Mike Daniels puts a whole new spin on “hot air.”
The Red Deer man can play a guitar like no one else in Alberta — mind you, it’s an air guitar, made up entirely in his imagination.
Daniels, whose stage name is Michael von Poutine, won the Alberta air guitar competition in Calgary recently and is now headed for the nationals in Toronto this weekend. If he wins that, he’ll be headed to the world competition in Finland in August. “Over there, they take air guitar very seriously.”
In Calgary, he performed 60 seconds worth of a symphonic metal version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.
Air Guitar Canada rules state: The instrument must be invisible, i.e. air. An air guitarist may play an electric guitar or an acoustic one — or both. Performers are judged on originality, the ability to be taken over by the music, stage charisma, technique, artistic impression and airness.
Originally from Indiana, Daniels moved here because he “kinda got married” to a Red Deer woman. He is a permanent resident and expects to become a Canadian citizen in a few years.
He first got interested in air guitar some years ago when he came across a video of someone playing air guitar in front of a crowd. “He was all silver spandex and rocking out to Daft Punk’s Robot Rock. I was like: What the heck is this? and I found that it was actually the world championship final stage in Finland.
“This is silly. This is stupid. I want to be a part of it. That’s kind of what air guitar is, embracing the absurd,” Daniels said.
“I’m 32. I’m told I’m mentally 12.”
He’s been doing air guitar competitions in the U.S. since 2007, and while he has never won, he was only 0.1 points off winning in Chicago, he said. Every year he had a new song and new persona.
He chose Michael von Poutine because it seemed like a very Canadian name.
They don’t have poutine in Indiana, something he likes to eat. “When I came up here to visit my wife … I would always try to stop by New York Fries at Bower mall to have some.”
He’s been living here since December and works as a photographer at a local auto dealership.
Daniels does not play real guitar at all. The closest musical instrument experience he’s had is piano lessons as a kid and playing the snare drum in high school band.
The most he knows about playing guitar is “the closer that your hands are together, the higher pitch the note will be.”
He likes to think that maybe his “guitar” is a Gibson Flying V.
What did he win in Calgary? “Fame, glory, babes. Actually that’s all the stuff I did not get.” He won a trophy in a guitar shape made out of Alberta licence plates.
“It’s really nice. It’s also really heavy.”
He’s looking forward to representing Alberta in Toronto.
“I like to think air guitar shows are one-third rock show, one-third improv performance art and one-third comedy show.”