The release of Victor Krummenacher's album The Cock Crows At Sunrise, on February 20th 2007, marks his fifth critically acclaimed solo album in twelve years. Clocking in at over an hour, this brand new release features thirteen narrative driven songs that sit on a classy bedrock of gothic-tinged country, swampy blues and Memphis soul and rock. This latest release also marks the twenty-fourth year of a long, complex and sometimes under-the-radar musical career.
Born April 7th 1965 in Riverside, California, a dusty town on the edge of the desert, sixty miles east of L.A. Krummenacher discovered the Beatles, CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel and Monkees records in his older sister's album collection as a child. From there it was an easy step to Zappa, the Floyd, the Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin. An Elvis Costello concert at UCLA in 1979 was soon to spark the fourteen-year old Krummenacher's interest towards new wave and punk, The Clash (who he followed on tour as a teenager), Patti Smith, Television, Black Flag, Gun Club, The Gang Of Four and Joy Division. At the age of sixteen he bought his first bass, a Fender Musicmaster, from one Donnie Rose, part of the Germs camp. He played brief stints with "bad punk bands that couldn't even finish a song" and quickly came to the conclusion that punk rock was "great but too catholic, too restraining".
In the spring of 1983, after graduating from high school, Victor ran into David Lowery, five years his senior, just returned from college in Santa Cruz and playing bass in local band Sitting Duck alongside future Camper member Chris Molla, at a party. They fell into a discussion about how lame punk rock was getting and from this fortuitous meeting Camper Van Beethoven And The Border Patrol was born. Various band members came and went, the name got shortened. Relocating to Santa Cruz in the winter of that year, Jonathan Segel joined, and the band spent 1984 playing university parties and punk rock gigs.
Over the first weekend of 1985 the band went into Samurai Sound in Davis, CA and recorded Telephone Free Landslide Victory, released on the Independent Project Records label and distributed by Rough Trade, notable for the inclusion of their most well known song Take The Skinheads Bowling. As the year rolled on and the bands live reputation grew. Santa Cruz local Greg Lisher joined, and Chris Pedersen rounded out the lineup as the new drummer. Gigs opening for the Dead Kennedys, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Butthole Surfers and others ensued.
In the smmer of 1985, they recorded their second album, II and III, the first release on the bands newly formed Pitch-A-Tent imprint. A year of solid touring (including a support tour with REM at Stipe and Buck's request) was broken by the recording of the self-titled third album in the summer 1986. While the previous albums are great, and have stood the test of time, it is eponymously titled Camper Van Beethoven where it all fell into place. Lowery blossomed as a songwriter and the band were bold and free in their playing. The album has been claimed by some to be the very first Americana album, but however you label it (and it's so much more than that) there's no denying it is a masterpiece, cementing the band's reputation as one of the most important combos of that era. 1986 also birthed the equally brilliant Monks Of Doom, a side project by Victor, Lisher, Pedersen and initially Molla (soon to be replaced by David Immerglück from the legendary and ill forgotten Ophelias) to create music outside the mould of CVB. Molla was also to depart CVB at the end of that year, unable to commit to such a heavy touring schedule.
In 1987, CVB released the Vampire Can Mating Oven mini album and signed to Virgin, releasing the superb Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart in the spring of 1988. Monks Of Doom released their own mostly instrumental debut album on Pitch-A-Tent, Breakfast On The Beach Of Deception. But all was not well within the Camper ranks. The pressures of being signed to a major and the constant touring. Musical and personality clashes within the band led to the departure of Jonathan Segel, a move that ultimately brought an end of the first era of the band.
1989 saw the release of the second Monks album, The Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company, a tour in support of Jonathan Segel's magnificent solo debut, Storytelling, and the recording of CVB's second and last Virgin album Key Lime Pie. With the band in disarray, a session violinist replacing Segel and only Lowery and the producer in the studio for most of the recording, it's hardly a group record. But the album is Victor's personal favourite. "It's a brilliant album, as far as David's song writing goes, it's an extremely interesting and complex piece of work."
The tour that followed brought in Harm Farm's Morgan Fichter on violin and David Immerglück (the sixth camper). The new line up was as superb as ever but the cracks in the band were becoming fatal. "Our shows were great, our personal demons greater." They were not a happy bunch and the band dissolved acrimoniously towards the end of the European tour in April 1990, Lowery going onto form Cracker with Johnny Hickman.
With CVB gone, Victor's focus turned to Monks Of Doom. By the fall of 1990 the Monks were touring regularly and signed to new indie label Bated Breath. Spring of 1991 produced the masterful and majestic Meridian on which Victor's song writing skills finally blossom. A mini album, The Insect God followed in '92 on CZ Records, and the band signed to IRS and recorded Forgery. The CVB rarities collection Camper Vantiquities was also released by IRS that same year. Unfortunately David Immerglück, who had already turned down replacing Jason Falkner in Jellyfish, was seduced away by the suddenly huge Counting Crows (with whom he still plays with today). Unable to take seriously IRS's insistence they bring in a female lead singer as replacement the band called it a day, leaving behind a legacy of remarkable albums few other bands have matched.
In 1994, Jonathan Segel started up the Magnetic label and Victor joined him soon after. The short lived Mr. Krummenacher's Fifth Business, with Segel in the ranks, lasted one single and a few strange and drunken gigs, but never really clicked. Victor, determined to start up a solo career, then began working in with Bruce Kaphan from American Music Club on the material that would eventually make up half of his first album, the multi-layered and epic Out In The Heat. That summer, Victor met up with two old friends, bassist Chris Xefos from King Missile and John Nelson, former percussionist with Poi Dog Pondering. Along with guitarist Jason Fessel from Fifth Business, and with a later addition Greg Lisher, they christened the band A Great Laugh and started playing on Halloween eve 1994, finishing the recording of Out In The Heat in January of '95. The band played through out the year, the album being released to critical acclaim that October. The tour of March-April '96 was to be their last, Fessel leaving mid-tour due to drug related problems. The final blow came when, two days later, in St. Louis John Nelson was hit and nearly killed while crossing a busy highway.
The hospital John was taken to was St. John's Mercy Medical, the name of the hospital lifted for the title of Victor's next album. After the epic sweep of Out In the Heat, St. John's Mercy, is quieter, more song oriented, the material all written in the aftermath of the wipe out of A Great Laugh. Recorded with a core team of Xefos and CVB drummer Pedersen, and with contributions from Immergluck, Lisher and Kaphan, it's an understated affair full of heartfelt emotion and pain. In the fall of 98, Chris Pedersen went to live in Australia. As a goodbye, Monks Of Doom reformed for one blazing show at the Bottom Of The Hill in SF (two live tracks from this show are featured on the most recent Monks release, What's Left For Kicks?).
2000 saw the arrival of Victor's third album Bittersweet. Collaborating once more with Xefos and Kaphan and a host of guest players (including Mike Musburger from the Posies and the legendary Dave Alvin), the lion's share of the playing is by Victor himself. Returning to the epic but intimate vistas of Out In The Heat, this album shows once as for all that Victor's sheer musicality is equal to his literate and lyrical songwriting.
Meantime an invitation from David Lowery for Jonathan Segel to play on a Cracker cover of the Clash's White Riot the year before was to set in motion a chain of events few could have predicted. From there it was a short step to Jonathan sitting in at various Cracker shows and soon after Victor and Greg Lisher were also joining in. From there it became The Cracker Travelling Apothecary tour combining both Cracker and Camper songs and players. The support band on many of these shows, Magnetic Motorworks, was in fact Victor, Jonathan, and Greg showcasing material from various solo albums , somtimes including David Lowery on bass and Cracker's Frank Funaro on drums.
Victor was also called upon by Lowery to work on two Pitch-A-Tent releases. The live CD of the Apothecary tour Flash Your Sirens and another compilation of rarities Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. The next CVB release on Pitch-A-Tent in April 2002 was totally unexpected. It was the band's radical reworking of Fleetwood Mac's sprawling, career destroying double album, Tusk. The story put around was that this recording dated back to a weekend in 1986, when the band had been holed up in a shack with nothing better to do. The master tape had then been lost and had finally turned up in the back of a wardrobe at Greg Lisher's parents house. In fact, this story was a red herring, covering the fact that CVB had secretly reconvened in mid 2001 to see if they could once more work together. A series of concerts at the Knitting Factory in July 2002, with David Immergluck, Kenny Margolis from Cracker and Funaro replacing the downunder Pedersen followed. In October, Cooking Vinyl released Cigarettes And Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years, a box set containing the first three albums, Camper Vantiquties and an exclusive vintage live collection Greatest Hits Played Faster. Camper Van Beethoven were reborn. Victor also contributed to Cracker's finest album to date Forever.
The same year, he put together a new band consisting of his long time collaborators Xefos and Kaphan, veteran drummer John Hanes and a brilliant guitarist, Steve Perrone to preview material for his next album. The band gelled so strongly that Victor decided to take them into the studio and play the new songs live, splicing together the best performances and over dubbing as little as possible. The results are stunning, the playing is electrifying, the songs maybe his finest batch yet. Nocturne co-released by Magnetic and Pitch-A-Tent is a magnificent achievement. Yet Victor had to now put his solo career on the back burner because things in the Camper camp were starting to roll.
In the spring of 2003, Krummenacher released a special limited edition companion CD to Nocturne. Only available online, San Soleil is an essential collection of covers, Nocturne demos and Bittersweet outtakes. This was soon followed by the return of Monks Of Doom for a handful of live shows in California and a promise that a long alluded to Monks covers album was soon to be finished.
2004 saw intensive CVB touring in both the States and Europe, remastered and extended re-issues of the pre-Virgin CVB albums and the release of a limited edition live Campers album, In The Mouth Of The Crocodile. Finally, the much-anticipated new Campers album New Roman Times arrived that autumn. Just when it seemed Victor couldn't be any busier, that May he then also joined Cracker on bass. Double header shows with both bands playing stretched him to his limit. Much of 2005 was spent touring with both Camper and Cracker. September marked the first Camper Van Beethoven Campout Festival in Pioneertown ,California at which Victor rarely left the stage, playing with not only Camper and Cracker, but also with Monks Of Doom, Jonathan Segel and his own solo set. The recently released DVD of this event features beautiful performances by Victor of Not Coming Back, Bittersweet and Questa Sunset.
Summer 2006 saw the release of What's Left For Kicks?, the long promised Monks Of Doom covers album, and found him playing on a new Cracker album, Greenland. Victor bowed out of Cracker to take some time off and concentrate on his solo work once more. That September saw the Second Annual Campout, and a series of local solo shows, premiering songs from the new album.
And so here we are, back in 2007 with the release of The Cock Crows at Sunrise. The rest of what you need to know can be found in the news section...the future starts now.