No, there was no concept,
except that this is me now, and I wanted to show that. Just because this feels like me.
a lot of pictures there. If youÕre careful, listening, you notice that itÕs
really something new as well. For instance, the form of music: Usually the
form of music is, if you decide that it should be pop, then itÕs all pop,
you know? Or if you decide itÕs jazz, then itÕs all jazz. And life is not
like that. I mean, you hear classical music and then suddenly you hear
jingles. So when you try to sanitize it and edit it, it just brings up one
type of music, and itÕs boring.
mean, you donÕt want to give something more boring than life. ThatÕs not
interesting. ThatÕs not good.
approach is varied on the album, including several tracks sung in Japanese,
and many possibly made up on the spot during recording. How much of the
lyrical material on the new album was improvised? ItÕs hard to tell.
ItÕs amazing, there are
some, well, classical kinds of lyrics that just came out of my mouth,
because I come from that age, the old-fashionedÉwhat is it, songs, you know? And that was me, too Ñ itÕs right out
of literature or something. And then some of them are just dance-music kind
of lyrics, too. But with songs like ÒFeel the Sand,Ó itÕs important that all
of this that came out of me, I didnÕt manipulate it or I didnÕt try to
reconstruct the wishes there.
Where is your head
while youÕre freestyling these lyrics? What are you feeling?
I donÕt know. I mean,
it comes out Ñ sometimes it doesnÕt come out, and sometimes it comes out,
Are you susceptible
to the vibe or ambience in the room, for example?
I donÕt think soÉSome
of the songs, maybe. I mean, on ÒMoving Mountains,Ó I decided I just had to
sing about mountains. Sort of like a song that would move mountains, that
we can move mountains. And
then I realized that no words were coming out. And itÕs very beautiful,
because in order to move mountains you just have to have maybe some
beautiful sound, not words.
YouÕve also done
pieces that are obviously not improvised, such as ÒMemory of Footsteps.Ó
ItÕs kind of
improvisation Ñ well, it is and it isnÕt. About five years ago, 10 years
ago Ñ anyway, around that time Ñ we all went to this summer place, and I
just thought of writing that. The concept of the material was something in
my diary, but it wasnÕt rhyming, I donÕt think so.
particular song was about a very close friend of mine who died young. He
was a very intelligent and beautiful guy, but toward the end of it he
wasnÕt Ñ I mean, he was beautiful, but he was feeling old.
is a touching song, even if one doesnÕt understand Japanese.
ÒHashire HashireÓ is a
beautiful image that came to me. A womanÕs husband, he died, and amid all
these terrible things that are happening, this woman is saying, ÒI want to
cry, I want to cry, I want to cryeeeee.Ó The woman is saying, ÒThey took my heart, they cut my breast,
and took myÉÓ All sort of things in her body they took away, and thereÕs
nothing left. And to her cat, she says, ÒYouÕre always under the desk.Ó But
suddenly she realizes that the cat is not under the desk, then she sees him
running away in the horizon. And sheÕs saying, ÒOh, I see you, I see you in
the horizon. Well, thereÕs nothing left, go, go!Ó
HashireÓ means run, run.
The evocative chords of ÒHiga NoboruÓ would draw even the
casual listener in, but once there they might want a translation of the
ÒHiga NoboruÓ means
ÒThe sun is rising.Ó And it starts when the sun is down, and itÕs just
after you wake up, and you proceed with all the sort of earthly daily
things that you go through, and the awareness you draw from it Ñ and then,
IÕm going away smiling. In the end, the sun bites the dust.
Do you think thereÕs
anything characteristically Japanese about your music and art?
No, but this time
several of these songs came out in Japanese, and I thought, ThatÕs good,
too. I didnÕt sort of plan it. You know, I do think there was a point in my
life that I was just dreaming in English. And then several years ago I
started to go to Japan every year to do this charity concert for Africa,
and I started to get more acquainted with the new Japanese, the new Japan,
so to speak, and it was really very mind-boggling. And so now I find the
Japanese language coming out.
I like the modernist
slant youÕre taking in your choice of musical collaborators recently,
though of course given your background in the avant-garde that shouldnÕt be
a surprise. Your teaming with Cornelius on the new album is particularly
inspired. What are you learning from these new forward-looking artists?
Oh, itÕs great. You
see, they are very precise and incredibly professional musicians. But at
the same time they have this kind of style and feel. I wouldnÕt even call
it current Ñ I think itÕs the future.
playing, computing and engineering work is fantastic.
Yuka has been a
longtime friend, sheÕs part of the family. And sheÕs incredible, sheÕs
unique and independent. There was a feel about Cibo Matto that was very
good. IÕm very, very lucky that we got each of these incredibly
professional and sensitive, weird people Ñ weird and sensitive! [Laughs]
Perhaps you were
luckiest to have your son working with you.
ThatÕs exactly what it
is, and IÕll tell you why. I hadnÕt realized that he knew my music so well.
John and I discussed it, and we just didnÕt want to influence Sean in any
way at all. ItÕs too much for him; itÕs too much for any kid to have John
Lennon as a father, and IÕm active too and all that, so we tried not to
sort of influence him.
Sean knew everything Ñ the
Beatles, John Lennon, me Ñ and so he decided that he would get me the best
studio producer, choose someone who was just right for me, and he got all
these musicians. He was the music director. And he did a great job.
ItÕs heartening to
see how heÕs developed as a musician, and as an individual thinker.
Oh, IÕm so glad,
because, you know, he had it very, very hard. It was very difficult.
Sure, growing up in
the public eye like that.
But also having a
father like that, and he has a brother whoÕs a musician, too, and of course
the Beatles, etc., etc. So I think he did very well surviving it.
HeÕs a cool guy,
[Laughs] Yes. Thank you for saying that, but IÕm the last
one to knowÉ
Are you getting time
to do new visual art?
Yes, I do. The last one
I did Ñ and itÕs still on Ñ was for the Venice Biennale. I am proud of this
work that I did in Venice; itÕs a very conceptual work, but explaining that
is gonna be another book, so forget it.
Just curious, do you
sketch or doodle? Like late at night at the kitchen table, do you still
Oh, I do. I think I
have about 900 drawings, so many. But theyÕre very different from SeanÕs
drawing Ñ if you know SeanÕs drawing, itÕs very unique, and very different
from JohnÕs, and all three of us are very different from each other, in the
technique of drawing. So weÕre very lucky that way Ñ we donÕt fight with
each other about it. [Laughs]
Have you considered
publishing your drawings?
Yes [sighs], I should, but I have so many. First of all,
weÕre going to a few cities to do concerts for this album.
Angeles, I hope.
Well, I hope so. IÕm
not the one whoÕs arranging all these concerts. But yesterday I just saw
that there are two New York ones, and IÕm thinking, ÒWhereÕs L.A.? WhereÕs
One more thing: On
the new album, you say this is Òa time for action.Ó
Yes! ThatÕs the reason
I wasnÕt doing any albums for several years. The reason was, after 9/11 I
just went to so many countries to promote world peace, and I thought that
was very important. And I really think that weÕre gonna make it. We are going to make it.
But isnÕt this also
a time for silence, for a globe-spanning quietude, for reflection? That
would seem to be what your song ÒFeel the SandÓ suggests. As you say,
ÒThatÕs what we live for.Ó
Those are all songs
that aspire to some sort of peace in your mind, and I think that peace has
to come from within you, of course. HealingÕs a good one, too.
Read Yoko Ono's 2005 interview in Bluefat Archive here.