Talk + Action + 20 Years = D.O.A.

the newest incarnation of D.O.A.

D.O.A.'s Joe 'Shithead' Keithley

Interview by Pieter Hofmann
Live photography by Rodney Gitzel

"I see myself, at my ripe old age, as the fly in the ointment. A tiny counterweight to the bullshit of the corporate world."

So says Joe Keithley of Vancouver's punk legends, D.O.A. It would be hard to argue the point. With 1998 marking the 20th anniversary of the band, Keithley has never strayed from his musical and political roots.

Unabashedly anti-mainstream, Keithley, a.k.a. Joey Shithead, still considers the world, mildly phrased, a mess. In 1978, with the punk pot going from a simmer to a boil, bassist Randy Rampage, drummer Chuck Biscuits, guitarist Brad Kent and Keithley snapped the elastic on Vancouver rock -- and eventually on North America.

Keithley at last year's Hockeypalooza As with the Dead Kennedys, Avengers and Black Flag, the enemy was perilously close. The sound and message was menacing, unmistakably confrontational, and it came from within our very own sedate borders. Goodbye to the sunny Californian rock placebo; these boys wanted the world and they meant it man. Releasing the Disco Sucks EP (financed by Keithley's first wife's UI cheques) in 1978, D.O.A. fired the opening salvo in Vancouver's punk rock scene. Abrasive and political, the seed was planted for fellow alumni such as the Dishrags, Subhumans, et al. It was obvious these weren't snotty English wannabees but believers in the punk ethos.

Two decades later Keithley still believes. "I have three kids now and that does make you think differently. I don't think it's mellowed me out, though. If anything, it makes me more pissed off at the world now. This place will be fucked up even more for the kids if someone doesn't stand up to the bullshit of globalization, environmental degradation and the mass media push to corporatization. Just look around you. You see people wearing companies' logos on their t-shirts. There's something inherently wrong with that. But we've become so brainwashed by TV and the media to believe that you are a loser if you don't buy their products."

cover of 'Festival of Atheists' Presently on tour in Europe to promote D.O.A.'s latest disc, Festival of Atheists, Keithley has remained the only constant in the band. Drugs, death and simply father time have taken their toll on the band over the past decades. Currently joining D.O.A.'s founder are drummer Brien O'Brien (Stick Monkey/Bif Naked/the Real McKenzies) and bassist Kuba (the Sweaters/Scum Element/Ted). While more typical venues are planned, the trio plan to play the odd squat and benefit. "I always have a great time in Europe." He says. "Things are more political there given their history. There's less of that North American disease of rampant apathy that we are stewing in over here. Yet, you get subjected to even more dance music in Europe. In the bars and cafes, it's non-stop europop. It's enough to make you puke. But fortunately, a lot of people still like punk rock and get into the message. We still try to get new fans to the shows. I like to show them that punk isn't just jazzed-up sea shanties."

In a dual role; father and punk rocker, Keithley has had to adapt. Asked if his children are aware that he is known as Joey Shithead, Keithley laughs. "Oh yeah. My ten year old came home from school a while back and said that one of his teachers said that I had a nickname. The teacher wouldn't tell him. Told him to go and ask dad. At first I said it was 'Razor' because I'm so sharp on the guitar. He didn't buy it though, so I told him. He just sort of smirked."

Keithley at the 1996 Vancouver Folk Festival How quickly the world changes. Father, punker, activist and now record mogul, Keithley has recently rekindled his original label, Sudden Death Records. (Disco Sucks, as well as a handful of benefit singles, appeared on the label before its demise in the '80s.) "Yeah, now I'm the bean counter, the CEO. Some of my friends have dubbed me 'Joe Yuphead.'"

"I just want to make it work -- which means we have to sell records, obviously. But the point is, I'm trying to promote punk rock and specifically western Canadian punk bands. I think western Canada has been totally under-represented when it comes to punk, other than from my fine friends at Mint [Records]."

"I want to promote an activist point of view. That's where Sudden Death steers clear from your typical label. We don't have the attitude of 'Let's make piles of money.' I'm looking for bands that can actually make an impact on people's thinking." If that's the case, then Sudden Death has the perfect role model.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on April 3, 1998

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.