Peking Duk And Their New Music Journey, Choreography That Should Frighten Us and Wishlist for Collaborations Blurred Culture Interviews Peking Duk In Los Angeles Before Their Live Gig At The Roxy
LOS ANGELES, CA- Peking Duk is an Australian electronic music group of Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles who have established a loyal global following with the music that they have produced and remixed; music that has earned them awards and accolodaes in their native land.
Since their inception, the’ve performed at clubs and festivals as DJs; rocking each venue with the kind of party that clubs kids have come to expect. But they have recently embarked upon a new, daring path, foregoing their controllers, mixers and samplers for actual instruments and actual singers. This new approach to their live show intrigued me and was the impetus to get me to check out their performance in Los Angeles at the Roxy.
There is something inherently more animated when performers are playing actual instruments. There’s an element of spontaneity and surprise that comes with live performances; a little something extra that makes you feel alive when the music is being played. Peking Duk’s performance was filled with that kind of life. Adam and Reuben weren’t stuck behind a booth punching buttons, but were out front jamming out on their guitars and synths as their drummer punched out their music’s beat. Three different vocalists (two of whom were touring with the duo, and a special drop-in by the ever sublime Aluna Francis (of AlunaGeorge), giving the group’s electronic dance music even more life with actual singers rather than played-out backing vocal tracks.
Blurred Culture was lucky enough to spend some time with them ahead of their first “live” performance in Los Angeles and I was able to chat with them for a spell and take a few photos.
So … How will I be able to tell who’s who on this recording?
Adam Hyde: You’ll be able to tell when we interject.
Reuben Styles: One’s very husky, one’s very not husky.
What’s the dynamic with you guys normally? Is there push and pull between you guys when you’re working to creat music?
Adam: Reuben’s a lot more savvy with a lot of smarter things. He’s good with, I don’t know, general fucking maths, smart things. I’m so far from tuned into that sort of stuff.
Reuben: Once upon a time, I was really good at maths, or as you’d say here, math, without the ‘s’ on the end. I’ve lost it now, for sure.
When you guys started creating music, was it always the intention to go live?
Adam: We always wanted to take it live. We fell in love with electronic music and we fell in love with DJ’ing, initially. But as we sort of progressed as musicians […] we were like, “Fuck, maybe we can take it somewhere live and if we can, how awesome would that be!” So we kind of marveled at the idea and dreamt of it in a way and we always wanted to take it there. It was more “how we could do it?”, and we wouldn’t do it unless it felt and sounded right.
Reuben: Then we just needed a catalog in a way as well. We’d been putting away lots of song but not to the extent that we could do an entire show of our own songs. So it took a few years of putting out music, cause we’d only been putting out one song at a time. We’d been putting out one song every few months to every six months over the last, I guess, seven years now. And now we’re at the point where we’ve got a 60-minute set of our tunes[.] So doing a live show, we needed to get to the point where we could afford to do it, obviously touring expenses are easily 10 fold when you’ve got a full live band, and a full sound guy, all these people on the road with you. But we had to be prepared in the sense of having enough songs as well that people would know at our shows. But yeah, I guess the mental preparation as well was a big one and just getting used to not just DJ’ing, but actually performing up to 3 or 4 instruments each per song.
Was your first live set at Splendour in the Grass?
Adam: Yeah, that was the first live set that we did, which was fucking terrifying. But we were stoked afterwards because we actually did it.
Because you knew you could do it.
Adam: Yeah! It was like, if we could do it there, fuck it, we could take it anywhere. It felt really rewarding because we’d been working our asses off until that point to make sure we could perform it right and it all sounded right and it took a long, long time.
Reuben: A good two months of just preparing.
Adam: And it all paid off I guess because we got to perform it in front of that many people.
Reuben: A pretty daunting first experience though.
I can imagine.
Reuben: First ever live show in front of 20,000 people.
After that, and taking your show to various clubs throughout the US, have you noticed, or is there a different feeling from the audience? What’s the difference between DJ sets and Live sets?
Adam: Live sets, its way more interactive, you can sort of feel the energy between you and the people in the room a lot more, I think. I feel like with DJ’ing, you can easily detach yourself from the crowd.
Reuben: Because it’s so seamless and it’s so perfect.
Reuben: In a DJ Set, the sound is perfect, everything is perfect.
Reuben and Adam both thoughtfully nod and contemplate.
Reuben: You realize it gets more perfect when you end up at this ridiculous club with bottle service and the girls, their fake boobs are perfect, and everything is so well polished.
Adam: It’s too well polished. There is no human element to it anymore. It becomes like a fucking computer world. But when you are doing it live, it’s kind of raw in the sense of it could fuck up at any second, and it does fuck up at any second, like the other night in Chicago…
Adam: Reuben forgot the intro to the song, to “Let You Down”
Reuben: I totally forgot the intro to a song and so we had to try again 3 more times, and then I said, alright, it’s at the point where we need to either skip it and go to the next song…
Adam: The crowd was loving it though!
Reuben: Or have a practice!!
Adam and Reuben laugh.
Reuben: It’s those kind of mistakes that humanize and connect you closer to the crowd.
Isn’t there an inherent risk to your brand and business? I mean, I’m just being frank with you. Couldn’t you make a lot more money just doing DJ gigs?
Adam: Yeah, 100%.
Reuben: A HUUUUNDRED percent.
Adam: You can make so much more money.
So why give that up?
Adam: It’s more rewarding for us and it’s more rewarding for the people in the room that night or day or whenever the fuck it is we play.
Reuben: And it gives us a better chance of sustaining a career that we just genuinely love and will love forever.
Adam: Yeah, you can’t be a DJ forever. You can’t be. DJ’ing it feels so non-authentic these days.
Reuben: Especially with the style of music that we’re making. We’re making songs with live vocals, with banging drums, with all these things which you know, why just DJ them?
Adam: There’s a song that we just released called “Distant Arizona”. It’s a song we did with Cloud Control, and we did it in Mumbai actually, in India, like fucking 4 years ago. But we couldn’t release it even a year ago because it wouldn’t make sense performing that song in a DJ set. We couldn’t perform that even a year ago because we were just DJ’ing and wouldn’t translate, it wouldn’t connect. Cause it’s sitars, it’s all guitars, it’s real live drums, it’s all these things that like doesn’t translate, you can be standing behind turn tables and playing and banging your head, you’d look like a dickhead. So we’re like fuck…
Reuben: In the project itself, there’s like 6 guitars on the drop, and so when doing a live set, we needed at least 2 or 3, so just DJ’ing, it would have looked and felt weird.
I saw Zedd recently, and granted he’s got some massive bangers, but when he plays his hits and there’s no singer singing it and he’s got a backing vocal track, it just doesn’t feel like a performance. It’s like I’m listening to the radio.
Adam: Yeah we always bring our singers; we do our own little dance routines.
Reuben: We’ve started our own world of choreography.
Should we be scared about that?
Adam: Yeah, definitely!
Reuben: We have been designing terrible dance moves for last 6 months and we’re gonna whip some out tonight.
Adam: We do try. People pay money to come and see ya put on a fucking show, ya know? And that’s what were trying to do.
So you do have a legit catalog now from which you can perform live. Are you guys in talks or thinking about putting out like an actual official debut album?
Adam: 100% for sure. We want to spread the love a bit more first and then who knows, we could drop an album, maybe an EP, but we are constantly working on music so I think we’re just gonna do it when the time feels right. We don’t want to rush into anything.
Reuben: And at the same time as well, we can always keep opening the door to little bits of you know, here’s a song and here’s an extra one. Or like maybe if two releases go, we’ll put out one song, last release there was two songs, maybe next release we can put out three just for laughs.
In terms of getting your foot in the door more so in the United States, are you thinking about collabs?
Adam: We’re open to work with pretty much anyone at the end of the day. And we have in America; we’ve worked with a lot of people. But yeah, collaborating with anyone from any part of the world is always something that we love doing, it’s always fun creating music with someone. For America, I guess our plan is to try and get a bit more love out here, by just playing more shows. Bring the show.
Reuben: Bring the live show. The thing is, doing the DJ circuit was so fun, but it’s the live show which is going to start actually making us gain traction and it’s putting out songs like our most recent one, before this release, “Wasted” is starting to get a love on alt radio, which our songs beforehand, hadn’t had any alt radio love, it was just a dance track. Which in the dance realm, you are then competing with those dance artist like Zedd, who have 20 million twitter followers.
Is there a wish list of American artists you could collaborate with, who’d be on that list?
Reuben: Starts with the letter “K”, I’d say for both of us.
Adam: Kanye West. Francis and the Lights.
Reuben: Julian Casablancas.
Francis and the Lights, I could see you doing something with them.
Adam: Yeah, I reckon for sure. We could do something so sick.
That guy’s got some stage presence.
Adam: That guy has stage presence and he writes fucking hits for the biggest dogs in the world, so, I don’t know, I think he’s destined for greatness. America is the land of the fucking great. So it’s a pleasure to even just be here. But yeah, the list is too long.
Reuben: Since we are in California, we should be hitting up Anthony Kiedis.
So then after your done, you fly back to Australia, and then are you back in the studio? Touring just for the rest of the year, basically.
Adam: Pretty much, yeah.
Reuben: Pretty much make tunes, put them out, play shows and repeat.