September 10, 2009 – 4:07 am

Next to ice hockey, D.O.A. might just be Canada’s coolest punk export… and they have no qualms wrecking your party too, says Shelley Boettcher. This article was published in BigO #102 (June 1994).

Right up there with Rush, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, DOA are a Canadian musical institution. They’re just a little nastier than the stereotype that the world has of the nice, mild manered Canuck lurking behind their pushy American neighbours.

Since their inception in 1978 by lead singer/guitarist/songwriter, Joey “Shithead” Keithley, DOA have endured several line-up changes, many rumours, been around the world and released more than 35 recordings. They may be getting old but they still know how to kick punk rock ass.

Currently a three-piece, Keithley is the only original member. Christened Joey Shithead in the early days of the band, it is a moniker that he tried for years to shake but now he just sneers and accepts it. After all, shit happens. Brian Goble plays bass while Ken Jensen (formerly with Red Tide) is the last in the a long string of drummers.

This includes the band’s first drummer, Chuck Biscuits, who went on to play with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks before landing in Danzig. Dimwit, another drummer from the past, did a stint with the now-defunct Four Horsemen. DOA’s latest album, Loggerheads, features a famous photo from Canada’s recent political history, the Oka Crisis of 1990 - a military standoff between a Canadian Native Indian reserve and the Federal government.

The photo shows a Native warrior and a Canadian soldier glaring face to face. “Most of the songs on the album are about people being at loggerheads physically, philosophically or emotionally. A lot of the songs had to do with Canada, too, and we hadn’t really done an album about Canada per se, since True North Strong And Free, in 1987.” It is also an indicator of the band’s political activism, in issues ranging from environmental to Native and minority rights.

Involved in the West Coast’s “green scene,” Keithley is well known for his pro-environmental opinions and support for grassroots politics. As evident in one of their most recent album titles, Talk Minus Action Equals Zero, this has become a theme for DOA, who have played benefits for groups ranging from Greenpeace to Rock Against Racism.

Other side projects for Keithley have included forays into film. He appeared in the cult hit, Terminal City Ricochet, which also featured the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra. Currently, he is doing a voiceover for a mosquito in an upcoming animated film.

Keithley’s daughter is also in the movies - she was the baby in the commercial hit, Look Who’s Talking. About her film career, Keithley says: “We didn’t try pushing it very much. Even though there’s a lot of film going on in Vancouver, I don’t think it’s much of a life for a kid. You can just see people who have had fame in their childhood and it ended up messing them up. Better to be just a normal kid.” (Or at least relatively normal, until she realises her father is a punk rock star.)

DOA record on the label started by the Wright brothers of NoMeansNo, Wrong Records, out of Vancouver, Canada, and distributed by Jello Biafra’s record label, Alternative Tentacles.

The band has toured, recorded and worked off and on with Biafra for years, but when quizzed about him, everyone in the band declined from serious comment. Keithley sums up: “Basically everything is okay working with him,” before changing the subject. Being asked about Biafra is old news; it is the No. 1 question that peple want to know when talking to the band.

The rest of the year includes heavy touring and recording, as usual. “By the time we finish this European tour in May, it’ll be about 25 months continuously touring, rehearsing or recording.

‘We’ve done a single, two albums and an EP over the two years since we got back together, so probably the rest of the year we’ll just work on new songs. We’re going to record a live single or EP in Italy, at one of the most crazy places you can play at, a 14th-century fortress in the middle of Rome that’s been squatted,” Keithley adds.

They’re definitely a band that likes touring. Across Canada in the middle of winter in a battered milk truck that was colder inside than out, they are the stereotypical punk rockers on the road.

In 1985, DOA became only the second Western band to tour Poland. “It was just about a year after they’d lifted martial law, so it was a very strange experience. A lot different than it is now.” They recently finished a tour of Australia and New Zealand with another well-known Canadian punk band, NoMeansNo, and both bands are hoping to do a tour of Asia in the near future.

Time has not mellowed Keithley at all; he shows no sign of quitting Canada’s best-loved punk band. “It’s just a good vehicle for being a loudmouth. I like it. I really like playing loud, obnoxious music.”

Note: In September 2008, DOA released Northern Avenger and embarked on their 30th anniversary tour. In 1996 and 2001, Joey Keithley ran in the British Columbia provincial elections for the Green Party of British Columbia. In 2001, he received the highest percentage of the vote next to party leader Adriane Carr. In 2008, The Vancouver Sun newspaper named Keithley one of British Columbia’s most influential people of all time.

Post a Comment