Elton John topped the UK album charts for the first time in 22 years this week. And he has Australian electronic duo Pnau to thank for it. Originally from Sydney, the outfit comprising Peter Mayes and Nick Littlemore, were allowed unprecedented access to Sir Elton's master tapes from 1970-76, and have used them to create Good Morning to the Night, one of the more remarkable remix albums in the genre.
As Littlemore, who is also one half of Empire of the Sun with Perth's Luke Steele, explains it on the phone from his current home of New York, the partnership all started when Sir Elton, doing some record shopping in Australia, came upon Pnau's self-titled third album.
"He found our record and went in and bought a hundred copies or something," Littlemore says. "Then he had dinner with Toni Collette, whose band, Toni Collette and the Finish, are booked by the same agent we have. They were just having a chat about Pnau and he called me, basically. And from that phone call onwards, my feet haven't touched the ground."
Good Morning to the Night is the best thing either act has released in some time. Songs from Sir Elton's 70s catalogue were mashed-up - often up to 10 tracks in one song - to create new electro-pop tunes. Classics spliced and diced by Pnau include Philadelphia Freedom, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Funeral for a Friend and Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word. The result is not unlike Empire of the Sun with a young Elton singing.
"We used everything," Littlemore explains. "I mean, little bits of so many songs. In the end we had to go through and nominate everything we'd used and to be frank we couldn't remember so many things, there were just so many parts. We did stay away from the huge hits, or at least the bits of the hits that people might know. We tried Benny and the Jets and did a version but felt like we were messing with our childhood.
"We wanted to make Pnau songs out of it essentially - find the hypnotic bits - it's what we've always tried to make with anything, with Empire or Pnau or even (Sydney art rock band) Teenager. That element that we look for in music, we searched for that in Elton's music and from there we'd slide different songs together in order to achieve that.
"It feels like we were curating his work," he continues, "down to infinitesimal detail. We had the multi-track so we could just use a bass from here or half a bass from here and half a bass from that song, put them together or take out the piano. That was a big part of what we were doing, to give more space to the sound of the songs, to his voice and for the first time have his songs without having the keys on there. We put much softer, warm sounds on there to give him more light."
Promisingly, the album has already been translated into a live show, with Sir Elton joining Pnau on stage in Ibiza recently.
"Yeah, it was amazing," Littlemore says enthusiastically. "It was just so much fun. It was incredible, he is such a generous player and we sang a song called Phoenix off the record. He plays synth, we had him hooked up to a new desk so he was controlling my one and doing some really cool space-age disco. It was super cool, hopefully we'll get to do it again.
"It still hasn't hit me that I just did that," he adds. "My life is really weird."
Next up on the Littlemore agenda is his return to a project with Empire of the Sun. With a new album due near the end of the year, the exciting news is that with his commitments to Cirque du Soleil - he worked as composer and musical director on their touring arena show, Zarkana - sidelined for a while, this time he'll be touring alongside Steele in support of the album.
"We've been working for about seven or eight months. (Luke's) getting here on Sunday for 10 days and I'll probably be going back to California with him for a couple of months and, hopefully, finish it," Littlemore explains.
"It's feeling really good. It's been a great process, just, beyond the mechanics of it, when we all collide in colour. You've got to wait for those moments. You can't rush that stuff. It's a privilege to work with Luke and I'll be sharing the stage with him this time round.
"The focus is going to be the circus in Las Vegas, so I won't have to do any work after mid-October. It's going to be great, we'll be out on the road. Luke's done such a remarkable job with the shows so far, we're just going to take that to another level, you know?"
"We used everything.
Good Morning to the Night is out today. Elton John plays Perth Arena on November 123. Tickets go on sale August 6 from Ticketek.