Super-producers at the very top of their game share rare air with the likes of Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Avicii and Zedd, rainmakers who hold the most sway, move the biggest crowds and command the highest fees. To say that stadium rave is booming is a huge understatement: EDM rules, OK, and those at the top of its food chain reign unchallenged. Peking Duk, the studiously scruffy Canberra, Australia production duo, haven’t officially released a record in the United States.
Their electro-infused house music fills raucous club nights, not international arenas. Reuben Styles and Adam Hyde are in a different weight class to EDM’s heavyweights, but they’re punching above their weight, with all the tools to be champions. The partnership has its roots at Canberra’s Dixon College, where Styles and Hyde cemented a mateship over rap and rock (Styles aimed diss tracks at other high schools as part of a rap crew, Chronic Crusaders; Hyde made noise around the neighbourhood in a band called Rubicon).
A mixtape provided their dance music epiphany. “A mate of ours gave it to us and it was full of fidget house,” says Hyde. “It had all this trippy electro from Fake Blood, Crookers and The Bloody Beetroots, and we were hooked.” “All we knew about was [house DJ] Ian Carey and the big pop tunes on the radio,” Styles admits.
“That’s what we thought dance music was at the time. After we heard the mixtape, we’d be hanging with our mates while they were drinking and playing Street Fighter, but we’d be on a laptop trying to clock programmes like Ableton and Reason. Mucking around with software became our video game.”
As they took their first tentative steps onto the dancefloor with a self-produced batch of what Styles calls “very dirty electro tracks”, they already had their sights on radio play, taking inspiration from The Aston Shuffle, the Canberra house duo who had tracks synched on Ministry of Sound compilations and hosted their own show, Friday Night Shuffle, on taste-making Aussie network triple j. “It was like, they’re just dudes from Canberra and this is happening to them,” Styles recalls. “We’ve got a shot too.”
Named Peking Duk, a reference to gurning, duck-billed clubbers who’ve overindulged, Styles and Hyde chalked their first win when they passed on demos to local club promoter Hugh Foster. He duly shopped the four-track release, which was snapped up by Melbourne dance stalwarts Vicious Recordings. With their first deal inked, Peking Duk put in the hours to build up an arsenal of tunes, getting by on café jobs and mi goreng noodles. With six months of studio time under their belts, they emerged with a swag of grungy electro cuts. When one of those tracks, The Way You Are, was given a spot on triple j’s all-important A-rotate, Duk season was open.
“We were like, whoa, now this is crossing over to people who aren’t just club rats,” says Styles. “Then we’d seal the deal by bringing a loose, sweaty vibe to shows we started picking up. A lot of people want to be super-cool and hold back, but we’re definitely about making it a party.” With the winds of mainstream buzz under Peking Duk’s wings, they missed a couple of rungs on the career ladder by getting gigs in America, without any of their electro house-powered tracks, like Mufasa, High or Feels Like, getting an official release in EDM’s most important and elusive market.
“The success we’ve had there is all down to the power of the internet and [blog aggregator] Hype Machine,” says Styles. “The majority of our SoundCloud spins came from the States, and that told us we were making noise there. And it hasn’t just been spots like LA or Vegas. We’d find ourselves in the middle of nowhere and they’d be saying, ‘Play the Ben Howard remix [of Old Pine], make sure you spin this song.’ How have we made it to East Lansing, Michigan? How on earth do they know we exist?”
These Canberran good blokes better get used to their tracks having legs. As they ready a move to Los Angeles, from where they’ll roll out their US record campaign, Peking Duk are retooling with festival-ready bangers. They’re not shy about calling shots on what their next tour of duty will bring. “We are big dreamers,” says Hyde, “so let’s just say the next time we go to the States we are going hopefully to…” “… fill arenas and stadiums, play Coachella!” says Styles, finishing the sentence. “Once America catches on to what we’re doing, we’ll be ready to take the rest of the world.”
Peking Duk - the facts
The line-up: Adam Hyde (producer), Reuben Styles (producer)
Discography (all singles): Mufasa, High (2014), You Are Like Nobody Else, Feels Like (2013), I Love To Rap, The Way You Are (2012), Bingo Trippin, Welcome (2011)
The jives of others: Peking Duk have already clocked an impressive catalogue of remixes, reworking tracks from the likes of Passion Pit, Porter Robinson, Dem Slackers and Fitz and The Tantrums.