On Point With: Van Hechter

The nu-disco star is dropping all the banging grooves your life needs this summer, both as a solo sensation and partnered with one of our favorite local DJs. [Cover photo: Howard Zucker]

Thotyssey: Hi VH! We’re already about halfway through summer now, how’s the season been treating you so far?

Van Hechter: OMG, it’s very much like a fairytale. I didn’t expect that, but it is. Magical moments that go beyond what I would’ve imagined. A few villains and wicked twists along the way, too! It’s very fabulous, in the true meaning of the term.

I saw you and Chauncey Dandridge perform your new duet for “Abort the Court” at Stonewall recently: a solemn occasion, but a fun show!

I think that fun is important at all times. My father, who’d known war, always said ”thank God we joked around ‘tween gunshots.”

You perform what we can call club music in its purest sense. There was a time when nightclub popstars were everywhere with live performances, but drag took over the queer nightlife entertainment scene some years ago. Now that drag might be approaching oversaturation, will live club music come back big time?

I hope so! But at the same time in all honesty, I love performing with drag queens. I mean, I get to be Prince Charming… and at the end of the night I have six new girlfriends. I’ve found a way, as a gay man, to be a lady’s man! Again… fairytale!

Tell us a bit of how your fairytail began!

I am French-Georgian, raised in Montreal but at a French lycée, with regular stays in France, Florida and Cape Cod. I only truly discovered Canada and Quebec when I got to university; I’d been raised as a European, and I knew more about the U.S. than I did about my own country. Culture clash, let me tell you, once I arrived in college!

I can imagine! Was music always a part of your life?

Yes. My mother, who was a stylist, was very interested in everything new musically. And we would go off in our little world, buying 45s and then carefully listening to them. I know I write music in English because I learned music through her, and she was the anglophone in the household. Dad, who was French, tried to make me like French music… but I just didn’t enjoy it as much. I like certain artists, but English is where my heart’s at when it comes to scribbling down lyrics.

When did you start performing as Van Hechter?

I invented my character when I was 17. It didn’t take until, like, about five years ago, lol! But I’m stubborn!

What inspired this “character,” and how would you describe him?

I truly believe that fabulousness always comes from a place of pain. You don’t work that hard at imagery and posture unless you’ve been deeply hurt at a young age. I wanted to express that by putting myself at the center of it. Van is fabulous, he always smiles, he dresses, he’s posh and has manners. He laughs at everything, especially at himself. He has invented a life in which he is an invented prince. Message is: never take anything for its face value… and please let’s not take ourselves too too seriously.

And is there any specific source of inspiration for Van’s snappy threads?

I studied cinema in college; I love old movies. I love how male stars were always either in suits, perfectly painted, or in ”macho gear’ — perfectly oiled and soiled in exactly the right spots. I think fashion-wise I am very inspired by Old Hollywood. It’s make believe glamour, really, and I love that notion.

Nowadays, your sound fits in perfectly with what is hot on the scene: disco-inspired dance! Why do you think this fresh take on a retro sound has become the Moment today?

You know, pandemic aside, we are going through the 70’s all over again… what with PrEP being available, etc. So many orgies, so much polygamy–and questioning gender plays a part of it, too. That whole state of mind goes so well with disco, which of course was always about liberation of humans and free sex.

In fact, your new song with partner-in-crime Chauncey, “Disco Brother,” makes for the perfect nu-disco anthem! You two have collaborated on a few tracks now, and your tracks have had over a million streams! How did that union come to be?

[This collaboration] was honestly the most fun I’d had in a long time. Chauncey and I have this bond that developed from the second we met, and our meeting was an accident. First thing we knew, we were texting each other daily about the most ridiculous things. That song ”Disco Brother” is the story of our relationship, with a more vast meaning: we should all be brothers and sisters, instead of dividing.

Do you two plan to release a full length album of music down the road?

We still have two singles to release, and possibly some remixes. I don’t know if we’ll end up releasing an EP, but there’s more on the way!

You also continue to release singles as a solo artist, and with other collaborators. Your recent video for your track “Love in Miami” is gorgeous!

I love that song! I wrote it about a pornstar with whom I’d fallen in love–a fiasco, but one I don’t regret. Again… putting me at the center of my own farce, lol! In Miami–and in Fort Lauderdale, for that matter–you just feel sex everywhere. Very hard to explain. Like, lust is rampant.

What else is coming up for you?

What I am really looking forward to–aside from my duets with Chauncey–is the release of my next solo album, next spring. I’m working on it now, with long-time music partner Eryck Wyseman. God, I love working with him.

Also, Chauncey and I are bringing our NYC act to Montreal for Montreal Pride next August: that should be a blast! Same formula: he spins, I greet and host, then we perform live sporadically throughout the set. We are doing this at this bar Le Stud, a venue we both really love. But I’ll be back in NYC in the fall. I just hope I’ll get to perform more and more for you guys. You always treat me like one of your own. You have no idea how humbling that is to a Frenchie!

We love to have you! And lastly: besides your own, what’s been a song for the summer that’s been giving you life?

Oh, that’s a good last question. I think that for some reason a Marshall Jefferson remix of ”Smile” by Katy Perry found its way to my playlists, although it’s not very new… and I must’ve played it thousands of times since May. ”I’m thankful–scratch that baby, I’m grateful–finally got back that smile.” It’s such a good post-pandemic song.

Indeed! Thanks, Van!

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Van Hechter’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and on several streaming platforms.

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