A Musical Retreat

Getting away from it all… many people like the idea, to literally get away from it all but often thats because their ‘all’ equates to a daily nine to five hell. I quite like my daily existence so my motives are a little different – I want to get way from it all so I can concentrate on it ALL, or IT all – one, the other or both. I like to find somewhere beautiful to transcend the daily existence, nothing more & nothing less & in fact I want to take some of my daily existence with me!
My idea of getting away from it all is to rent a beautiful minimalist beach house/retreat in some remote part of New Zealand that takes about half a day of driving to reach. But the driving is the easy part, deciding what to bring is the tricky part – which speakers should I take? Is there room for the subwoofer? Which MIDI controller? Which mics? Should I take some outboard? The valuable part of this process is that of working out the essentials – I have a room cluttered with technology, some old & some very recent, but you can tell by the dust what gets used every day & what gets roped into action occasionally… so the dust stays & the well worn come along for the ride..

And so the first iteration of this journey was to a dear friends rural retreat: TAKAKA: The Woolshed. This trip was a couple of years ago when I was between films & my break from work timed perfectly to enjoy the start of summer AND to avoid everyone elses summer holiday. The property is a (very) small farm with a traditional old farmhouse but the owner has had the insight to basically renovate the old Woolshed building on the property to make it watertight & secure, without impinging on its natural, fairly rustic state.
Takaka is an area with amazing beaches & I spent many a summer just up the road, playing music at now legendary New Year festival The Gathering, which although it was organised by trance hippies also included ‘zones’ for dub/drum&bass (me for 3 years in a row) and a fantastic ambient zone inside a huge crater, which was where you inevitably ended up when everything else became too much. There are too many stories too tell but two come to mind; first wandering into the hardcore tent late at night/early in the morning & being fairly convinced I was actually listening to dualing chainsaws onstage… and secondly becoming aware there were so many trippers wandering around that if you were intentionally walking anywhere, a few of the lost would start following you in an effort to find themselves… equally funny & disturbing.. I also remember DJing a midnight set to about 800 munters one New Year & although being warned of the mixers quad capabilities blindly hitting a preset only to hear all the top half of the spectrum disappear to the back of the room!! And soon after realising whats happened trying desperately to have the fortitude to wait until the sixteen bar break to hit the bypass button… the best mistakes et al…




A beach, ten minutes away…

A beach, an hour away…

New Zealand being a remote island nation we are surrounded by vast oceans & while half the population dream of owning a coastal beach house, a small percentage of the population actually do own one & have come to appreciate the realities of ownership ie the only get there two or three times a year, which isn’t enough enjoyment to justify the outgoings eg rates & maintenance. Accordingly they make their properties available on a short term basis, at relatively affordable rates (especially relative to a soul-less motel by some state highway) and as my free time has become more valuable I have learned to appreciate time away, where even if my cellphone has reception I’m simply not available this week to solve whatever problem has arisen… but next week, sure!
So the year following the Takaka excursion came; EAST CAPE: Tokomaru Bay: the Beach House. This beautiful house was found via an online agency & is in a remote part of the country that I love. Every time I have been to certain spot nearby to take photos they always come out beautifully, no matter the time of day or weather or light… so visually I am drawn there, but also being ridiculously under populated has a certain appeal too, as does the proximity to hot springs….




As I get older the idea of establishing a permanent retreat has more & more appeal and I love the idea of a minimalist space that is in a much better relationship to nature than anything found in the city. Wandering around the interweb only fuels that concept too eg check the shack at the Hinkle farm:


or the prefab su-si house


In fact there are a lot of very clever design going on with small prefab houses… check this site for more examples…. but my dream small house/studio would have to be the Tadao Ando 4×4 house.. gotta keep buying those lotto tickets!

Anyway, apart from some dreaming & a bunch of personal anecdotes this rant is really intended to encourage anyone with too many distractions to try a retreat ie find a temporary creative comfort zone somewhere else…. And if you live in or are visiting NZ heres a few places to start checking; book a bach, holiday houses and coastal holiday houses.. Oh and NZ hot pools…
No doubt the same is available wherever you live….
And not coincidentally tomorrow morning I’m off here;

Its called Tutukaka and is two and a half hours north of Auckland, in what I sincerely hope is the ‘winterless north’… And yes i do plan to wander out to the end of that little island/peninsula on the right & record some ambiences, although i’ll be doing it at low tide as apparently otherwise its a case of swimming back!

So just don’t expect any new posts until the middle of next week…. sorry!

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