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Interview: Peter Mayes of Pnau

Pnau has been on our playlist since their debut in the late 1990s, what with their unforgettably smooth and uplifting trademark melodies. Listening to their tracks, from Solid Ground to Embrace, it wasn’t long before we considered them as gods of dance music. After having focused on their side project Empire of the Sun since 2008, Pnau returned last year with many goods to share with their dedicated fans. And this year, they’re showing the world what we think is their very best work to date: ‘Elton John vs Pnau’, a remix track which takes some of Sir Elton John’s classic tunes and gives them a superb modern take. Our favourite remix of theirs is Sad which, despite its title, makes us foolishly happy.

We had a chance to interview Peter Mayes, one half of the Australian duo, who told us all about his experience working with Elton John, his plans for Empire of the Sun as well as Pnau’s biggest musical inspirations. So now, without further ado, plug into ‘Elton John vs Pnau’ and enjoy the read!


What’s happening with Empire of the Sun album 2?

We are all working around the clock to make this record the greatest thing you’ve ever heard. I am in NYC right now with Nick and Benny Blanco working in Benny’s studio, and Luke is in LA at our Santa Monica Empire studio which is a great place to make music. Nick and I will be back in LA in the next few days to finish everything off with Luke over the coming months.


The Elton John artwork is similar to Empire of the Sun. Can we expect a Pnau / Empire of the Sun crossover?

Well, the great majority of the musical content is sourced from Elton’s 1970′s recordings so, first and foremost it sounds like Elton John. But of course, we can’t help doing what comes naturally to us so there will be noticeable elements of both bands in the record.


The 70s is in vogue right now and your sound has that 70s soft rock approach. What other influences do you take from the decade?

The 70′s are in vogue? That’s nice, I hadn’t noticed. We don’t have the extraordinary ability as musicians that people had in the 1970′s, but as producers and songwriters we do try to make something with a timeless feel which a lot of acts achieved in that decade.


What was the plan with the Elton John remix album? Did you try to improve on the songs, or just make them suitable for the dancefloor?

Well, we don’t really think of it as a remix record and there is a lot more time spent on these songs than most people would ever spend on a remix. We see the record as an intricate collage of Elton’s early career, taking various elements from multiple songs and piecing them together to form new songs. Elton calls it ‘rebuilding the Sistine Chapel’.


This is Volume 1, what can we expect from Volume 2?

Volume 2 will be bigger and better and will contain new multitracks from the early eighties, but not exclusively. We are aiming to make it even more song based and we want to use a lot more vocals.


You are well known for your attention to detail in song production. What producers do you look to for inspiration?

So many people from all corners of the music globe. People with a real purpose to their work like Brian Eno, Phil Spector, Gus Dudgeon, Switch, Daft Punk, Ennio Morricone (more of a composer), Andy Warhol, Pierre Henry etc.


You just performed with Elton John in Ibiza – how did that go down?

It was amazing. The crowd were chanting his name in between songs – it was like a football match – huge atmosphere. And what an incredible thing for us as a band to be onstage with a true music legend.


Will Pnau be working with other artists in the future/is there anyone Pnau would like to work with in the future?

Maybe some other classic songwriters: Stevie Wonder, Bowie, Phil Collins, Prince?

Pnau has always believed in collaboration and team work and the sum of the parts and all that. We would gladly work with any of those artists, especially David Bowie and Stevie.


Working that closely with one of the world’s greatest hit makers, have Pnau picked up any song crafting hints of their mentor?

Are you kidding? We were given the multitrack tapes to some of the greatest popular music of the last century with incredible production and writing. It was an amazing educational experience being given the chance to dissect Elton’s work.


What electronic artists / genres are Pnau currently into?

Benny Blanco, J Paul, Breakbot, Bondax, Madeon.


What can we expect from upcoming Pnau live shows?

A great deal of fun and jumping around and general hedonism.


Catch up with Pnau on Facebook or visit the ‘Elton John vs Pnau’ homepage here.

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