The man is back — back in Japan and back from the brink of mediocrity.

Sporting combat boots, a flannel shirt and a splotchy dye job, the David Bowie I first lay eyes on is a far cry from the suit-wearing soulster or cross-dressing alien of his golden years. He has an imposing aura — he sits in the corner of a dimly lit hotel room, shrouded in a cloud of cigarette smoke — but this is easily lightened by his motherly manager, a cup of tea and a friendly handshake.

He's keen to talk about his role as Andy Warhol (whom he describes as a "maker of epic vacuousness") in an upcoming movie directed by Julian Schnabel, and his disillusionment with the Internet ("a dumping of inconsequential crap"). But the promoters said only 15 minutes and the clock is ticking.