THE QUEER ISSUE Call it a harmonic convergence of two queer legends of indie rock and queercore. Victor Krummenacher of Camper Van Beethoven and Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division got together recently to talk about the way it was, coming out in the repressed 1980s and coming into their own experientially, politically, and musically in 1990s San Francisco each, as Krummenacher puts it, a "gay guy suddenly in Candyland." Life is still sweet and hella active for these old friends: Krummenacher celebrates Camper's 25th anniversary with a June 28 show at the Fillmore, and Ginoli is unleashing Pansy Division's new documentary, Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band, at Frameline June 26, complete with an afterparty performance at the Eagle. And naturally, this won't be the last you'll hear from these prolific players: Pansy Division is working on a new album and Ginoli has a memoir coming next year on SF's Cleis Press, while Krummenacher is recording as McCabe and Mrs. Miller with the Sippy Cups' Alison Faith Levy and recently completed a fifth solo full-length. (Kimberly Chun)
JON GINOLI Before I started Pansy Division, I'd been actively trying to find other gay musicians' records. I'd listen to records, listen for hints, and it just seemed like I was always getting disappointed in that there were musicians I heard about who were supposed to be gay that would flat-out deny it in interviews. I thought, OK, if all these people who I think are lying are not going to come out, or really aren't ... that's when it finally dawned on me that I should do this band. At the same time I had that idea, so did Tribe 8. It was Tribe 8 and us and Glen Meadmore in Los Angeles. When we started that's what was going on in queer rock. The only other thing I knew about and I didn't know about this till I started playing was Fifth Column in Toronto.
There really wasn't much you could point to, and that's partly why I wanted to be as out and blunt as I could. Because it seemed like if you were gay and you liked rock 'n' roll, it was something you had to hide and it was something that there was some shame attached to.
VICTOR KRUMMENACHER It was an interesting time. From my perspective, we had the [Michael] Stipe rumors and we had the Hüsker Dü rumors. But it was kind of, like, don't ask, don't tell. Kid Congo was always out. He was always what he was, which I admired a lot.
JG I remember meeting him in New York, in '94, '95, and by that time, I knew he was gay. But I'd been a fan of all bands he'd been in the Gun Club, the Cramps, and the Bad Seeds and I didn't know he was gay until 10 years after I'd started buying his records.
VK A lot of the reason I was attracted to punk rock was because I knew queer people in it. My friends were gay, and I was coming out, and it was just really easy to deal with because they liked the same music, and it was fun. But it was a hard time, and the '80s sucked. I'm 43 now, and I deal with people in their 20s who have no clue how much it sucked.
JG Only the highlights have filtered down to them.
VK There was Phranc, and there was some chatter about Morrissey.
JG It's interesting I was thinking, OK, it's like a ladder. You're taking a step at a time to reach a certain place, and I was thinking about the women's music scene, the lesbian music scene, from the late '70s. The folk scene.
VK Which seemed a little bit more coherent.
JG But it also seemed more insular, especially when I talk to people from that period. It was about being separate, and the thing about me wanting to do Pansy Division was that I wanted to engage by using rock music.