By Caitlin Donohue; Photos by Damien Moreau
Vain Hein’s always been one of our favorite Bay Area nightlife creatures, a gender-less, malformed beauty with an ability to invoke social issues in the middle of aesthetically amazing freak-out. Look to one of Vain’s early tracks “Pussy Juice” for commentary on commercialized beauty, and basically anything they did with drag/punk/all-the-things band Daddie$ Pla$tik and Persia for really important takes on class and tech displacement in the Bay.
The performer’s look is on — which should be obvious from the photos Damien Moreau captured for us on Vain’s trip to Mexico City a few months ago. And under those distended cheek bones and vacant ghost eyes lies an insanely original music producer, who is currently seeking funds to launch an LP with collective Toxic Waste Face that will blow you(/r mind.) 4U Mag recently caught up with Vain Hein, here’s our chat.
Tell us about your current project.
I’m currently in the final stages of putting together my first album “Gag Order,” although I find it strange to even call it an album, considering how broad my practice is. I would say it’s more of a mixed media performance piece neatly disguised as an LP. I’m actually trying to raise funds to get it finished. Putting the campaign together was a huge project in and of itself. Anyway, “Gag Order” has been a few years in the making and I think it’s safe to say it’s the most personal piece of work I’ve ever created. It’s deeply inspired by being dragged through different churches as a child, and even influenced by my short stint as a production assistant at one of the most influential sites in BDSM porn, which … let’s just say didn’t end on a good note. The album dissects and documents my personal relationship to patriarchal violence and oppression, and explores concepts of sexual repression, shame, emotional trauma, and the subsequent “monster” that can manifest from these mental states. It’s a lot. I’m having flashbacks.
We initially came across you performing on the SF drag circuit, where you became known for your terrifying looks. What role does costume play in your music now?
Terrifying looks? But I always thought my looks were so cute and approachable! I’d say my looks are more terrifying now than ever, especially the look for my album cover, which my collective Toxic Waste Face helped me create. For me, costume is the counterpoint to my music, and has always been an essential part of my storytelling, mainly because it provides the audience with a visual cue into my imagined universe. It also serves as visual reference to the art and films that have inspired me throughout my life.
Who is your model for artistic success?
Model(s). Success is seeing Bebe Huxley cover Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” in a suit and tie and leaving the audience so horny and soooo confused about their sexuality. Success is seeing all of the babes in Mexico swooning over San Cha serving her soul in a fishnet bodysuit and giving absolutely no fucks! Success is hearing Tyler Holmes whip up a sick beat in our studio, in no time at all. Success is seeing Persia dive head first into crowd and witnessing people carry her all over the room. Success is sitting with my Toxic Waste Face collaborators Jader and Pseuda after a shoot and squealing when we realized we just created magic in front of the camera. Success is when I’m living so deeply in a moment on stage that I don’t remember anything after stepping off. It’s the feeling I get in these moments that I model all my future success after.
Tell me about the moment that has made you feel the most powerful in your life.
Having been the victim of abuse in the past, it’s taken a lot for me to get to a point where I didn’t feel powerless.
But I can honestly say I feel the most powerful right now, and every moment I realize I’m still alive and creating. It’s a fucking magical miracle.
Thanks to everybody who has supported me through the rough times and continue to support me. Hugs and kisses.