After celebrating her 80th birthday in February, Yoko Ono has another reason to break out the champagne: her 10th Number One dance hit. On “Hold Me,” recorded with L.A. DJ Dave Audé, Ono sings about lost love over a sleek, stomping house beat.
“With John [Lennon], we did something to break out from the usual rock,” Ono tells Rolling Stone. “But I didn’t know I was going to break into dance. It’s incredible. They do a festival, and 50,000 people come!” Ono also discussed her upcoming Meltdown Festival (happening in London June 14th-23rd), her battle against fracking and her relationship with Paul McCartney. “It was very difficult for me to not have that support for those 40 years,” she said. “We understand each other so well, in many ways.”
You’ve been making dance music for a long time. What is it like to see it get so huge again in the last couple years?
It’s really good. First – did I do jazz or something? – then rock. And with John, we did something really to break out from the usual rock. But I didn’t know that I was going to break out into dance because it’s a very, very different musical situation. It’s a musical format that is not being recognized so much now as an important format. But the format is so different from rock or from classical, anything. It’s incredible. I’m just very happy that I’m part of it. They do a festival or something, and 50,000 people come! It’s just big, it’s very different.
Did you ever see that coming?
No, of course not, I didn’t. But you know, I loved dance music, and was trying to go into that a lot. John and I even thought of creating a dance move or something. We rolled on the floor and said, “Can we do this? Can we . . . ?” No, it didn’t work out. [Laughs] But it was a nice attempt. Now I’m very glad that we can just dance. Dancing is a very healthy thing to do for our body. It’s music, health and therapy coming together. It’s very good.
I know you’re friends with Lady Gaga. Have you thought about recording a dance track with her sometime?
It would be great if we could do it, but she doesn’t need any help. She’s just a shooting star. Way up there all by herself. And I just don’t feel like saying, “Hey, shall we do it?” Because she doesn’t need it. I’m too proud to say something like that.
You have your own studio in New York. Is that where you spend most of your day?
I work on music, even if I’m on a plane. Especially when you’re on a plane up there, it’s very to easy to work on music, because there’s no other vibration that’s coming to you. On earth, on ground, there’s so many incredible vibrations, sound vibrations coming to you, so you just forget about it sometimes. And especially what’s happening now to Earth, which is an incredible thing. And we just have to take care of it. If we don’t take care of it, either we’re all going to die or we’re going to have to find another planet to move to, you know? You see that we’re sort of exploring other planets now.
Do you think we have a good amount of time left here?
Well, I think there are two ways to go. The human race is getting extremely intelligent. All of us are getting extremely intelligent, and the scientists might find some other way of quickly healing us and everything. I don’t know. So maybe we’re going to stay here, because I think that that’s a possibility and we might just do a very good job of creating a beautiful world. It’s all up to us to just change our silly minds of wanting to make money. Money, money, all the time. Money is not everything. We don’t need billions and trillions of dollars. We just have to find a way of changing our interests, to focus on our health – things that are important to us as people who live life, and forget about this incredible concentration on making money. I mean, that’s just making money for people who love that so much for some reason. It’s not everybody. All of us are really wanting a good life, that’s all. I mean a good life – a good, healthy life, you know? Not necessarily with money, and it’s a very sad situation now.
I was reading your Twitter. You wrote, “Sometimes it‘s better not to wish and just let the universe take care of it. Sometimes the universe knows what‘s better, knows better what‘s good for you.“
Yes. The universe, when you leave it alone, is going to be beautiful. Not only that, but we should not be interfering so much on other countries. We’re trying to sort of give a lesson to all the countries, saying, “Well, you better be democratic.” I mean, what is it? American’s not that democratic anymore. I mean it’s not, ever. It’s almost like saying, “Let’s all try to be communistic or something.” That didn’t work. And it doesn’t work to sort of keep on telling people to be democratic. Well, it’s all right to tell people, maybe, but bomb them for that? It’s crazy.
You’re curating the Meltdown Festival – you’ll have Patti Smith, the Stooges, Thurston Moore...
Oh, yeah. And Marianne Faithfull, who’s an incredible, powerful artist, and she says she’s going to be doing something that’s a surprise to us, and I’m really wondering what that is. I think that it’s going to be very many heavy, heavy women and extremely New Age men, you know? Like Iggy Pop. Well, all the men are extremely New Age.
Plastic Ono Band is playing. Do you think there will be a Plastic Ono Band tour in the future?
Well, I don’t know about that. I think there are many ways of now communicating, thanks to the computer age. It’s sort of like you can go through the Internet, you can wear a T-shirt with a message or something. A lot of people are wearing T-shirts with messages – great, positive words – and that affects the world as well. There are many ways of communicating, and this is a time that we have to communicate. So we have to find the simplest way to communicate, sometimes, because we don’t have much time. We just have to do it. But the Plastic Ono Band might go out there, because it’s fun as well.
Would there be another record, do you think?
Well, I just made a record. You know, the last one was Between My Head and the Sky, and now here’s this new one. I hope people like it.
You‘re also putting a book of drawings, Acorn – your follow-up to 1964’s Grapefruit – out this month.
Yes, yes. I’m so lucky that I can put out Acorn now, again, because I just forgot about it. Then I read it, and I said ‘Oh my God, it’s so great, we have to put this out,’ you know? It’s very interesting to see what I was thinking. Well, I think Acorn is, if anything, maybe just as good as Grape was, and Grape was very successful, and Acorn will be, probably.
More than 200 artists signed on for your group Artists Against Fracking – Lady Gaga, the Strokes – plus Paul and Ringo. I was wondering about how you approached them and got them to come behind it.
Well, I didn’t make much effort. They are very, very intelligent people, and they understand that it’s very bad for the human race to start fracking. There are other ways of making money properly, and we don’t have to frack. But by fracking, they’re going to make the earth very dirty, water very dirty, and that eventually will make the air dirty. And if we don’t have clean air, clean water, how are we going to survive, you know? And they are very aware of those things.
Paul said some nice things about you recently. [“She certainly didn’t break the group up.”] What was your reaction?
The first thing that I said was, “Oh, thank you, Paul,” It was very difficult for me to not have that support for those 40 years. But I also knew that it would be very difficult for him to say something like that, because, you know, there are many people who wish that we would be always fighting. But, no, he said it, and it was very sweet of him. We understand each other so well, in many ways, I think. After 40 years, to think that we don’t know each other? [Laughs]
That‘s great you’re on good terms.
Well, yes, well . . . on good terms, yes, I think we are on good terms. And also, I have a lot of respect for him.
You have more than four million Twitter followers. What is your secret?
There’s no secret! I don’t know why that happened, and I’m very, very thankful. When I’m putting some communication out on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, I think that it’s helping me, my brain, you know, because it’s always somehow stimulated by people who are sending things to me. And it works both ways. It’s great. My brain is very happy about it. [Laughs]