Nick Littlemore has much more on his plate than the rest of us.
The electronic producer and artist typically operates with a dizzying workload, across multiple music projects, including Empire of the Sun and Pnau, the electronic trio of Littlemore, his brother Sam, and Peter Mayes. And with Mayes, he runs the label Lab78, which launched in 2019 through a partnership with etcetc, the Sydney-based recording home for Pnau since 2006.
The “Cold Heart” remix is a hit like no other. When the track climbed to No. 1 on the ARIA Singles Chart last month, it made Elton, at 74 years, seven months and 14 days, the oldest artist to top the survey, overtaking Beatles great Paul McCartney.
When it reached the top in the U.K., it made Elton the first artist in history to score a U.K. top 10 single in six different decades. Its parent album, The Lockdown Sessions, also went to No. 1 in the U.K.
“Cold Heart” is the latest fruit from a decade-long creative partnership between Pnau and the Rocket Man, which, in 2012, yielded Good Morning to the Night, a remix project that logged a week at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart.
Since then, Pnau has collected two ARIA Awards for best dance release, for the multi-platinum hits “Chameleon” in 2017 and “Go Bang” in 2018, both lifted from the 2017 collection Changa; a pair of AIR Awards, and a swag of collaborations with the likes of ARIA Award winners Ladyhawke and Budjerah. Away from music, Pnau entered the crypto-art space earlier in the year when they exhibited a digital collection, created with Melbourne 3D artist Nicholas Keays.
The creative pace for Littlemore and his bandmates sits on the spectrum between light and ludicrous speed, though illness has threatened to apply the handbrake.
Before embarking on the “Cold Heart” project, Littlemore was stricken with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare ailment which, despite therapy, can lead to permanent facial paralysis and hearing loss.
“You don’t quite fully recover,” Littlemore tells Billboard over Zoom. “It changes your whole perception of reality and just the way I hear.” These days, Littlemore doesn’t punch the hours in the studio he did in the past. “I work much more clearly, I would say. My ears get really fatigued.”
Putting aside the effects of illness, Littlemore and Co. set about reworking Elton’s pop classics. “Cold Heart” is just one cut from the studio sessions, which spanned roughly eight months. “We ended up making 12 to 14 songs. It’s full of dance bangers, it’s not as broad as (Elton John’s) collaborations album,” Littlemore admits.
Will there be a full-length Elton John vs Pnau Part II? Fans can only hope. “We have a couple of other cuts that we feel very strongly about,” he teases. “It’s very much dancefloor/radio friendly. We’ll just see what happens, really.”
What is certain is the release of more Pnau music. “Another single is in the works, which I’m really, really excited about,” he continues. “And we’re looking towards the future. And maybe for the first time breaking some new ground in terms of touring the United States.”
Remarkably, the act has played just one show proper in the U.S., at the Miami Winter Music Conference in the early noughts. “We’re really hoping that we can tour there soon,” he says.
Conversation shifts to Empire of the Sun, the dynamic duo of Littlemore and Luke Steele, a project which has three albums to its name, the 2008 breakthrough debut Walking on a Dream, 2013’s Ice on the Dune and 2016’s Two Vines, all of which cracked the Top 10 in Australia.
A fourth might not be too far away. “There’s a lot of great music in the bag. I’m hoping that will see the light of day,” Littlemore tells Billboard. “I have great faith. I don’t feel we have exhausted that well by any stretch. The name still has a lot of goodwill. I really hope we can come together and finish it.”