If all the people who have played at Whitewater Wednesday Night Jam, Dan Halen has the coolest name. And it’s his real name.
“Write me a cheque and we’ll find out,” the finger-picking blues/jazz guitarist and onetime Trapper Dan jokes with me over matcha lattes.
Originally from Winnipeg, Halen got interested in music while working for Gar Gillies, at Garnet Amplifiers.
“I met all the people who came into the store. I saw the BTO guys, people who were big in Winnipeg. It’s a big rock town, especially back then in the ’80s – Streetheart, Queen City Kids.
“After working in the music store, I worked on a road crew, doing the whole tour through northern Manitoba,” he adds. “I kept on taking a guitar with me and a friend of mine, Isaac, working on the crew said, ‘If I could play guitar like that, I would. You should go back to school.’ So I ended up applying to U of M, unable to read music, and they accepted me anyway.
“I was doing the rocky roll stuff and they wanted me to learn classical, learn what all the fingers are called, the proper names and the techniques. I did a five-year year degree program in classic guitar and an Education degree too.”
From there, Halen accepted a job at as a music teacher in Dawson City. By the time he arrived, however, the job had turned to teaching shop class, welding, mathematics and computers instead.
In 2003 he teamed up with Grant Hartwick and Dale Cooper in a band called Bucks and Honey.
“That was my first Yukon band.”
Unfortunately, despite the very catchy song Cinnamon Stick, the band fizzled out.
“We did some music festivals, but things just didn’t go that way. Grant wanted to do a music degree, which is fine. He has a head for it. So it died right there. It’s hard to organize people to go on a band trip.”
Since then, Halen created the solo project, Trapper Dan, a collection of country songs appealing to the tourist market. Currently he’s working in his new home studio on a solo CD of original music.
“It’s a little Tom Petty-ish, a little Bare Naked Ladies, a little in between there.”
That home studio serves another function: recording for film. Having taken several courses on film, screenwriting, marketing, Halen has been able to network with people all over the world to form a team, eager to get started in all aspects of professional film. They met recently in LA to make connections with film producers.
“The idea is,” he explains, “if someone needs a guitar line or something, they send it my way. Between Skype and the high speed Internet, you’re actually worldwide all of a sudden. I’m really getting stoked about that. If you can just land one tune, it can support you on doing the next venture.”
So what’s Halen next project, aside from jamming at Whitewater Wednesday?
“I’m working with two other guys on a film. It’s kind of a western, called Spur.”
Five things you should know about Dan Halen:
1. He’s referred to as a renaissance man by his friends.
2. He can fabricate anything, including the truth.
3. He’s a fitness nut and a health food fanatic.
4. He’s never been on a bike ride, canoe trip or kayak trip he didn’t like.
5. No concept of time; everything takes twice as long.