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"Another Name of Life to Me is Surprise": A Brief Chat with Yoko Ono

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Tuesday, Jan 4, 2011
Yoko Ono may be the most popular septuangenarian you'll ever hear at a club. In a brief chat with PopMatters, she talks about dance remixes, her lack of regrets, and how another name of life for her is Surprise . . .

Last year, Yoko Ono released the Wouldnit remix EP, wherein she took a song that she had been revising for years (most recently her 2001 Blueprint for a Sunrise album) and let a field of dance producers have at it, resulting in some rather fascinating, unexpected results.  After all, Ono has been working in the dance arena for some time now, especially after a noted 2003 remix of “Walking on Thin Ice” had her climbing to pole position on the US Dance Charts, soon leading to a slew of similar chart-toppers not long after.  In short, Yoko Ono has inexplicably turned into the most popular septuagenarian that you’ll ever hear at a club.


Wouldnit, though, is a noted change for Ono, as now that she’s worked with the likes of Basement Jaxx and Felix Da Housecat, she felt like it was time to give some new up-and-comers a chance to shine.  Speaking to PopMatters through e-mail, Ono sat down to talk to us about how she feels about hearing her works reinterpreted, how some of the remixes continue her “dance of life”, and how she views her dance-diva image not as a career change, but just another step in the right direction . . .
  


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PopMatters: After listening to your latest Wouldnit EP, I must say that I’ve been very impressed with how well your music has translated over to the dance arena.  Of course, you revised “Wouldnit” yourself on Blueprint for a Sunrise (which I remember buying when it first came out, actually), but hearing these radically different interpretations is fascinating.  Do you feel that your songs have taken on a slightly different meaning given their upbeat context, or do you feel that the message largely remains the same?
 
Yoko Ono: I love the way it transferred into dance. When I sung the song on stage, I was dancing conceptually. It’s a dance of life.


PopMatters: Following Yes, I’m a Witch and leading up to this, you seem to have settled quite nicely into the role of a post-millennial dance diva.  Have you noticed any new fans since Witch?  How do you handle such an interesting career change?


Yoko Ono: It’s not a career change. It’s just another day. I now respect the dance remix artists. They are truly incredibly creative and sensitive artists. My hat’s off to them!


PopMatters: Many of these remixes are of older, classic songs from your back catalog.  What are your plans towards music creation in the future?  Do you plan to continue taking your songs in a club-oriented direction?


Yoko Ono: I don’t plan anything. Let’s see what happens. Another name of life to me is Surprise. 


PopMatters: In listening to this EP, I’m reminded of many contemporary artists like Robyn and Lady Gaga who have pulled off the difficult trick of marrying powerful, deep, and sometimes even difficult subject matter to ridiculously catchy pop music.  Listeners often find tension in the parallels, which I think gives such a vein of pop music some validity: making people dance while even asking important questions.  It still stuns me that a three-minute pop song can be capable of doing all that.  What do you see in today’s current pop landscape?  Given the numerous genre exercises you have actively created, what do you think pop music is ultimately capable of?  Do you feel that the Wouldnit EP accomplishes some of those goals?


Yoko Ono: Wouldnit is as new as Walking On Thin Ice was when it was made. Friends immediately said it would be difficult for me to top Walking On Thin Ice. Well, Wouldnit is also that kind of song, I think. Let’s see where it goes. 


PopMatters: You’ve no doubt heard some remixes of your songs that may have been unsolicited or a little more offbeat.  What has been one of the strangest/most drastic interpretations of your songs you’ve ever laid ears to?
 
Yoko Ono: I love offbeat interpretation of my songs. They’re all offbeat.  Why not? Some are incredible, and some are just not there. But all of them are refreshing and [more] interesting than just listening to the original over and over again. 


PopMatters: Finally, looking back at your long and storied career, what has been your biggest regret, and, conversely, what has been your proudest accomplishment?


Yoko Ono: No regrets. Proudest moments, hopefully will come one day.

Tagged as: remixes | yoko ono
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