the full transcript of the Yoko Ono interview
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Interview: Everett True
Photo collage: Yoko Ono
This interview was transcribed by an intern at Careless Talk Costs Lives – the awesome Grace Fox, probably – upon my return from New York (where I was actually researching my Ramones book: I believe my accommodation arrangements were split between Kid Millions from Oneida’s floor – I met him by throwing up into his bin, fortunately he turned out to be a forgiving chap – and a glitzy NYC hotel paid for by Parlophone). So some of the sentences and song references might not make any sense. I would have tided them up when I came to write the feature.
Interesting to note I took out the only Beatles reference from the final article (although not in an abridged version I later wrote for great New York magazine BB Gun).
Incidentally, that opening question I throw Yoko’s way … it really did use to be the only question I had prepared for interviews. Everything else that follows is a result of the ongoing conversation. I’ve always preferred to have conversations rather than do Q/A interviews, which is why I’ve stopped doing interviews in these days of the email and Skype and 15-minute phone calls.
The album under discussion is 2001’s Blueprint For A Sunrise (called a “concept album of experimental feminist rock” by Wikipedia.)
“… we played it to a couple of DJs. It went into the shops on Tuesday and by Wednesday it was sold out. It’s great. They’re jumping and dancing and it’s great. I like it.”
I only ever have one question that I ask anyone so I’ll ask it.
“Go on. You know, your name is extremely difficult, what is it?”
Everett. It’s not my real name.
“It’s nice, Everett. Is that why you chose it?”
It’s actually a cartoon character from the 1900s. This portly old gentleman, someone would be doing something wrong in the first panel like leaving a horse out in a snow or blocking the entrance to a train, and in the second panel he’d be kicking their arse. So that’s where I got the name from. It’s a good name.
“People remember it too.”
So my one question is “what motivates you to work?”
“What motivates me?”
To still make music, to still make albums.
“Well, I think music is the beat of life for me. It’s like my heart, you just 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.”
Yeah, it kind of came across like that to me on your new album.
“A way of being alive.”
Yeah, your songs kind of seemed like an affirmation of life. It was very interesting to me the way you moved between different musical styles.
“It’s good, isn’t it? I’ve always done that. Especially in this one, I think it’s prominent because it is almost like life itself, it’s like my diary and in your daily life, you do go from one thing to another. ‘This is a rock album, this is a dance album’- I’m not like that. Sometimes you’re on the stage and sometimes you’re not.’
Yeah, it starts off almost like in heartbeats.
“Do you know that the first song is a live take?”
“Yeah, it was done in a concert.”
Excellent. Then you reprise it with the second song?
“Well the second song was a studio take.”
They’re quite different songs, why did you have them with the same title?
“Oh, no. You’re talking about ‘I Want You To Remember Me’ in two sections. That wasn’t a studio take. No, the whole thing, A and B, was done in concert. I just said A and B because some people don’t want to hear the dialogue part of it.”
They’re quite different.
“Yes. We did it straight through in the concert.”
There’s 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…
“You’re talking about ‘Wrecking’?”
“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. Was that a deliberate thing? Because I kind of felt that the music you were playing was reflecting the music of Central Park, the song in Central Park.
“Well, it’s a woman thing. All women understand it.”
Yeah. The whole album, it seems to have quite a sad mood to it.
“You feel that?”
Yeah. Not always but there’s a kind of melancholy.
“Yeah, probably because my life was pretty rough, you know.”
You probably haven’t seen the reviews because I don’t think they’ve come out yet, but I reviewed it for the New York Press, which I’ve never seen actually.
“In New York Press? I want you to move again because I think we’re doing it by song. So are we going to be doing it by all the studio takes?”
You feel quite strongly about the question of women.
“Yeah. Some people would say that’s a very clever way of putting it. I’m not trying to be clever. I just think that this kind of underdog experience, a lot of women would understand it. There are still a lot of women suffering in the world and we don’t see it so much because we live in a privileged society. But in the Third World, women are really treated badly. And it’s not just that. That’s why I wanted to put a man in it too, for a man’s point of view of them having a hard time of it. It’s in Japanese but when that guy is talking about his experiences. I think all underdogs, whether they’re women or men, or if they’re in a Third World country, they would understand it. Melancholy’s not really the word. It’s a kind of deep pain and suffering that is in life and we all go through that. That’s what I’m really trying to put down.”
Yeah, one of the points I made in the review is that, as they get older, certain musicians, their albums seem to get blander and blander. You seem to go the opposite way.
“That’s true. I get more angry.”
Yes. That kind of intrigues me. What makes you different from your peers? Why do you make music that’s still challenging?
“I have no idea. I always have, I felt. My view of my music, I think that my music is always trying to bring out the truth in the world and then, by doing that, going and achieving something. In this album, you have all this showing what’s going on and then in the end, it ends with a bird singing.”
How long did it take you to do that album? I mean obviously you’ve got some tracks on there that are from five or six years ago.
“The thing is, it was a music collage. I always feel like if I don’t do something that is new and interesting on a method level, it’s not worth bringing it up. You’re just doing the same old thing. This time, what I did, I was pretty ambitious on a format level too because I wanted to make a music collage and bring in live shows and studio tracks in one album. Usually what you have is either a live album or a studio album. I wanted to have the juxtaposing of that so it has a gritty kind of experience and goes into a different space. It goes into a different space but knows it’s in one. Also, I did the whole thing in with Proto.”
“Proto, that new thing [Pro-Tools – Ed]. So it’s very interesting that even the tape I made five years ago, I manipulated so it was part of the music collage.”
Yes. It’s incredible. It’s very exciting these days, the way that music is so accessible.
“Sampling just one bar – whenever I sample anything, I consider… people didn’t understand it in those days but I did a lot of sampling and it was a very new thing to do. You would sample a couple of bars, make a loop out of it and then change the speed. I did all sorts of things but nobody knew what I did then. I went back to that with this. The only one that’s really live… well, there was some manipulation on it all. The voice of the guy in the first dialogue, when I was doing both the woman and the guy, with the guy part I changed the echoes so it sounded more like a guy. ‘Margaret’ was totally live, no fixing, I just wanted to put it in because I thought Sean was so good. I did ‘Margaret’ with John as well. Of course, when John did it, nobody else did that with guitar. When Sean did it, he’d already heard what John had done, it’s an easier position, it was already done. I think that writing is interesting because I started with Japanese… I didn’t start at first, I used the little girl and then the man starts to talk and that I did in Japanese. I think there were studio takes but studio takes that had been manipulated again. Instead of taking a few bars and sampling them, I was sampling whole songs, using a whole take for the music collage.”
When you’re on stage performing, what do you think about?
“Performing. I’m just into it so much that there’s no thinking. I’m there totally.”
Does it bother you what reactions you get?
“When am I going to be bothered by it, before, after or when I’m doing it? Just joking. I think that there’s a point where you can’t be bothered with it or you can’t do it. How are you going to guess or imagine who’s going to think what?”
Yeah, I agree but that’s interesting because it kind of comes round to motivation again. A lot of people make music to get a reaction. I guess one of the reasons to make music is communication, in which case reaction is important.
“Of course reaction is important but you’re not motivated to… you think of communication but you communicate in the soul of a person. I always think that if I go on stage, I think of me as presenting this communication of gods and goddesses within you. I just communicate with that, the real spirit and the real soul within you. It’s fine if everything that is said later or at the time, what your mind is thinking, the cynicism that you have is not your real soul.”
You’re something of an icon to a lot of people I know in the counter culture. It’s funny, if I’ve had the conversation about Yoko once, I’ve had it a thousand times because people know I like you. I’ll say ‘well, I like Yoko but you’re not the only other person I know that does.’ Why do you think that is?
“Because there’s a very big opposition still to me, I think, in terms of the big picture. In that sense I’m an underdog and I have been an outsider. I always think of myself as an outsider and there’s a power in being an outsider, there’s wisdom that you gain by being an outsider and that you can bring into the main world, the main society. The main society always benefits from what the outsider can bring to them.”
Yeah, it’s interesting because I know there’s a whole New York thing that’s totally separate to anything else. If you’re from New York, you’re from New York and people appreciate you for that. I’m here to do some research for a book on the Ramones. This guy died recently and he was very New York. I think a lot of musicians from New York respect you for the fact that you’re very New York.
“I suppose New York is just a collection of people who decided to be here because of that. There’s a certain spirit that we share.”
Did you consciously choose to be the outsider?
“No, I didn’t. I was just true to myself and that was being an outside probably.”
Yeah, probably because most people are true to what they think other people want. Most people spend their lives trying to second guess that.
“It’s sad, isn’t it? I think that’s sad and a waste of time because you can never second guess that.”
Of course you can’t because they don’t know what they want either. They’re doing exactly the same thing to you. It’s something I’d like to bring out in this article, your influence on musicians. When your British PR suggested this, I told him I was doing a new magazine [Careless Talk Costs Lives – Ed]… there seems to be a thread running through the bands… I’ve always felt that in rock music, because it’s such a patriarchal tradition, the women would always make the most interesting art.
“I think that there’s a certain kind of productivity that is there within us.”
See, I think my end is a little bit negative. I know what men are like, especially in rock music because it’s been so male for so long.
“So male. That’s all I’ve done and they have been outlets. That was very important for them and the society. The kind of repression and anger they felt, they transformed it into an art form, which is better than going around and killing people. I think rock is just as angry as soldiers, maybe even more, and I think the way they chose to express it is beautiful. It’s better than going to war and killing and feeling good about it. I don’t know if they feel good about it. I think artists are people who are trying to take this tumour and they are into healing. I like that. I don’t know if I like it but it’s the only way to survive. Art is a way of survival.”
Healing yourself or others?
“Healing yourself and others. Healing yourself is connected with healing others. Quite often it’s not that easy to heal yourself, it’s much easier to reach out and heal others and by doing that, you heal yourself. It’s like an interesting dance.”
Yeah. It’s best not to stay apart from everybody else, it’s better to interact.
“Definitely. I think we are interacting anyway, even if we’re isolated. If I isolate myself, we’re still communicating.”
Where you aware of the Riot Grrls in the early 90s?
“No, I heard about this.”
They were this new generation of female artists, around the time of grunge, Nirvana, it was around that time. There was a big push towards it and I guess you would have been one of the role models. Yoko Ono would have been a role model, not just because you were an outsider but also because people liked your art. Anybody can be an outsider.
“An outside in the sense of being a stranger. Something you keep to yourself that makes you become an outsider.”
Because I used to know Nirvana, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love quite well. I always thought Courtney had such massive potential, which she just threw away.
“Well it’s very hard for women.”
“If she insisted on being herself, there’s a certain point where she has to be protective of herself and maybe that’s what she’s doing now. She might go back to it.”
Maybe. My angle is more that… I liked her because I thought she was very new, very original, a very strong personality. I kind of get the impression that now she’s just trying to fit in.
“Yes, but sometimes it’s a lonely game. When I first did the band, it was like everybody just smirked and laughed and put me down. I got a photo of a group of Japanese kids and a huge trash can like Yoko Ono’s album. Like ‘Green-filled Morning’ or ‘Paper Shoes’, you go to a disco and hear that kind of music now. I was so far ahead, 10 years, over 10 years. I was thinking ‘I never want to be that far ahead’. It’s just a painful and lonely trip. I never want to do that again. I’m still a little bit off in terms of timing, you know, I have some stuff that I can still bring up and nobody understands. With this CD, there were some very interesting things I did in terms of musical format but I don’t think people would understand it yet. But still I think that it’s a little bit more understandable.”
It is a bit more approachable, I agree with you.
“I can’t do that 30-year trip again because it’s too painful.”
Yeah. I can’t imagine because I’ve never been in that situation. And also it’s a very female thing, I think. You were a female in a very male world at that point. There pretty much weren’t any females doing what you were doing.
“But John understood it. I think he was the only person who did at the time. I think people thought I was crazy. He was an intelligent guy. He wasn’t going to say ‘this is great’ just because I was with him.”
He didn’t strike me as the kind of person to say he liked something just for the sake of it.
“Yeah, he didn’t take fools easily. So the thing is that I had that, one guy understood me. I cannot repeat that. I think artists are prophetic, they’re all prophetic people, true artists. But I don’t think I want to be that prophetic in that sense because it’s such a lonely trip. Now I feel a bit better because they’re starting to maybe understand some of the stuff and my bones are starting to relax a little bit.”
I totally understand that and I always used to feel guilty that I felt that way about Courtney because she deserves a bit of happiness. But it’s almost like if you’re an artist, you can’t be happy.
“I accepted that in a sense. I felt that this is the world of the artist, you give what you have to society but you’re giving something real so of course they’re not going to take it. That’s normal so I wasn’t fretting over it. But it was a lonely trip.”
Yes. It’s something I’ve always puzzled over, art, I guess because I’m a critic. It’s my job. I think what I do is art. I don’t think many critics think that. But I see what I do as an art.
I think it enhances the experience, adds to it and expands it. I don’t think many critics do that. I’m not a big fan of the media at all.
“I understand. I think that true critics are really very creative, creative in the sense that they actually help to create the awareness. It’s incredible or it can be incredible.”
Absolutely. In rock music, I can’t think of anybody who does that. But I don’t work for anybody.
“You’re the outsider.”
I don’t get paid for doing this but I’m happy in myself.
“That’s exactly my theory.”
That’s what really intrigues me because you must have had your moments of self doubt when there were all these people against you.
Really? That’s interesting.
“Not at all. I knew what I was doing. I was aggravated by the fact that nobody understood it.”
“You know why? Because an idea comes into my head, an inspiration, it’s so definite and I just bring it up as exact as possible.”
Right, so it comes back to the fact that when you’re on the stage, you don’t think about anything, you’re just there.
And it also comes down to the fact that you either have instinct or you don’t.
“Well, I’m just reading out from my inspiration and that’s my life. I’m not going to doubt my life.”
Does your act actively reflect your life or is it separate?
“No. Reflect is a strange word. That’s my life.”
“Reflect is something removed.”
So it’s the same thing.
“Art is my life and my life is art.”
You don’t divorce yourself?
“No, art is my life and my life is art.”
So going back to the… something that really intrigues me about art, I can never figure out where it exists, at what point it’s art, whether it’s yourself creating the Plastic Ono Band and everybody scorning you, whether it’s still art. A lot of people would argue that you have to have a certain degree of acceptance for it to be considered art.
“It’s almost like the trees in the park, whether you accept it or not. I think some people think you should cut all the trees in Central Park because you can make tons of money. That’s denying the trees. But if you cut all the trees in Central Park, you would certainly notice that this city is no longer the city it was so you would see that the trees are important. But when the trees are there, you don’t think they are important. I’m like one of those trees. I’m just being myself and staying alive. For me to stay alive, to make music is part of it.”
Do you find yourself getting angry as you get older?
“Listen, I’m not mellowing at all. I don’t think I’m mellowing at all. I mean, what is there to mellow for? The kind of world we’re living in, how could we be mellow? I think the artist’s world is becoming more important and more urgent. I think art is a way of survival. I said this in my liner notes, there’s a guy in St Petersburg, a DJ who put a metronome on because the whole city was in a siege and there was no food, nothing, and people were getting lethargic. The DJ was just playing all kinds of music and making people happy. But then the DJ became lethargic too and he just put the metronome on and the whole city was just listening to this metronome, tick tock, tick tock. That’s how they survived. That DJ is an artist, he allowed people to survive. He created a way to survive, a way of survival. That is the thing that was needed at that point, not tap-dancing but a metronome. I think artists are going to be the metronome of this society.”
Yeah, I’d say right now in America, that’s very true.
“I would like you to go out and check out my latest, which is in Times Square. I put a billboard up and you must see it. When you see that billboard in the context of all the other billboards, which are advertisements, you will see that it is art.”
I understand. I’ll definitely go and check it out. I got an email from a DJ in Sarajevo who, for some reason, used to read my words right in the middle of the war there.
“Great – and it gave him the encouragement?”
Yeah. I was really touched.
Yeah, because I’m privileged and I live in comfortable surroundings, well relatively, and you just do what you do and get on with it.
“You see, I don’t feel like… how do I put it? It’s not a pain that’s coming from my body, but it’s almost like a body pain I feel, even because of September 11, the world condition.”
Yeah, the September 11 thing was… my main thought was whoever did this, you don’t want to because America is not the country you want to attack.
“There’s no country like that.”
Of course not.
“I think that when you’re going to war, both sides lose totally.”
But some people must enjoy it.
“It’s a very high price for enjoyment. Why don’t you buy a CD or something?”
But somebody must, they must.
“It’s so sad though, isn’t it? It’s hurting kids as well. We are all feeling the pain. We’re all angry. What is this mellowing?”
Yeah, somebody was talking about how there’s this consciousness that exists between people as a whole and you can’t usually sense it because it’s so low key. But right after that, you could hear it. It’s kind of scary when you can hear it.
“You see, I think I mentioned this somewhere. I kept waking up in the middle of the night, hearing a full orchestra of people going ‘aaah.’ I put that in the CD. That was a real growing experience. That was happening because of September 11.”
So why do you take so long between albums?
“Well, first of all, between the writing and the blueprint for the sounds, I’m doing all the artwork too. It’s a lot of work. It took a lot of energy. I just do things when I’m inspired. Maybe I wasn’t inspired or I was doing something else.”
You were inspired in another way.
“Exactly. But then I started thinking ‘I have to go into the studio, I have to go into the studio.’ It was like I had this urge about it. When I did the Japan Concert, the weekend before that, I wanted to do ‘Remember Me’. It was coming into my head. I thought ‘I’ll do this song after the concert because I have all the songs for the concert prepared.’ If I did this new song, I certainly don’t have the rehearsal song. That kind of strange logical thinking, which is not really my true spirit at all. I kept saying that and just pushing it away. It just kept coming so I wrote it. That was the first song I sang. I was so scared but it just came, the timing, everything, just went so well. You hear it and that’s live. That’s when I thought ‘I have to go into the studio.’ I still didn’t have the time. I think the Japan Concert was November and I went into the studio in February.”
What does inspire you to write music?
“As I said before, it’s part of my life and I don’t know how. It’s like breathing. It comes to me and so I have to put it down, if I don’t, it’s like a form of death, of not being alive. Sometimes it’s really terrible because I think of these ideas, especially when I was in New York before I met John and I didn’t have a studio to do these ideas. I had all these ideas. That’s why I was doing a recital of this stuff. I did that intentionally with films at one point, like ‘from now on I’m just going to write films and other people can make them.’ Films are very difficult to make.”
They’re very complicated.
“They’re very complicated because you have to have so many people to work with you. I just reduced it like that. That was kind of interesting. But whenever there’s an idea starting to bother me to the point where I couldn’t think of anything else.”
Yeah, it just won’t go away and you don’t want just one idea in your head.
Do you see a common thread running through your music?
“I think so, definitely. I don’t know what that is. You know my work called Freight Train?”
“OK. So Freight Train was something that was so typical, such a good example. I saw the Freight Train and I thought ‘wow, I have to make something with this.’ Whenever I was chatting with people, I was saying ‘I have to do this.’ People were saying ‘you can’t do that.’ Freight trains are so big and you have problems with transport and where can you exhibit? Not many galleries that big. I had to make it. So in Berlin, can you imagine Berlin? They found this old freight train that, in the 40s, they’d used for transporting people. We had to create these bullet marks with a machine gun and there’s a law in Germany that only military people can use a machine gun. So then I had to get permission from the German military to do this thing and they did it.”
Were they Yoko Ono fans?
“I don’t know. They exhibited this thing in Berlin that is like their national gallery. That was incredible that they did that. The mayor was saying that it was two blocks from where they actually had the train and these prisoners. It was very good for them to confront it. I was in pain for about three years about being able to do this. But now it’s done.”
That’s good. If you like Yoko Ono, you tend to have a few arguments with people over the years.
“I’m sorry. I remember there was this guy who kept insisting he liked my music when he was in high school and he was totally ostracised.”
Well, it’s a choice you make. Not a deliberate choice but you go for what sound you like. When I heard your music… I didn’t hear pop music until I was seventeen. I’d never heard pop music, I didn’t like it. I liked classical music and I was classically trained.
“Well that’s interesting because I had classical training.”
So when I first heard your music, I hadn’t heard anything like it before. It was also the time in England of the punk movement. The punk movement itself wasn’t so interesting but the bands that came immediately after were very interesting. They were trying different things, different rhythms and a lot of females were involved, which I found more interesting. One of the early albums… it was unmissable, well, you had to listen to it. It was just absurd. It was like if you wanted to write a pop song, you could and you did. People never understood that. It was like an argument I had.
“I just went with my inspiration, that’s all I can say. It’s all you can do really. You say ‘don’t you want to guess what people think?’ What people? And you can never guess.”
Exactly. Some people will like what you do and some people won’t. If you’d written a bunch of pop songs, a load of people would have hated you. Was there a problem about the Beatles, was that one reason why you didn’t write pop songs? Or it just wasn’t even on your agenda?
“It’s a matter of attitude of life, I think, that if you want to push the edge… My father used to tell me, he was a classical pianist, the one who introduced me to this, he was a very far out guy in that sense, in terms of classical music. He taught me that, in terms of performance, the composer writes something a little bit more challenging that maybe the performer can’t play. The performer really tries to play it and then, when they have conquered that part, the composer goes a little bit further and the performer becomes more competent because of the challenge. It progresses them. That was the spirit of pushing the edge, that’s what the whole of the human race is doing to become wiser.”
“Yes, to grow. It’s a process of growing. I never thought we shouldn’t grow, I never thought we should repeat. Repeating is just like water when it stops flowing, it becomes muddy. That’s how I feel.”
You forget that, but it seems obvious. You see, something that always bothers me about life, the human race, the world I live in, is the mediocre culture and I never understand why people choose to create something that’s mediocre.
“I never understand that. They say that pride is one of the seven sins but I think pride is a pretty good thing, that kept me going for the longest time. If I didn’t have that, what would I have relied on?”
Yeah, you have to have that.
“Because I have pride, I don’t care if people start throwing stones at me. That’s why, when you said ‘did you ever wonder?’ I never did. I just never questioned.”
I wonder about people. My chosen sphere is music and I wonder particularly about people who write songs for the radio. I wonder ‘do they know that they’re creating something mediocre? Are they deliberately doing that?’
“Of course. I don’t know. We shouldn’t say that because some people are really trying their best. But at the same time, I think there are some people who are really calculating that this is going to be popular and will sell because of its mediocrity. I think there’s a certain kind of… I’m just saying something that’s not exact because say somebody is really trying hard to do their best and that becomes mediocre – it won’t be mediocre because of that.”
Yes, I think it will come through. I think it will sound soulful one way or another. I’m fairly sure of that. I have nothing against badly recorded music or what people perceive as badly recorded.
One of the dialogues I was having, an article, one of the main bands is a band called Huggy Bear. Their whole take on music is if there’s a wrong and right way to play guitar – one of the girls said ‘people tell me I can’t play. But I made up hundreds of chords myself.’ It goes back to your work and the fact that yours was the wrong way to some people.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Or course, and why is it wrong? What is music?
“Exactly, the only people I despise are the people who are in a guessing game of making money. It’s so sad.”
It is sad. This is why people say I’m vicious in my writing. Well, you know, people only have to read my words once. I have to listen to these songs day after day after day. This music is everywhere, or what they call music.
“Exactly. Music can be amazing and inspiring, or it can be contaminating and just contaminate the air.”
It’s interesting, I’m just hearing the sound of a track outside. I just remember hearing this great orchestral piece of New York! New York! I think that’s more musical, just random car sounds, that’s more musical than piped music in an escalator.
“I know. Elevator music.”
I also think because I’m a great believer in art. I never used to like using the word art because people used to think it was one thing.
“It has those connotations.”
I have this theory that if everybody stopped playing this mediocre stuff for financial reasons, it would change the whole society.
“But we are. We are changing the whole society with music. It’s an incredible thing. I think in the beginning, there was music.”
But I would say that one of the reasons why… America has a lot of great things about it and a lot of bad things about it and I would say that one of the reasons it has a lot of bad things about it is because you have Mariah Carey on the radio.
“I really appreciate what you said about this. I totally agree with you and the fact that critics can be totally creative. First of all, artists need encouragement as well and sometimes we find situations… you discover things, discover things that nobody would even recognise. You discover even in the most accepted form of something, you discover something that is new.”
Well thank you.
“I think we have to round up now so if there’s anything else you want to talk about. It’s great. Where were you… where were you when I needed you. In 1988, someone wanted to do an exclusive of my work. You’re not going to do it. You’re too late.”
That’s the thing, as I’m sure you know. When you create art, it doesn’t mean that just because… whatever the wrong thing is at the time, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people appreciating what you’re doing. At any given time, the people in power are always the wrong people. By the time they got there, they shouldn’t be there. The only thing that ever kept me going back when I was writing about bands, I never really wrote about famous people, I only ever wrote about new bands, was the fact that I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. I knew I was the wrong person.
“It’s like those fish that go upstream.”
“Right, salmon, they mate and have eggs. It’s this energy of going upstream.”
Yeah, well going back to that ‘where were you when I needed you’ thing, that’s an interesting one because I totally understand why people feel that way. But at the same time, you have to remember that you don’t always encounter the people you need to encounter.
“And also maybe it was a blessing.”
Exactly, if people had been supporting you, maybe you wouldn’t have felt that energy, which is actually one of the reasons why I’m intrigued by the new album because I feel that people probably are quite supportive of you now, especially in New York.
“I don’t think there’s a blueprint for support circulating at all. I think it’s OK, the way that most of my work has circulated. I think that what is said or what is in that album, even if it’s hidden, it will have some impact in the world. I think that it’s fine that I put it out. The fact that I actually made it and finished it and it’s there is important. I fine-tuned it so it’s complete.”
I’m more interested in the exposure that you get. I’m not sure how much exposure a work of art should get.
“I don’t think it should get the exposure of like millions. It’s affecting millions of people regardless in a kind of subconscious soul level. We’re communicating on that level. If you wanted to create something that would communicate to millions of people straightaway, that’s a different story.”
That’s the second guessing thing.
“The second guessing thing. You don’t always have to second guess people but there’s a kind of rule like when Ronald Regan was speaking and if he put one four syllable word in there, people’s attention span is so short that they just won’t listen. He was one person who was very wise in creating a kind of speech without any complex words in it so people loved him. In a way there are many different kinds of concerns that you have to apply to your product if you want immediate communication.”
People talk about the lowest common denominator, which is sort of what we’re talking about. But I honestly think that if people were given the chance to have access to the interesting things and the mediocre things on an equal footing, I honestly believe people would go for the more interesting things. It’s down to the media and how the media presents things.
“When I say common denominator, I don’t necessarily think that it’s bad. I Want To Hold Your Hand – it’s a beautiful line. What’s wrong with that? It’s not intellectual, it’s just basic human feelings, and that’s why you call the song that. There was an element there that made the words strong. That side of the game is extremely… I respect that, but for some reason when I’m really me. I don’t know, I have a certain idea about me, I don’t know where my me is going yet.”
It seems to me that some of the music you wrote in the early 70s is kind of my version of I Want To Hold Your Hand.
“Sure but for some people it’s that and for some people it’s not. Next year there might be another me that you don’t know. It’ll be like you’re saying hello to a new person.”
Of course, the people you’re with, you’re a different person each time.
“No, not in terms of other people but in terms of growth and discovering your potentiality.”
“I’m very interested in that.”
It is interesting and it’s also very nice to think that you have that potential within yourself.
“We’re full of potential. The only thing I want is more time. Give me more time to grow and experience.”
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