Better Together: Pete Denton And Portia Freeman

Inside the working relationship of a close, creative family

On an unassuming corner of a North London high street sits The Boogaloo, a pub that’s deservedly carved its own beer-soaked place in the annals of British rock and roll. Once home to Shane MacGowan, it has counted Nick Cave and the late, great Joe Strummer among its patrons, while The Libertines were formerly hired to pull pints behind the bar.

Nowadays, The Boogaloo is still rocking, but to the sound of its own playlisted beat. For, ensconced in its beer garden in a former bin shed is a humble studio from which Boogaloo Radio is broadcast: a 24-hour station transmitting shows that echo the pub’s heritage, courtesy of presenters drawn from that musical realm.

Today, two of its presenters have arrived early for their slot, and have brought some very special guests along for the adventure.

Portia Freeman and Pete Denton are the voices behind The Two Peez Pod-cast, a Wednesday morning programme that offers a steady stream of top tunes alongside the pair’s naturally intimate banter. The secret behind the show’s informality is the fact that the two are actually married. What you hear is the sound of a husband and wife just being themselves for two hours.

She is a celebrated model who has walked for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen, while he found fame playing bass for indie scamps The Kooks. Clash has come to sit with the pair and discuss how they’ve sustained in balancing successful jobs in the creative industry with a happy, healthy family life, and listening to the pair talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences is testament to their relationship, as is apparent from the off, as they reveal how they first met.

“I was a bit stalky,” Pete confesses.

“I was in a look book for our friend, Sadie Frost,” Portia goes on to explain, “and her look book was on the coffee table and Pete basically just chose me in the look book.”

“I was going through, circling them all,” he jokes.

“Which one he could afford,” she quips.

“And Portia was the one that called me back,” he jibes.

“I was the cheapest,” she laughs.

Meeting on a blind date in 2008 set up by Frost, their romance managed to blossom and endure despite the long period of absences that each of their jobs brought. Soon after they met, Pete left for a world tour, though Portia was able to accompany him on some dates. The global travels together would not last, though – within a year, Portia was pregnant. “I was so ready to settle down as well, because I had been travelling since I was 15,” says Portia, who gave birth to baby Dylan in early-2010.

Looking back, Pete regrets not having the opportunity at the time to stop and focus on this new life as the life of an itinerant musician intruded on his new family.

“I didn’t feel like I had enough time, but at that time I didn’t really understand it,” he sighs. “Parenthood was brand new, and it wasn’t until a few years later really that I kind of thought, wow, it would have been nice to have had a bit more time to adjust and enjoy the early stages of parenthood, but I didn’t have time and, plus, everybody’s got bills to pay. But yeah, I was straight out; I think I was out back on the road within 10 days of Dylan being born, and it was a big tour as well.”

“I remember coming home every couple of months, and I remember him answering the door one time when I came home and I was like, ‘Shit, my kid is two!’ He was like, ‘Who are you?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m your dad! Hello!’ he laughs. “So it was a bit mad, but then, you know, from that it did kind of shift things, and we were a bit like, ‘You know what? We need to start making more time for our family and each other.’ I don’t want to miss out on that… There’s only so much Skype you can do before it becomes a little bit of a problem, but you work it out, don’t you? It’s not the worst job in the world, is it, so you’ve just got to remember that and find a balance.”

Portia, meanwhile, was documenting her experiences of motherhood in a blog. Platforms And Pushchairs is an honest insight into how she was coping with the challenges and joys that come with being a parent that is at once entertaining and educational to the readers, but to Portia, it also proved a valuable emotional outlet.

“I do see it as a massive form of therapy,” she says. “I talk about things which other people don’t necessarily want to talk about… I really enjoy writing. Actually, we do it together sometimes. But it is like a real space for me to just sort of talk. I love talking – I’ve got verbal diarrhea, 100%.”

As Dylan grew, Pete and Portia learned how to stabilize their home life despite neither of them having what one could define as a 9-to-5 job. For Portia, that meant intentionally decreasing her workload. “I enjoyed having time with my kid at home,” she smiles. “I was 20, had my baby, and I was just like, ‘I want to be doing this for a bit,’ because I’d been working from the age of 15 and I was ready to just hibernate for a little bit, to grow up.”

With added responsibility to provide, Pete recognised the effect that fatherhood had on his professional motivations.

“I immediately felt that my whole sole purpose in life was for this very wrinkly ball of skin,” he says, “which is quite weird because you spend all your life doing thing for other people or for yourself. Yeah, it was an immediate change, I think, mentally for me. It was like, right, whatever I do now is just completely for this one thing that I’ve only known for 30 seconds.”

“It gives you more drive,” Portia agrees. “You do it for them to obviously have a lovely life. You want the things what they want – you want to be able to get all that sort of stuff – but also you do it for them to be inspired by you as parents, as hard workers, and it makes them want to work hard as they get older; they see Mummy and Daddy grafting and they know that things don’t come for free. You have to work hard in life for everything you want, and I think that’s the example that we want to set for them.”

In the summer of 2015, Dylan was joined by his little brother, Rudy. The unit was now a quartet. It’s the two boys that have accompanied their parents to the studio today – once the show begins, they’ll take to the mic and make their Boogaloo debut. Pete and Portia welcome the opportunity to share their work with their kids, but they’re in no rush to push them into the limelight. “I loved how I started working,” Portia says of her big break as a teenager, “but I would definitely keep them young for as long as possible. Nowadays as well, kids grow up so quickly and I just think the generation they’re in, it’s all a bit of a race for them.”

Creative freedom is encouraged in their house. Music plays a big part, naturally – Dylan is a big fan of Post Malone and Michael Jackson, while Pete has attempted to teach his eldest how to play guitar. Self-expression, they say, is a vitally important characteristic they hope to instill in their children.

“They do have an opinion,” Pete says. “Dylan, as he’s getting older, he’s pushing boundaries.”

“But I champion that,” Portia enthuses. “I really want my children to know that they can say whatever they want to me and Daddy, know that there are no barriers here, no boundaries, but obviously they need to learn how to navigate that through life. But I want them to be fearless. I want them to be strong men who respect women. Feminists, in a way.”

Our conversation nearing its end, Pete and Portia prepare themselves for their DJ roles. An opportunity for them to escape from the real world together for two hours, their professional partnership has not always been a peaceful one, as attested by one heated bust-up that spilled out onto the airwaves. “[Our producer] was just sat in the corner wanting the whole room to swallow her up,” Portia laughs. “She was like, ‘Oh, some of our other presenters have arguments too, but usually off air.’ We just can’t hide that shit.”

Such is the innately personable chemistry that sizzles between them, Pete and Portia can’t really help but be real – and relatably so – at all times. An inspiration to working parents, they stop for a moment to consider which modern icons inspire them to progress and prosper. 

“In a world that seems to be spiraling out of our control,” Pete offers, “I feel we alone are all personally responsible for a brighter future for our little ones. I get inspiration from close friends and how we can all come together when we need to discuss, give and take advice on how we progress and we can prosper together, side by side, to create a clearer and a more beautiful future for our children, as it’s those guys having to deal with the consequences. There is a huge mutual respect and it’s been really productive recently watching the riff raff slip by and seeing who actually cares and who really does have a positive impact on your life to take it to a better place.”

It’s clear that Pete, while considering the wider world, also has in mind the treatment he has faced since separating from The Kooks in January of this year. The unexpected break did, however, allow him to spend precious time with the kids and his new wife – they finally tied the knot last summer – but music is his calling, and he’s heard its enticing plea pulling him back into the fold. Just as he’s begun playing with Johnny Lloyd, ex of Tribes – in fact, after their show today Pete will be heading to a session at the legendary Abbey Road Studios – and Portia is eyeing up a return to work, it’s apparent that there is still much left for the pair to achieve. 

“Since having the boys, and since I’ve started to taste a bit of my freedom with them going to school, I have become so much more ambitious,” Portia admits. “Like, I’ve got all my kids out of the way, married, all of this nice family stuff, but for the whole of my 30s I really want to knuckle down and work really hard, so I feel recharged and ready for everything now. Ambition is a big part of that. I’m feeling really driven now.”

“We’ve found a balance, haven’t we, which is really nice and is beneficial to both,” Pete adds. “Also what’s quite weird is that there’s a real shift going on at the minute, and it’s not just between me and you; there’s certain friends of ours that have just decided to go, ‘You know what? I’m going to do something completely brand new,’ and I think that’s amazing, man. I do, honestly. Maybe it is an age thing where you just think, ‘If I’m going to do something, if I’m going to change anything, now is the time to do it.’”

“Life’s too short,” Portia says, as frantic knocks indicate it’s time to finally get on air, “and I feel like you can just do anything you want in life.”

Words: Simon Harper
Photography: Sophie Mayanne

Pete, Portia, Dylan and Rudy wear full look Tommy Jeans AW19 Archive Capsule Collection.


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