With his colourful Empire Of The Sun collaboration (with Pnauâ€™s Nick Littlemore) storming the charts in the UK, our own home-grown musical genius, Luke Steele, is laconic and laidback as always. We caught him at home in Perth with his lover and baby daughter, watching Terry Gilliam films, working on visuals, sculpture and learning how to weld.
The astonishing album in question, â€˜Walking On A Dreamâ€™, was recorded here and there throughout 2007.
â€œI met Nick back in 2000 and when we first recorded together, he was the engineer and producer of the rhythms and then Iâ€™d do the melodies and that continued on until we started this (Empire Of The Sun) thing a few years back.
â€œThat was the basic premise that they [Littlemore and Peter Mayes, also of Pnau] would do a lot of the drum programming and Iâ€™d play guitar and sing the melodies, and Nick [would] do a lot of the lyrics. Itâ€™s pretty easy in a way - it was more effortless than other projects because itâ€™s like two chefs in the kitchen.
â€œNothing much was spoken about, other than that Iâ€™d only be in town for a night at a time in Sydney, so weâ€™d do a track in a two or three hour session and they were all pretty much done like that. Just get into the studio and whatever youâ€™d been listening to it might filter through. We always had massive expensive dinners before we did sessions and I dunno, I think it makes you feel like Jay-Z or something.â€
Steele has also written the bulk of the songs for a new Sleepy Jackson record to be released next year.
â€œYeah thatâ€™s been back to like when I was 15 again, just writing by myself on guitar and doing the programming. Iâ€™ll work the band out later I guess. Itâ€™s good that Empire took off â€˜cos itâ€™s bought me a bit of time, because I was just about due for the next Sleepies album,â€ he laughs.
Steele has never been one to rush the artistic process.
â€œI take a while to do records, I just wanna try and do good ones. I think sometimes you can get caught in the machine and the managers go, â€˜Itâ€™s being played on this radio station, weâ€™ve gotta tour there!â€™ Who cares? If theyâ€™re playing it in six months, maybe weâ€™ll go.â€
Of course living in the far west, in Perth, doesnâ€™t hurt in dampening any label pressure. But for now itâ€™s the crazy response Empire has received in the UK, and more importantly to Steele, the film version of the project that is occupying his mind for now.
The plan is to extend the project into a cosmic feature film project. The four visually sumptuous videos shot in exotic locations, including Shanghai, China and Mexico, offer a taste of the look and feel theyâ€™re going for.
The plot involves the Emperor with the digital heart travelling the world to find the shaman or the right person to heal him before technology takes over the world.
â€œWeâ€™re just trying to work out how to pay for it all. Weâ€™re trying to pull the best â€˜Space Oddityâ€™ themes we can do with a couple bits of tin and spray cans that I found at the tip.â€
Steele has done music for one feature film, but would really like to get into making and directing films. But lately heâ€™s been scouting locations around Perth, like the local rubbish tip and its well-stocked junk shop where he made a find that has him looking like quite the organised rock star.
â€œI found one of those late 60s Dymo label printer guns with three roles of tape that hadnâ€™t been used. Iâ€™m going to do all my cases, my computerâ€¦ everything. Iâ€™m gonna get a school lunch box again.â€
Steeleâ€™s not too sure what the plan is for the bandâ€™s first live performance when they headline the touring Parklife festival in September/October.
â€œWe havenâ€™t talked about it much yet. But weâ€™re looking at doing, like a real life movie with narration â€¦ a cool opera kind of thing is the plan, lots of visuals. Weâ€™re shooting them at the moment, squashing all my brain cells thinking about what the dancers will do at this time when this song is playing and what are the visuals. Itâ€™s hard work putting together a theatre show. The kick drum wonâ€™t be going the whole time so hopefully people wonâ€™t get disappointed.â€
Empire Of The Sun headline Parklife at the Brisbane Riverstage and Botanical Gardens on September 26. For more info, visit www.parklife.com.au â€˜Walking On The Dreamâ€™ is in stores now through EMI.