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You make me sound like a music slut!" hoots Mareea Paterson as her CV is rattled off. The 30-year-old is one of New Zealand's most sought-after bass players. Join her for an hour and see how often her hot-pink cellphone rings.

Since a stint in noisy Auckland band Delta, Paterson has spent four topsy-turvy years in American alt-rock band Veruca Salt, been kicked out of Aussie band End of Fashion and "travelled the world 10 million times". Now she's settled back home where she tours with Dave Dobbyn, and Tim Finn, who she joins this week on his Imaginary Kingdom tour.

She's also working on her first solo project, ambiguously called Friends from Sweden. Singles So Beautiful (with actual friends from Sweden) and Made of Love feature Paterson on bass and vocals, and an album is expected next year. Just don't hold out for the tour. For someone whose career has been spent in bands, Paterson isn't sure she wants to form her own.

"I wanted to be this pseudo-concept band that didn't really exist," she says. "Do an album, promote it but not necessarily do nine failed tours of New Zealand and end up depressed. But it didn't really go like that. I've had more attention about this project than I would have liked."

That's because they're great songs that call to mind the brittle allure of riot-girl rock. Paterson's technically faultless bass underpins her sweet-yet-tough vocal. Pity she's not a fan of singing.

"I hate it," she says. "I do it because it's my stuff. I've just got no desire to be at the front of a band. I like being the bass player."

Finn appreciates it too. His wife saw Delta play eight years ago and was impressed by the hard-rocking girl in the Karen Walker dress. Finn was about to embark on his Feeding the Gods tour and was keen to crank up the volume. He didn't have to go far to find Paterson. She worked at his local cafe.

"She can hold down the really heavy rock notes but she's more than that," says Finn. "She can also play those melodic riffs and against the chord too. She's versatile. She came up with some lovely bass lines, particularly for the song Dead Man. She makes a good coffee too, by the way."

It's no surprise Paterson became a musician. Her father is prolific jazzman Kim Paterson, who introduced his daughter to touring at 12 when she sang backing vocals and played the flute with his friend, the late drummer and actor Bruno Lawrence.

After classical music training in Wellington and a stint in Delta, she moved to LA in her mid-20s. One night she got chatting to a guy in a bar who turned out to be friends with Veruca Salt singer Louise Post. And she was looking for a new bass player.

"Louise and I got along really well," says Paterson. "I didn't find it intimidating [joining the band] because of the level of people I had been training with in New Zealand. I was like, geez, these guys have a name but everyone's pretty sloppy."

Paterson threw herself into the music scene, touring relentlessly and living a hedonistic lifestyle she now insists "wasn't me". For one, she was living with an anorexic stylist, paying exorbitant rent and spending up to US$200 a day on taxis in and out of Hollywood, where she'd party with the band's celebrity friends. Highlights? Juliette Lewis asking Paterson for music advice and P.J. Harvey complimenting her on her performance.

But she says she turned down the chance to join Courtney Love's band because she knew it would ruin her, and also said no to Slash, who was looking for a frontwoman to join his new band, Velvet Revolver.

"I said, 'I can't really sing that well'. I can't believe it now - I should have just said yes."

During a creative hiatus with Veruca Salt, she took time out in Australia and ended up joining Perth band End of Fashion, well before they broke into the pop charts.

In an interview a year ago, frontman Justin Burford described Paterson as "trouble".

"We weren't staying in the ritziest of hotels; it was hostels and stuff," said Burford. "She just hated it and let everybody know. So she didn't last long. We turned around and very kindly asked her to leave."

"That's true, actually," laughs Paterson. "We didn't really get along. I was definitely used to a different touring life but I stuck it out with them for a while. What he probably didn't say is that they didn't want a girl in the band. They thought a girl took too much attention away from Justin. I probably did but I think it's pretty immature."

Paterson is refreshingly upfront about her exotic looks, (she is part Danish, part Chinese) and doesn't get coy when asked about her other job as a model. Finn also counts it as a good thing.

"She looks great on stage. She's charismatic and people notice her. She has style."

And her looks can't have hurt when she regrouped with Veruca Salt, long considered a sexy band. This year, however, she finally quit for good. Their most recent US tour - 42 states in two months - nearly killed her.

"You'd be up for 18, 19-hour drives every night, sleeping on the bus. It was a luxury to shower every four days. We did 14 shows in a row once and I ended up in Detroit Hospital with exhaustion. We ended up hating each other. We got back to the rehearsal room after the tour, the bus doors opened and we walked our separate ways. We didn't even say goodbye."

Instead, she returned, broken, to New Zealand.

"I came back a mess, man. I like to be really stable and be at home and feel really grounded, but I kept putting myself in these situations that were the opposite."

These days the "music slut" is relishing the laidback New Zealand lifestyle, and the fact she plays in bands with people she really likes. New Zealand might be quiet compared with LA, but her hot-pink cellphone definitely isn't.

Lowdown
Who: Mareea Paterson, Kiwi bass player to the stars and the woman behind Friends from Sweden

Website: www.myspace.com/friendsfromsweden
Trivia: Her boyfriend is Stellar* drummer, Andrew MacLaren

Tour: Tim Finn's Imaginary Kingdom tour, tonight, Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna. Tickets from Ticketek.