Pnau's Nick Littlemore continues to discuss Good Morning To The Night
By John F. Higgins/eltonjohn.com
To read part one of our interview with Nick Littlemore from Pnau, go here.
Telegraph To The Afterlife seems to have revealed Elton's inner Pink Floyd.
Yeah, that's pretty wild. I know the "hello" evokes it with the Comfortably Numb and everything, but that wasn't a conscious thing for us at the time. We weren't Pink Floyd fans growing up. I mean, obviously, I listen to it now and in hindsight it's like, "Wow, that really has got that right down the middle." But Elton touched on everything. We're just curating his work, in a way. And we took out all of the piano because we wanted to make an obvious difference straight away and make it so you could hear more of the man's voice.
And in Black Icy Stare you've brought out the funky Elton.
I love that one because he sounds Jamaican, to me. We just found that little bit and it was like, "Wow...that's so wild. The range of this man." We did another one with The Ballad of Danny Bailey. We didn't put it on the record; maybe it'll be on the next one. But it sounds like DJ Shadow; like something 30 or 40 years in the future.
It's interesting what bubbles to the top when you pull things apart. On Karmatron, there's a part right before Elton sings "once a fool" where he draws in a breath and it fits so nicely into the space you've left in the beat. It's like he's standing there singing in the studio with you.
We worked crazy hours on this project and you definitely felt this ghost of Elton's past in there. And there were so many magical moments where we'd grab a vocal from a song and you would just have a feeling in your head that it might work in this space from another song that was four years after, or something like that. Things just collided, you know? But overall things just worked. They glued together. It's not easy with Elton's material because, while the material is incredible and you can just strip a few things back and go, "there you go, that's done...", when you try and put multiple and multiple songs together it becomes very difficult because he changes keys. All the time. He's the only artist I've ever heard of who writes in every single key. So, this cutting up Elton's stuff? It's really hard. And it's really hard to make it dumb enough for Peter and I to get it. We didn't go to the Royal College when we were nine years of age and get a scholarship, you know? We're a couple of techno geeks who started off making Acid House and bleepy electronic music. And somehow we managed to make this record out of his material.
So you have three more discs in mind...is it going to be one disc per decade?
Well, kind of. In a rough sense. The next one will be using the 80s. But there's a lot of 70s that we're still gonna use, I imagine. Each time they unlock another gate and we get more material...and the more material you get the more you get to play with. I mean, we have more than enough to play with. We could make five albums just based on one of the 70s records. Obviously, we'll take all the material we can get. We want to push it further and further. It's incredibly exciting to be a part of something like this and it's an unbelievable privilege. I can't say enough about how generous they have been to us. Not only Elton, but Rocket Music and everyone associated with Elton and his management. It's like a family. You really get that sense. And it's a real privilege to be a part of that family.
Another privilege would be standing on stage next to Elton, as you did in Ibiza. How did that go for you?
Crazy! Most bizarre experience in my life. It still hasn't hit me that, "Yeah, I just went and did that." I mean, who does that? Who goes and plays a gig with Elton? It's so wild.
The audience looked like they were having fun.
Oh, it was amazing. The crowd, they were young, Ibizan bronzed bodies and all the rest of it. And everybody knows Elton's material, but I didn't think they knew it to the extent they knew it. When he came out and played Your Song, the entire audience sung every lyric with him. That's pretty wild. And he went off in Levon and started jamming a little bit and he dropped into a groove and the whole crowd erupted.
Dare we hope for another live performance?
I'm really hoping for another one. If anyone ever says we could do it - we'll be there. We'll take the next plane.
And you have actually written songs with Elton?
Yeah, we've written a couple. We wrote one for Zarkana [the Cirque do Soleil show for which Nick was composer and Musical Director] but it did not make it into the show...and then we've done a couple of others that were potentials for Pnau. I hope to continue to write with Sir Elton and put a body of work together based on our collaboration.
But there's no album hiding in your closet that's simply not been released?
There are a lot of albums hiding in my closet. And most of them have potential. I like to be prolific. But you can't go easy into a record with Elton. I mean, it needs to be beyond all expectations. To make a new body of work. And I love the records he's making now. He's had a true renaissance in record making. Not songwriting, his songwriting has always been sensational, but you hear it in the production now. It just sounds grimy. I love that about his stuff. It just has a raunchiness about it. Sex appeal.
And we have The Diving Board to look forward to. But your album pushed the release of that one back.
It did. He allowed it to. Which was very generous of him. As long as we get one Elton record a year, I think I'm pretty happy with that.
What do you think of T Bone Burnett's work?
Oh, he's so cool. He makes records the old-fashioned way, but they are so relevant. I love that. I think Gus and T Bone would see eye to eye on a lot of things.
On Good Morning To The Night, how did you know when each song was finished?
You know, the thing with work like this is you can easily never finish. We could go back and make more and more and more layers of all this stuff. Thank God for management to come in at some point and say, "It's finished - you have one week left." I think any artist, or producer, they need some kind of deadline. It's so indulgent making these records because it's so enjoyable to work on. You could go forever on it.
Or you could do what some musicians or film directors do and go back 10 or 20 years later and sort of re-do it. Not always to the delight of the fans.
That was very important to us, that we didn't offend Elton's fans. Which was a very fine line because obviously, you're messing with their memories, and their childhood and all the rest of it. The first time they make love and so many things that are wrapped up in it. To different people it means so many different things. We stayed away from Elton's hits just for that very reason. We didn't want to mess directly with the ones that have been such a huge part of people's consciousness. We used elements of Rocket Man and Yellow Brick Road and Bennie and other things, but we hid them well. We're good at that. We can be quite sneaky. It was really cool to hang out with the band and for various players to come up to us and say, "I don't even remember what that part is... I'm tripping out!"