Before the release of ‘High’, Peking Duk were just two Canberra party starters desperately trying to make the music game work in Sydney. After ‘High’, they were one of the biggest dance acts in the country.
The 2014 track, which went double platinum and hit #2 in triple j’s Hottest 100, changed the duo’s life and career — but it almost didn’t happen at all. In a new interview on Hot Dub Time Machine’s new podcast Hot Dub Radio, Duk member Reuben Styles went deep into the creation of the track — and explained that the track happened pretty much by accident.
“Adam had this song which was as 128bpm — in that sort of wall-of-sound, Bloody Beetroot’s style,” Styles said. “He slowed it down to 100bpm one day and I walked past his room and was like ‘Woah, NOW that song is sick!’ He was like ‘Yeah man I didn’t even think to slow it down.'”
Styles asked Adam if he could send the newly slowed track to a singer called Nicole Millar, who he had heard on a Cosmo’s Midnight track the week before.
“She sent over like 20 ideas…but the ideas just weren’t resonating. I said to Adam ‘Look I know we can do something here, let’s just get in the studio — all three of us — and just try and conjure up a melody and some lyrics.'”
At the time, the duo were sharing a tiny studio in Rushcutter’s Bay with Bondi crew Yolanda Be Cool: “It was a stinker, but it was cheap as. In total I think it was like $450 a month…but we were going halves with them so it was like 50 bucks a week.”
They went in and began laying down the verse structure — which began with just a couple of notes and was gradually riffed out — and by the end of the day were so chuffed they decided to book in some proper studio time. And that’s when the lyrics started appearing.
“We thought back to the time when we were super big stoners,” Reuben admits. “We were smoking so much ganja and just playing Tekken every day. It was in 2010: all we did was smoke weed, play Tekken, and listen to Bloody Beetroots. So we thought ‘Okay, let’s just make [the song’s] story about the moment when we decided to cut down on smoking bongs. It was about realising you’re stuck in the same shit, doing the same thing every day.”
They ended up altering the meaning slightly, so that the lyrics would be from a girl’s perspective talking about being stuck in an abusive relationship.
“Everything had changed. All our gigs previously were…well there definitely wasn’t a line out the front of the venue — and when we DJ’d, it was mainly dudes in the crowd. But as soon as we pulled up to this Perth gig [after ‘High’ was released] the line was about 300 people long and it was 90% girls. It changed everything.”
Listen to the full interview with Styles below (the ‘High’ stuff comes around the 34-minute mark.) It’s the first in the new weekly Hot Dub Radio series by festival favourite Hot Dub Time Machine, which will feature extensive interviews with Australia’s biggest dance artists — including The Presets, Flight Facilities, Hayden James, Hermitude, and so many more. Follow it on all the usual podcast platforms.