Canberra’s very own Peking Duk, aka Reuben Styles and Adam Hyde, are riding the wave of internet success. They chat to Cyclone about their rapidly broadening repertoire.
Canberran DJ/producers Peking Duk have concocted the perfect recipe for success, with big remixes, big tunes, high-profile festival slots, and, significantly, an internet-friendly handle. “When we heard deadmau5 did the 'mau5', making it easier for Google results, we were like, Oh, yeah, we'll just take out the 'c',” Styles confesses.
Peking Duk will hit Newcastle's Fat As Butter this month – and fans should catch them while they can. The triple j faves could be the next dance act to join the Australian invasion of the US.
As it happens, Peking Duk moved from the ACT to Sydney a few months ago. “There was nothing really making us do it,” Styles explains. “[But] every afternoon it was beers with our mates. We were like, Wait, we can be ten times more productive if we get to Sydney immediately.” They now find travelling for gigs easier. More importantly, Peking Duk are better able to network, says Hyde. “It's so good collaborating with artists – a lot of artists are coming through this city, as opposed to Canberra.” However, Peking Duk are loyal to their old hometown. “We're still Canberra people,” Styles asserts.
Styles and Hyde bonded as teenagers. “I think we first met each other at a skate park,” the former recalls. “Then in year 11 we ended up at the same school and just became best mates.” Both were already involved in music. “I was doing a lot of hip hop stuff,” Hyde discloses. “I started rapping for a bit with two dudes in college. It was terrible, looking back on it, but we had a ball doing it at the time.” Meanwhile, Styles was in the indie outfit Rubicon, which won 2008's National Campus Band Competition. Once the buddies turned 18, they discovered club culture. Remembers Hyde, “A good friend of ours gave us this mixtape with heaps of fidget house records on it and we listened to it – we were just like, 'Whoa'.” Crucially, considering their divergent backgrounds, the pair shared “the exact same taste” in dance music. They acquired software for production, and old decks – and Peking Duk was born. “It all just came together really quickly and accidentally,” Styles says.
Peking Duk generated heat online with a remix of Passion Pit's Take A Walk that they uploaded on SoundCloud and sent to blogs. “We just did it on the sly,” admits Styles. The pals had nearly forgotten about their “bootleg” when they realised it was the number one remix on The Hype Machine. “We were like, 'Oh my God, this is amazing!'” Although Peking Duk were apprehensive about hearing from Passion Pit's lawyers. “We thought, any second they're about to get on to us and pull it down or send us an email and say, 'Just take that down right now!' – but it never really happened, so we're stoked with that.” Styles shudders. “We figured they must be pretty sweet dudes.” The buzz led to their receiving a legit offer from Island Records to remix, of all things, UK folkie Ben Howard's 2011 Old Pine. “We didn't think we'd be able to mix the style of folk with electro, but we gave it a crack and it worked out pretty well,” Styles says. Alas, Island never officially issued their Old Pine and so Peking Duk posted it as another free download.
Since then Peking Duk have established themselves as producers, not mere remixers. They'd debuted in 2011 with Bingo Trippin' on Vicious Bitch – an imprint of Melbourne's Vicious Recordings. Apart from famously launching Madison Avenue, the label released Avicii's early tunes. Later, that ex-trancer Tiësto supported Peking Duk's hip house I Love To Rap, featuring Atlanta's Panama Black. But this year Peking Duk savoured their biggest record yet in The Way You Are, which spent six weeks at the top of the ARIA Club Charts last summer and has even been heard on Britain's Radio 1. Lately they aired Feels Like, recruiting Miami Horror's Josh Moriarty for vocals. Next, Peking Duk will unleash a fierce collab with the 'dirty' Dutch houser Laidback Luke. “It has some rave, a bit of jungle vibes, some African vocals...,” Styles lists. The one thing the track lacks is a title. Styles is toying with Simba – after the cub in Disney's The Lion King. (“Simba's that dude that had a real rough upbringing,” he breaks down, blithely ignoring the fact that the protagonist is a cat.)
Unlike many of their contemporaries, including the Stafford Brothers, Peking Duk are keen to cut an album. “We've actually been talking about it quite a bit recently,” Hyde reveals. “We're gonna do a few more singles and then we're gonna see where we're at there... We gotta make sure that, when we do it, it's the right time for us. We wouldn't put an album out tomorrow – because an album is such a big piece of work and you'd really want it to get noticed properly. You wouldn't want anything to get slept on.” What's more, the two are still developing their sound – a hybridised electro-house with inflections of funky disco, Simba's tribalism aside. “We don't wanna pigeonhole ourselves into one sound,” Hyde claims. “We don't have a super distinct sound at the moment – and I mean, it is great for every artist to have their sound, so people recognise that artist – [and that's something] which we're hoping to develop over the years. But at the moment we've got so many beats, so many projects, on both our computers – the whole spectrum... Some of it is down-tempo stuff, some of it's really fast, some of it's really loud and bangin' and energetic, some of it's really chilled out and slow and sexy – and then there's more aggressive electro stuff... We're always working on stuff that's very different. We definitely wanna release a song that is not similar to The Way You Are or Feels Like soon – so it'll be something slow and a bit more sexy, I think.”
Peking Duk's DJing is going off as well. They placed at number five in 2013's inthemix50. Earlier this year Peking Duk played their first US gigs during Miami's Winter Music Conference. “We actually saw Busta Rhymes driving around in his car in Miami,” a starstruck Hyde boasts. They'll return to the US early next year. Over the past months Peking Duk have likewise opened for EDM rapper Example. (“I can't even explain the feeling of going on tour with Example,” Styles sighs.) Yet Peking Duk's highlight of 2013 so far is Splendour In The Grass – where they not only premiered Feels Like, but also a visual show. The DJs cheekily invited punters to dance with them on stage – and were surprised by the rush. “Security were freaking out,” Hyde says deviously. One dancer snuck through barriers to cheers from the crowd. “She just went nuts and started, like, krumping and twerking.” Come January Peking Duk will DJ at Big Day Out in the Boiler Room. For that, they intend to rope in guest vocalists – and their daggy mascot guy 'Gareth' might appear. Hyde mumbles that they'll have a “big stage rig thing”.
Though Peking Duk's champion Tommy Trash, Bass Kleph and the Staffords have all transplanted to Los Angeles, capitalising on America's EDM boom, Styles is unsure about following them. “It definitely feels like every Aussie has moved to LA, but we've only just moved to Sydney. We love it here. A lot of Aussies have stuck around in Sydney – like Yolanda Be Cool and Flume and [other] people who are touring lots overseas... So it's something on the cards – but I love Sydney. I don't think I ever want to leave.” Hyde is more determined. “We're definitely gonna go to LA – it's just a matter of when. We're gonna work our arses off a bit more out here, [but] I'd say sometime within the next two years we'll go over to the States and live there for a bit... Hopefully, we don't miss the wagon.” Regardless, Peking Duk have retained the endearing naïvety of newcomers. There is no talk of 'branding'. Their priorities are to have “fun” and be “creative”.
And the duo are looking forward to attending Fat As Butter as punters as much as DJs, earnestly studying the bill. Not that Peking Duk's set will be planned, says Styles. “We just sort of play it by ear and have good party jams and a bit of rock'n'roll, a bit of hip hop, and then as much of our own music as possible.” Adds Hyde, “It's gonna be wild – it's gonna be a sweaty big party with lots of fun.” And twerking.
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.