Our Belize Community: Daniel “Drummer Dan” Van Patten

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 15            April 12, 2007

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Belize sees people from all walks and trades in life. Be it lawyers, book keepers, teachers, restaurateurs and the Jacks of all trades, San Pedro is no exception to the rule that makes up Belize – a mix and variety of cultures melting together in this Caribbean pot. Well this Caribbean pot also brings with it talented writers, painters, actors, and your occasional golfer. Some chose to visit and leave, maybe return, while others make their home here. This is the case of Daniel Van Patten or how we locally know him as “Drummer Dan.”

    Drummer Dan was born on April 4th, 1953 to Harold and Marion Van Patten (both deceased). The baby in the family of two other siblings (one brother and one sister), Drummer Dan remembers his life in Placencia, California, USA. “I remember the scent and the sight of miles and miles of orange trees. Oranges just growing as far as the eye could see,” he recalled. Growing up he was always surrounded by music, “my dad was a jazz trumpeter, mom was a classical pianist and my grandmother also played the piano. My siblings were well into music as well, with my sister playing the guitar and my brother playing the bass.”

    Drummer Dan attended Yorba Linda Elementary and one day after school paid a visit to his sister’s boyfriend’s house. He had a drum set and when he sat down to play it, it posed a challenge unlike any other instrument. “Other instruments I would get a knack of them rather quickly but with the drum set I found it a bit more difficult. This is what I loved about it,” he stated. The drums became his passion.

    After successfully completing his studies at Yorba Linda, Drummer Dan attended Fullerton High School. At Fullerton, Drummer Dan was a part of the Youth Filharmonica Group as well as the Concert Band. Graduating in 1971, he was enrolled at Fullerton College, where he received his first official and professional gig. “I was invited to play for a western band known as Diamond Rio. We played out of town and traveled all over the state of Arizona, Baja California and Nevada.” Shortly after returning home, he was invited to take part in the same band, only this time they were to take part in the campaign of Senator Dennis Deconin of Arizona. During his campaign, they played for all the electoral festivities but also took the time to showcase their talent at concerts and clubs.

    Drummer Dan tried to return to school but music was in his blood and he knew that that was what he wanted to follow. In 1976, he and his high school friend Chris Velasco, who played the guitar, decided to start their own band. Called ‘The Toys’, they had several gigs around town until one day they received a letter from an attorney. The letter stated that The Toys was already a registered band name and that Drummer Dan and his band could no longer use it. “Oh well what could we do except not use that name anymore. But then we had to come up with a new one. Sitting at Chris’ house, I looked up and saw a beer mug that marked ‘Berlin.’ Chris and his family were from Germany and the name stuck. From then on we were known as Berlin.”

    Together with female vocalist Teri Nunn and Joe Julian the band was well on its way. In 1979, after recording their single Matter of Time at Drummer Dan’s home studio, it was released to the media. “We certainly got more airplay than what we had originally thought. It opened up a few doors for us to play at more shows,” Drummer Dan said. In 1981, Berlin released their second hit The Metro. “We figured by the third time, our release would be pitched to big record labels to see who would take it. No one did and so we paid for it ourselves.” Pleasure Victim was an EP with seven songs. This one sent Berlin over the top with airplay like they had never known. Their hit single Sex was the in-demand song of the moment.

    Geffen Records signed the group and through their joint venture Berlin sold over a million copies worldwide. Joe Julian who had left the band years earlier, asked Drummer Dan if he would like to move to England and work with him. How could he not say yes? Drummer Dan said goodbye to the old US of A and hello to England. On the second day of work with Joe, Drummer Dan met Nicki Chinn, one of the most acclaimed songwriters ever, who offered him yet a better deal. Leaving Joe behind, Drummer Dan traveled all across Europe for the next five years working hand-in-hand with Nicki and bands such as Blondie. In 1987, Drummer Dan returned to USA and opened his own studio called Advance Media Systems. However by 1990, he was ready to bid the music biz farewell. “Music is a nine to five job; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. that is. I just needed a break,” he explained. That is how DVP Drum Company was born; he went into selling what he knew best – drums.

    In 1992, Drummer Dan met Christy Adkins. The two struck up a friendship, began dating and on February of 1993 tied the knot and became husband and wife. Together they have a 10-year-old son Daniel Ryn.

    After getting married, Drummer Dan decided it was time to retire completely and he loved every minute of it. Wanting to explore the Caribbean, he asked his sister, who was a teacher aboard yachts, which Caribbean isle he should visit. Without hesitation she said, “British Honduras.” “Now looking for British Honduras, I found Belize (laughs). It looked pretty nice and so I packed up and came over to enjoy some time,” he reminisces.

    In November of 1997, he stepped foot on San Pedro Town. “I went over to Crazy Canuck’s, bought a drink, walked to the dock, and put my feet in the water. Right there I knew this was home. Told my wife, pack our stuff and the kid and come on down!” Drummer Dan exclaimed.

    The Van Patten family was now living in San Pedro Town. “Word got around” that Drummer Dan knew to play drums and when Dale Wallace Jr. fell ill in 2000, Drummer Dan was asked to sit in for Cat 7. Since then, he hasn’t stopped playing. On Fridays he hits Oceanside in Caye Caulker with Dennis Wolfe, Saturday he is at Crazy Canuck’s, Sunday afternoons he can be found at BC’s while on Mondays it is the Road Kill Bar. Gino and the Shark Shakers hit Oceanside on Thursdays while on Wednesdays he beats alongside his buddies, Scott’s Rusted Van, at Road Kill Bar.

    Unfortunately, Christy never got acclimated to Caribbean living and spends most of her time back home in the US. As for Drummer Dan, this is his home now and when he can’t be found behind a set of drums, he is socializing with his many friends at Crazy Canuck’s. “This is the longest that I’ve lived in one place at any given time in my life. This is it for me. No plans on leaving. What could be better than getting paid to do what I love while enjoying the beautiful scenery that I love? It does not get any better than this,” he ended.

    Always entertaining his many friends and loyal fans, Drummer Dan has found a way to find the tune to our hearts in “Our Belize Community.”

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