Paddy Free, an electronic musician "with hippie intentions", talks about the one material possession he truly treasures.
One day, I walked into my living room and found Louise sitting on the floor with my flatmate, eating fish and chips. They both had part-time jobs at Auckland Art Gallery and I was excited to learn she made video art, because I was into that too. This was in 2000 — we got together a few months later. [A choreographer, dancer and video artist, Louise Potiki Bryant is a founding member of Atamira Dance Company and has collaborated frequently with Free.]
I asked her to marry me in the wee smalls of the morning after playing with my band, Pitch Black, at a friend's 40th birthday party in Queenstown. We were pretty solid after going out for five years by then and it seemed like the right thing to do. Lou is Ngāi Tahu, and we got married on her Ōtākou Marae out on the Otago Peninsula, in a beautiful little 1940s church that her great-grandfather was involved in building.
I don't really put value in material things but the hei matau [fish hook] pounamu I wear around my neck is also my wedding ring. We had two pieces carved from the same stone and exchanged them instead of rings.
It was partly the spiritual significance of it but also a practical thing. As a touring musician/roadie, I'm forever lifting heavy objects and have never been a ring-wearer because you end up damaging yourself or damaging the ring, so we hit on this idea of exchanging taonga.
It also speaks to a wider philosophy as a Pākehā New Zealander, symbolising my attempt to be a bit bicultural. Every Māori in New Zealand has to be heavily bicultural, so why can't every Pākehā be at least a little bit bicultural too? My love of the music and the art and the aesthetics and the way of relating to nature just seems that much more relevant and appropriate than this imported European culture.
We've lived at Piha for 17 years now. One of the bedrooms is a devoted recording studio, with padding hung on the walls — but you can't hear the duvets on the records. I haven't played at Earth Beat before but, living life as a musician for the past 30 years, I consider myself a right-on, leftie-liberal person with hippie intentions, so I love the ethos they have there.
— As told to Joanna Wane
One of New Zealand's best-known electronic musicians, Paddy Free is on the bill at Earth Beat, a family-friendly, zero-waste music and arts festival being held in Kaipara from March 17 to 21 to celebrate the 2021 autumn equinox (earthbeatfestival.com). His latest album, In Dub - Vol. 2, is due for release in early April featuring dub remixes and three new tracks by Nga Tae.