Ryuichi Sakamoto / 'Windpower' podcast

In 1985 I worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto, and have stayed friendly with him ever since. He is one of Japan’s finest musicians, a music professor who started in the pop world as the leader of Yellow Magic Orchestra before establishing a phenomenal solo career. He wrote the beautiful, perennial ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ score (and co-starred in it with Bowie) and went on to win an Oscar for Best Score in ‘The Last Emperor.’ The record and video I made with him are hard to find but worth the search–the song’s called ‘Field Work.’


Ryuichi contacted me a couple weeks ago about an issue that is troubling to him. In Northern Japan there is a nuclear reactor about to open outside the small town of Rokkasho. It has been measured to have potential levels of radioactivity way in excess of anything remotely safe or acceptable. For some reason the Japanese media are not paying attention to it. So Ryuichi has put together a web site http://stop-rokkasho.org where he and his artist friends from around the world have contributed music, words, photos and video clips to draw attention to this problem.

A few gigs ago we videotaped my live performance of ‘Windpower’ and I dedicated it to the people of Rokkasho. Today Ryuichi added the clip to his site, and it’s currently #2 in iTunes’ ‘political’ category. You can grab the podcast/download directly from the Stop Rokkasho site, or if you prefer you can get it here. Enjoy!

24 Responses to “Ryuichi Sakamoto / 'Windpower' podcast”

  1. I love that project of Ryuichi.

    Thomas, are you aware of Creative Commons? That would be really interesting. Maybe one day you’ll willing to share a few sounds, loops or anything else for remixing. That would be so cool! For ccMixter.org for example.

  2. Rockit says:

    Thumbs up for windpower!

    Thanks for sharing the video, Thomas. I didn’t see this performed at a recent show, so it was a treat. I visited Ryuichi’s site which was visually interesting, and indeed raises scary consequences of building this plant. How can the media ignore something like this?I would be more than happy to be weaned off nuclear energy one day, not to forget, oil for other reasons.

    I noticed there is no place to escalate the call to action: meaning emails or contacting anyone.

  3. sstav says:

    Good to see the Windpower video. I reviewed a Sakamoto show in Seattle 5 or so years ago, amazing. Fieldwork is my favorite song of yours/his. Would like to see another collaboration. Since your gig in Seattle I’ve dug out Astronauts and re-discovered what a remarkable album that was. It would have been difficult to re-create I Love You Goodbye by yourself onstage, but would have liked to hear you try.
    I Love You Goodbye has been on heavy rotation for some time at the iTunes Generation 80s Retro radio station.
    Would love to interview you sometime for Ink19.com.

  4. Love his work, too, with David Sylvian. I enjoyed the “Forbidden Colours” version of the song from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

  5. elliotscott says:

    Thank you for the video! Not only was it a great reminder of the Pittsburgh show I attended, but it gave me a chance to let my 5-year old get his first exposure to you live! (We’ve been listening to your music in the house since he was born…he went around singing “I live in a suitcase” for a few days once when he was 3!)

    Mr. Sakamoto is another of my favorites…I hope his project succeeds, and always nice to see musicians supporting each other. Nice work!

  6. Valen says:

    “The record and video I made with him are hard to find but worth the search–the song’s called ‘Field Work.’”

    Lucky for me, and a few others, we have this video, but when are you going to release a dvd of your promo videos and Wireless Live??

    SACD is also perfect for your sound.

    Please Please!

  7. Valen says:

    Forgot to ask, the song Silk Pyjamas, was edited.

    Why was it changed from, “how’s she ever, going to manage” to “how’s the bugger, going to manage”? Was ‘bugger’ offensive?

    Great vid by the way.


  8. marathonman says:

    This is the second darn video I can’t figure out how to play. I’m unfortunately no computer geek, actually think of myself as a Financial Planner Geek. Do I need an IPOD to watch it? Can’t I play the clip in Windows Media? Someone help!
    By the way, concert was great.

  9. howardtheduck says:

    Thomas, thanks for putting this vid on your site–just whetting our appetites for the live DVD someday? Also, it looks as though you were on an actual stage in Cleveland, seperated from your fans, unlike your fantastic Pittsburgh gig, where most of us in the front row were close enough to the 1-foot high stage to join your ‘band’….as a matter of fact, I was the chap (dork) to your far left w/his foot on the stage for most of the show. By the way, thanks for all the hi-5s, dog. Keep it real, & come back to Pittsburgh anytime.

  10. FranzifromMulberry says:

    Sounds to me as though this is another case of Big Buisiness or Government control of the media. Such is the case in the U.S. with so many large Corporations or those within the Government that have controlling ownership of,
    or even owning News Media. Yes it is scary what people will do for power, control and large sums of money- even
    to the extent of hurting many others for financial gain.

    Thomas- thank you so much for playing in StPaul Sunday night! I had been waiting to see you since I started listening to you in 1983-I was too young(15) to travel to see you at First Ave. in 1984! The incident where the patch you had loaded into your controller was de-tuned was like you said- very strange! Usually when something like that happens the patch will be really wacky- but it was only one oscillator/voice detuned from the other! At that point I said I would run home and get you my Jupiter-8… I would have definately ran home to get you my rock-solid Jupiter-8 to use for the evening! I have modified it a bit to give it greater stability and I think you would like it! Thank you for the wonderfull music and enjoy England!!

  11. Valen says:


    Open the files with Quicktime.


  12. Chester says:

    Loved the video for Field Work…Mr.Dolby doing his Taxi Driver thang…

  13. Chester says:

    Just thought I would add that I live in Japan, and its true-i have heard nothing in the media at all about this. Very odd.

  14. funkydolby says:

    I love Field Work! Heard the tail end of the song on a college station in CT about 22 years ago and only about 5 years ago was I able to track the CD down as an import. (It may be available domestically now, check amazon.) And as noted, Ryuichi is an incredible musician in his own right.

  15. bugeyes says:

    Hey Thomas, I found this on David Byrne’s website “Journal” (he says he hates it when it is referred to as a “blog”, but…to each his own I suppose!) I thought it most appropriate for this forum, considering your background with Beatnik. See what you think.

    “On the train I can heart the faint cacophony of many distant cell phone rings. Snippets of Mozart and hip-hop, old school rings and pop song fragments — all emanating out of miniscule phone speakers. All tinkling away, here and there. All are incredibly poor reproductions of other music — these are “signs” for other music. Music not meant to be actually listened to as music, but to remind you of and refer to other, more real, music. They are audio road signs that proclaim “I am a Mozart person” or “I can’t even be bothered to select a ring tone”. A modern symphony of music that is not music but asks that you remember music.”

    My only comment is this…I, along with so many others, are grateful that you are returning to “real” music, and not just signifying music, which can be rather “insignificant”!

  16. Elaine says:

    Bugeyes, thank you for posting that. It pains me to disagree with Byrne on this, but his assumption “I can’t even be bothered to select a ring tone” is needlessly demeaning to us ringtone-deprived folk. I admit it, I just like my phone to RING when someone’s calling!

    What I really want is to make my cell ring with the old AT&T Merlin two-tone blip.

  17. Antonio says:

    Ave Thomas !

    It’s great to hear that You and Ryu are still in contact. Ryuichi is the apostle of refinement. His aesthetics shows very clearly that he belongs to the spiritual aristocracy of this world. He is master of colours like Jean Cocteau, Dario Argento ( see movie “Suspiria” ), Debussy… He also has an incredible good feeling for groove. One has to buy all of Sakamoto’s cd-s to have a clear picture about his enormous talent. I like also “Technodelic” & “BGM” from Yellow Magic Orchestra.
    So, what could I say more ? I can sleep better,
    Ryu & Tom are back …

    A d M

    p.s. Thomas, do You like Barry Andrews and his band Shriekback ? What a guy !!!

  18. Antonio says:

    By the way, I read in book from Massimo Milano ” Ryuichi Sakamoto – conversazioni ” the following: “La linea di basso di Heartbeat, construita sulla scala pentatonica di Fa minore etc… ”
    But Massimo Milano forgot to say that this bass line originaly comes from Dolby’s “Dissidents”. Well, it seems that ONE SOUL LIVES IN TWO BODIES and that’s great ! ! !

  19. k8_fan says:

    Windpower is a lovely song and a lovely idea, but the same people who oppose nuclear power in Japan oppose wind farms in New England, damn building for hydroelectric power, and oppose the power lines needed to move electricity from the places where it is generated to where it is needed. It’s mostly NIMBY.

    Dr. James Lovelock, the fathe rof the Gaia Hypothesis has come out in favor of nuclear power as the only energy source that will enable us to reverse the effects of global warming. Wind, solar, geothermal and bio-fuels are all fine, but none of them have the possibility of actually replacing fossil fuels. Three Mile Island was bad, yes. But not one person died of it. Chernobal was a horrible diaster, but the US has never had a commercial power plant like that one. The deaths and damage caused by coal-burning are far greater than the deaths caused by Chernobal.

    In this world, we don’t get to choose between bad and perfect. We have to choose between bad and less bad.

    I live in Chicago, and all the electricity produced by my local utility is generated by 6 nuclear power plants. This enable me to ride on electric trains that doen’t put any additional carbon in the air. Buildings downtown are being cooled by a project called “Northwind” that uses the excess power produced by the nuclear plants at night to make ice. During the day, the ice melts and the chilled water is distributed to buildings so they don’t need to use electricity for cooling during the day. A plant is being built to make hydrogen at night to run busses. All of these plants are old and should be replaced with newer, more efficient and safer ones (though the current ones have never harmed the public).

    We’re running out of options. The Greens need to deal with the reality that the only way we’re going to produce the hydrogen economy is via a new generation of nuclear power.

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  21. alexsantos says:

    Mr. Dolby, thanks for making us aware of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s blog and many thanks for the deep music you have made over the years. Well, I had to google Ryuichi Sakamoto’s blog as the link you had there lead me to some sort of dead end page.

    I can’t believe the Japanese are willing to open a nuclear reactor near a small town. This is unheard of. Gosh, are the bad decision makers out there. Yeah, the damn media are not paying attention because they have been paid to keep their mouth’s shut. That’s my take.

    This issue should have already catapulted the Japanese government to shame by now. The most sinister acts can go on nowadays without our acknowledgment. An invisible sign of the times.

  22. [...] Thomas Dolby s Blog Blog Archive Ryuichi Sakamoto A few gigs ago we videotaped my live performance of Windpower and I dedicated it to the people of Rokkasho. Today Ryuichi added the clip to his site, and it s currently #2 in iTunes [...]

  23. Bernhard says:

    Yes Antonio,

    I agree with you. Ryuichi sometimes feels very lonely. People like Ennio Morricone, David Sylvian & Thomas Dolby are able to understand Ryuichi’s enormous talent but only partialy. Ennio would be able to notice his sense for beautiful melody and atmosphere. People like David Sylvian, Thomas Dolby and Richard Barbieri his sense for sound-design and beautiful harmonies ( beautiful modulations / changes ). Adi Newton from Clock Dva & Ralf Hutter from Kraftwerk would imediately notice his extraordinary sense for technodelic-groove ( CD “Futurista”, Intro groove from maxi “Neo Plant”, Steppin’into Asia, etc… ).
    But who would dare and say together with me
    ” Ryuichi is not composer, he is an AVATAR, someone like Buddha or Christ ” !?

    Sounds strange ?

    Wait a bit and you’ll see …

    Kind regards

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