Van Hechter is an openly gay artist who has survived cancer and writes about his reality, and that doesn’t mean excluding heterosexuality. Often times he’ll purposely not mention gender so that his love songs apply to anyone.
Van is trying to lift the spirits through the pandemic with his songs. He is a dance/pop singer/songwriter/producer who’s been on the market as a solo act since 2017, after having spent years in duets and various bands, under contract with European labels. He wrote a full set of songs expressing how much he owes to the pioneers of the LGBT movement. At the moment, he is working with Stonewall Inn resident DJ Chauncey Dandridge and preparing the queer album ‘Love Elastic”.
Van admits that he loves the solo ”life”! He is finally getting to say what he think matters. His songs either have a dark edge to them or are ridiculously enthusiastic. In both cases the end message is always: ”Try to believe in life- even when times are rough, keep dancing and NEVER stop laughing— especially at yourself!”.
Who is Van Hechter?
He’s the other me. I’ve been 2 people ever since I was a toddler. My mother noticed first; ‘’You put a little hat or a suit on this one, suddenly he’s Tom Jones- I have 2 sons’’… The guy you get at home is really shy, quiet, -erased almost- and very vulnerable. The other is highly sociable, he is vain, but he cares about others— his biggest thrill in the world is making people smile. He stands up for himself though—even if on occasion that means war. If you’ve done him wrong you’ll most likely never be let off the hook LOL! I named him Van when I was 17… I like him a lot. He saved my life many times. And he dares, has no shame!
Tell us some things about yourself so we get to know you more!
Cancer changed my life for the better! Of course there’s always a slight fright that it’ll return… I had testicular cancer about 10 years ago. And I’ve been happy for the last 10 years LOL! I remember thinking -before the operation; ‘’Shit dying would really fuck up my life plan’’! I just appreciate things more. And I’ve no time waste. I have so much more fun, too. Many people who’ve gone through similar experiences say the same; it’s an eye-opener, a heart-opener.
How do you pass these days in quarantine?
I do my home workout daily then I hit the keyboard to do my vocal exercises. I try not to eat too much… That’s hard! And as of 7pm I drink white wine! I miss touching my friends, from the closer ones to my gym buddies. I just now realised how ‘’tactile’’ I was. I really don’t mind being single for long stretches but the high-fives, the shoulder taps, the hugs; I really yearn for.
How would you describe yourself?
Lovely! Just an absolutely adorable person! I mean, what’s not to love?? LOL!!!
Where did you grow up and how were your child years?
I grew up in Montreal but went to a French Lycée and then was sent to France, Florida or Cape Cod for vacations… I wasn’t exposed to the local culture until later. I am certainly glad I got to know Quebec eventually; so rich.
My childhood was rough. Mom died a bit before my 4th Birthday and from then on all hell broke loose. I drove my father nuts! He hated homosexuals… I tried to please him for a time. Then I realised that self-respect was more important than was parent pleasing. Pretending I was straight would’ve meant death… Of course I was bullied in school like most gay boys; spat on, insulted, beaten. A teacher once blamed ME; ‘’It’d be up to you to be more normal—you bring this on yourself’’ he said. I remember hating him but also thinking I was far more intelligent than he. Later there was some form of sexual abuse by a distant family member. It was a lot to handle. For years I lived with a sense of guilt- like my mother had died because I’d been born a bad son.
Still I always found beauty in life. My father had made very good money and in some ways I was spoiled; trips, museums, access to culture, free studies, always a lot of cash in my pocket, nice clothes. I knew I was privileged and was grateful for it— I still am today. He really did all he could for me to blossom- in the way that he knew.
Is Van Hechter your real name? If not, why did you choose his name?
False— totally false like my perfect complexion. But much like great makeup—it reveals something that was always there. Artifice is NEVER about masking. It’s about highlighting what we don’t see at first glance. I made it up in geography class during high school. I wrote it down on a piece of paper then passed it to my divine girlfriend of the time; she burst into laughter and said; ‘’This is the most pretentious, stupid artist name’’… That was my green light!
When did you decide to commit to music?
At 3, at 5, at 17— from there that was it- with MANY deep deep depressions about it during my twenties because nothing was working. But the idea of a ‘’regular’’ job depressed me even more, so…
What made you go solo after many years of being part of duets and music groups?
I was in groups out of insecurity. That’s not a good reason. After cancer I thought; ‘’GO you wimp- stop running away from yourself— you could die tomorrow- stop being scared’’!
How was the experience of working with other musicians in the same group/band and how different is it to be a solo artist?
First band was punk. I loved the music. I was really troubled at the time. I was very very difficult to work with then. But there was something else; I hated the band leader. He was extremely negative, mean even. He is to this day hahah. Still—this was a necessary ‘’passage’’. I learned so much. And I remember loving the bassist, which really helped to cope. Other associations happened and were ok… Others were super fun; I remain very good friends with Jerome Boogie who now has a doctorate and is living with a girl he loves.
Solo doesn’t mean being alone— I work with Eryck Wyseman since 2017. I am the act but he’s in the background working as hard as I am. Meeting him is 2015 was something close to a blessing. I’ve never worked as well with another musician. I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument. We just get along… We debate- but never fight. And I wouldn’t want to work any other way, now that I know how pleasant and possible harmony is!!
How would you describe your music?
It’s pop with an edge. It’s influenced by disco, soul, punk- all the genres I love. I want people to dance to my songs. I want them to be uplifted even when my subject is darker.
What is your personal style?
Humour!! Everything I do is camp. I laugh at life, at society, at fashion and most of all I laugh at myself. That was one of the biggest misconceptions about my ‘’style’’ at first. People didn’t see that I played the card of arrogance— as to highlight its ridicule. Now- I feel more understood. The new generation likes self-deprecation. I love that about them.
Which other artists do you admire and who are your inspirations?
I love Lizzo because she breaks all the fairy tale clichés that girls grow up with (and too often become imprisoned by). Of course I was inspired by Moroder, Bowie, The Eurythmics, Blondie and Larry Levan to mention just a few. Motown was also a big thing for me growing up.
You are an openly gay artist and it feels that many of your songs have a personal tone. Do you write about yourself and about experiences you have lived in your songs?
Always. Because I am really dumb and have a very narrow understanding of life LOL! I know nothing other than my own experience! I couldn’t write about someone else’s.
Do you think there is enough LGBTQ+ representation in the music industry nowadays?
NO!!!! So long as artists ponder whether they should come out or not; we have a problem!
How do you feel with the fact that many LGBTQ+ artists conceal their sexual identity?
It still takes a lot of guts to come out. The industry would rather keep you concealed — even now. Heterosexuality sells better. However I believe that art should expose certain truths and push boundaries. If you are gay, closeted and from the Western world in 2020; you lack courage, sorry! It’s our duty to show how many variations there are of us! If you lie to the world, you are giving into EXACTLY what homophobes count on! You are bowing to them! Btw; coming out made me feel very manly—just saying.
What shall we expect in your next album?
I’ve got 2 coming… One is a series of ultra-disco duets recorded with Chauncey Dandridge, about the Stonewall Inn and how humbled I feel each time I perform there. The second is a solo album— more dance-pop… It’s a celebration of life. I call it my ‘’post-COVID’’ album LOL! I’ve got no release dates. I really like to kick off an EP onstage, throw a proper launch, etc etc. We don’t know when that’ll be possible yet.
Talk to me about the collaboration with Stonewall Inn resident DJ Chauncey Dandridge. How did this happen?
I just love him. We are so different yet music bonds us tightly. I just walked into the Stonewall Inn… We’d been Facebook friends. He was in his DJ booth- it was instant artistic love. I found him great- loved all the songs he played. I was impressed. In return said I had an aura. Voilà!
Which is your biggest fanbase?
In terms of age I get a lot of fan mail from youngsters; underdogs of all sexualities, people who don’t feel they fit in, gay fashion boys, glamorous girls, ex-bullied or abused souls… I am most proud of that… I used to be that person. And if I can help in any way— that’s really fantastic!
How does the LGBTQ+ responded to your music?
I keep bringing up the topic of generations… Gays my age never liked me LOL! They hated my music, my clothes, my humour. I wasn’t even considered to be sexy. But I am stubborn. I knew I had something special in me— and that it was attractive. So I kept doing my thing and waited it out. The new generation tends to quite like me. That makes me really happy.
What are your future plans?
Trying not to get fat is my immediate concern LOL! Other than that; I’d like to keep making music for as long as I can!
*all images are courtesy of Van Hechter