Normally we introduce these interviews with a few biographical details about the subject. With Yoko Ono, however, there hardly seems any point: she’s as much a part of late 20th-century history as an musician. But if the whole world knows who she is, her work is a different matter. John Lennon famously described her as “the world's most famous unknown artist”. And despite recent critical success and an album out this week (Take Me to the Land of Hell), her reputation is still for being obscurely arty. Memorably, The Simpsons once affectionately sent her up as a woman who goes into Mo’s Tavern and orders a single plum floating in a pool of perfume served in a bowler hat.
Her avant-garde credentials were, similarly, borne out during this year’s Meltdown where she was invited to curate the month-long festival at the Southbank Centre. The heavily "girl-power" line-up included Canadian feminist singer Peaches, who performed one of Ono’s performance art pieces, and agit-punker Patti Smith. The Y chromosome was represented by “new men” like Iggy Pop and Boy George.
Whenever I create something – artwork or music - I get a lot of energy from itYoko’s own music also took a central role. But when she performed - still with the trademark wails, and provocative slogans - many were intrigued at how contemporary it all actually sounded (see video below). And she can be accessible too: these days Ono spends much of her time working with some of electronica’s most prodigious talents. In recent years she has carved out a niche reputation amongst cutting-edge artists, even reaching number one in the US dance charts on a number of occasions.