Despite losing part of his arm, White Leather's Dan Aid found a way to keep on playing guitar

Categories: Interviews

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Dan Aid is the frontman of White Leather. At first glance, he looks like any other young guitarist, with his blonde wood Gibson with an armful of tattoos. Look a little closer, though, and you'll notice that he's not like any other guitarist. The 22-year-old is missing his picking hand and part of his arm, both amputated after a freak teenage accident -- a story told in filmmaker Cole Garrison's forthcoming documentary, A Helping Hand.

After the accident, Aid improvised a way to continue doing what he loved -- playing guitar. Easy going, smooth talking and always smiling, Aid isn't difficult draw out, and it's exactly that quality about him that's propelled him forward and helped him grow as an artist, from his time playing guitar in Letters from the Front to fronting White Leather. We tracked Aid down to find out more about the accident and what motivated him to keep playing.

Westword: Can you tell me about a little bit about your arm and what happened?

Dan Aid: Sure. When I was twelve-years-old on vacation in Mexico, I was climbing around on a balcony and leaned over the edge. I guess there was a high-tension power line running along it. I don't remember the shock from the wire, but it blew me back in the air off the roof, onto some stairs, and onto my head. I suffered a six-inch fracture in my skull.

Were you by yourself?

Yes. A neighbor heard the explosion and yelled up to my grandmother. The first thing I remember is hearing the paramedics. They were trying to put me on a back brace and strap me down. I couldn't see because of all the electricity, and all I remember is hearing them yelling my name. I remember reaching my left hand over and touching my right hand and not feeling anything.

What about where you grabbed the wire?

Well, on the surface, the burn was all the visible damage, but underneath, it had literally cooked all the muscle tissue, the nerves. It just destroyed everything. So they had to go in and do initial surgeries to see if they could save my right hand. When they realized they couldn't, they amputated it.

How long were you in the hospital for?

Only for one day in Mexico, then I was flown to a hospital in California. I had the surgery about six days after the accident, and then I had to have some skin grafted. That was incredibly painful. The stretching sessions were 1.5 hours at a time, five times per day. Skin naturally contracts, so to prevent that, you need to work it. I couldn't even raise my arms above my shoulders, it was pretty discouraging.

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Dave Herrera
Dan Aid, seen here playing with Letters from the Front at the Marquis in 2007

But now you play guitar and sing for White Leather. How is it that you still are playing music?

Well, growing up, my Dad played acoustic guitar and got me my first acoustic. So I had been playing that for a couple of years before it happened. And, at the end of the summer, after it did happen, I just developed a device. It's actually the same thing I use today. It's just a sweat band with a pick at the end of a wooden stick.

What keeps you writing, singing and playing with White Leather?

I've always loved performing, my whole life, and I love the challenge of music, always trying to write something better than yesterday. I love being a lyricist, learning how to phrase my emotion, where I am not only explaining something, but communicated it to an audience. Music is a great vehicle to speak to people in a way that is meaningful.

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