy is fame. Good luck to whoever is famous. It is not easy. It could break your heart. But then, there are other ways you could break your heart….
What dance do you like? When with whom do you dance?
I dance in my mind. Life is my dance.
what keeps you living?
If you could be either cookie or the cream of an Oreo, which would you be?
I would run like hell so I don’t have to be either!
What is the most inspirational sight you ever saw?
A person taking care of a baby with love in the person’s eyes. That’s always beautiful.
why did you split up the beatles?
what do you think about the Vatican ‘forgiving’ Lennon?
I am thankful that forgiveness was expressed by the Vatican to John. That meant that the Vatican had sent that message out to all the catholic believers. How many catholics were there in the world, who kept there grudge against John until then? Probably many. So you see how big what the Vatican did?
do you believe in forgiveness?
Yes. If only for a very selfish reason. By not forgiving, I will be carrying that heavy load of anger, which will exhaust me, and, eventually, make me sick.
how have you transformed anger? what part has art played in this and do you liken your art to spiritual practice? peace
Art is a spiritual practice.
Would it be possible for you to define “”What is Art?”” in one Twitter Tweet? And would you?
Power of healing and creativity.
What’s more important: knowledge or faith?
Do you know a good mantra I can say to myself when I feel frustrated/annoyed?
Start dancing….physically or in your mind. Make sure to put on your favorite music for it. Keep dancing.
My cousin is getting married this weekend, do you have any advice on love and having a happy marriage?
When anything goes wrong, just know that in ten years, you will look back and laugh about it together. That is, if you kept yourself healthy and stayed together at least for 10 years. Marriage can have some serious ups and downs. But if you stayed with it, it gets better with age. That’s what John and I discovered.
Can you be too compassionate?
Yes. if you ignore to be compassionate to yourself and your family because of it.
When do you feel the most alone?
When I am in a crowd of people or somebody who is suppose to be close to me, and aren’t.
Which one is the most powerful word we should randomly repeat?
Yes. to life.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
I don’t eat sandwiches anymore, because of the bread and the butter that are holding them. I use to love cucumber sandwiches on a summer afternoon with a cuppa – an old english thing.
What is your favourite colour, and why?
All colours. Because they are all beautiful.
Yoko, do you have a favorite Joni Mitchell song?
I like her songs, period.
How large is your music collection and how do you like to listen to it? (Vinyl, CDs, MP3s)?
I just listen to CDs, because that is the simplest thing you can do when you are really busy. And I am. It’s very much like drinking water in a paper cup instead of in a cup made of fine china. The only things I actually listen to are old Indian Indian music and gypsy music all with vocals. I have a special thing about vocals. Those vocals of people who have travelled far in life, take me to mountains and oceans I have never been to.
Did John ever discuss “”A Day in the Life””? If so, what were his feelings about it?
He was rather proud of that one.
What did John mean with the phrase: “”Happiness is a warm gun””? What
happiness means to you?
That was a fun theatrical. He was a cowboy expressing how good it felt to make love.
What was your experience like singing on “”Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill?”” Nervous at all?
I wasn’t nervous.
L7 used your voice as a guitar solo effect on “”Wargasm””. It was amazing, have you heard it? What did you think?
I am very honoured that they did that. Thank you, L7. yoko
what is your favorite song by another artist at this very moment?
Magic by Sean Lennon
Sean mentioned that you freestyled a lot of the lyrics on the new POB record. Had you done this on any previous record?
Yes. I have. But this time, I felt strongly, that I have achieved the ease of doing it now on a higher level. Like a Zen Monk who has meditated for 50 years. Well, a little more than that, in my case.
you have moved from harsh sounds to sweet. is this a reflection of, or a projection on, your experience of the world now?
If you listen to some of my past records, you will experience songs that touch your delicate nerves as well. But the harsh ones were really my signature sounds. I wanted to break the sound barrier with those sounds. The world needed to listen to our scream.
Hello Yoko, are you still experimental with the music on your new album?
Yes. I am being daring in a different way from the first YOKO ONO PLASTIC ONO BAND
Who in this world would you most want to listen to “”Between My Head and the Sky?””
Anybody who needs to listen to this CD.
music is ever evolving, what has evolved in your music up til today? And what does your music try and achieve?
I am evolving every day. My music is the result of it. And I noticed that many of the songs in this album were particularly different from the ones in the past albums. The songs in this album were touching our nerves in a more intricate way… for healing. This is an age in which we need a universal healing. Healing can only be done with very sensitive concern for the genuineness of the sounds to heal us. Sounds made for preaching or with commercial intent, do not have the right effect for healing. All through the recording, I felt like I was on a tight rope, trying to keep it right. At the same time, I was feeling totally free. I hope the sounds in this album will touch people, open their hearts and help to heal.
the album is filled w/ energetic inspiration. Do you find it exhausting when inspiring (others), how do you recharge yourself? <3
I never get exhausted making music. It seems that the act of making music alone has the power to keep energizing you and you get recharged just by breathing air. Music and air. Once the wheel starts to turn, it’s hard to stop.
I think of the old film RED SHOES, in which a ballerina cannot stop dancing when she wears the red shoes. Red shoes, in my case is my obsession to make music. As spent as you get, the seduction of making music all night, and coming back home when the sun is about to rise, is hard to refuse.
I also think of that story of Mozart when he could not stop writing music he heard in his mind as he was dying. You can call it the obsession of all who engage in witnessing the newfound land. It is magical. Exciting and humbling at the same time. The want and urge of wanting to share what you have witnessed does not come to you until a little later.
Sometimes, the volcano in my body doesn’t let me stop spewing out fire. Sometimes the river of water in my soul comes out with gentle urgency to reach the ocean in the horizon. Fire, water, both are energy of love. I know.
What was your inspiration for the album?
The feeling I got from talking to all of you.
Yoko, what was your inspiration for the new album? what made you make a new one now?
I have not made an album for a few years. The reason being, from after 9/11, I concentrated my mind and body to the effort of IMAGINE PEACE, and activities for it: ONOCHORD, WISH TREE, IMAGINE PEACE TOWER. Sometimes I missed going to the studio to make music, but I thought that can wait. When Sean suggested that I make a record with Chimera Records, I said okay. But since for the longest time I was in a different groove with IMAGINE PEACE – hopping around the world, part of me was not sure if the inspiration will come in like it has in the past. Once I went into the studio, those concerns disappeared immediately. I found my mind being sharper and my delivery being more sensitive than ever.
besides peace what was your motivation for making a new album now?