D.O.A.'s Joey "Shithead" Keithley on 35 Years of Punk Rock Memories
care of Sudden Death Records
Incredibly, it has been 35 years since on Joey "Shithead" Keithley got together with a few other Canadian punk rockers and formed D.O.A. Playing a mixture of the Sex Pistols and The Ramones, Shithead and his revolving array of sidemen became a fixture on the West Coast American punk scene that brought the world the likes of Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Fear and countless others.
Supposedly, this tour is the last one as Joey is about to hit the ripe age of 58. Speaking from his home in Vancouver and in anticipation of Wednesday's show at the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, Keithley spoke to DC9 about his band having their own day and how he still has political aspirations.
How long has it been since D.O.A played Dallas?
It's been sixteen years. I think the last time was in 1998. We played Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Houston on that tour. We even played Corpus Christi for the very first time.
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Is this really going to be the last tour?
You can never say never, but we are calling it the farewell tour. That's not to say that there won't be any more recordings. And there might be an occasional show.
In 1982, D.O.A. released War on 45, an album that really changed the way many fans thought about the band and punk in general.
People really know that one and our second album, Hardcore '81. The first album, Something Better Change, is well known, too. I think War on 45 is my favorite because it had a lot of different sounds on it. It has some straight up punk rock and a reggae song. I think the variety made it fun for everybody to listen to it.
At the time, a lot of American punk had become rather stale. The thrash movement brought out many bands that sounded exactly the same.
Yes, I know what you mean about bands trying to play faster than fast. Sometimes, it's good to play fast, but playing fast will not necessarily make the song more powerful. At the time, everyone was saying that the faster a song it, the more powerful it is. People were taken off guard when we put out War on 45. Some people liked it, but some people thought it was too weird. My record label just reissued that on vinyl for the first time in 29 years. It came out a couple months ago.
I have the original vinyl of that.
That's good. I am glad that you haven't hocked it.
Didn't you do a final tour in 1991?
We did that in 1990 and we did break up. That just involved a couple shows in Vancouver and then up and down the west coast. We broke up for a couple years and we got back together in '92 as a three piece. We toured steadily since then.
How many members have been in and out of the band?
Let's see, I don't really have a count. We've gone through five bassists, a couple of guitarists and a lot of drummers. Usually, it's been some of the best musicians in punk. People like Chuck Biscuits and Dimwit, some incredible drummers. I think we have been about 8 drummers.
Drummer is the one member that bands just can't seem to keep a hold of.
It's when you see drummers playing in four bands at once. We didn't have that problem. We keep them busy enough that they weren't out looking for four other shows. Most of the drummers I know these days are like that. To drum for D.O.A., you have to be an animal. They are hard to find and they are hard to control, too.Have you retired the Joey Shithead stage name?
To be honest, I call myself Joe Keithley, but I will be called Shithead until the day I die. I go by all three names: Joey Shithead Keithley.
When were you first called Shithead?
That came from our first band. We were called The Skulls. We were the second punk band in Vancouver. This was 1977. Dimwit, rest his soul, he yelled out, "Why don't you call yourself Shithead?" And I said, Ok. I was 18 or 19 years old. It just kind of stuck. My mother didn't like it, but a lot of people remembered the name.
This is the 35th anniversary of D.O.A. Does that sound surreal thinking of when you first started the band?
I could have never thought we would still be together, absolutely not. If somebody would have told be back in '77 that we would have lasted five years, I would have laughed. I never expected to last this long. The last album, We Come in Peace, was the 14th studio album. When you add in all the compilations, EPs, singles and live albums, it is quite a bit of music. We even have a new live album called Welcome to Chinatown. That's where we first started out playing. It's an area in Vancouver. All of the practice places and all the bars are there. Those were the only places that would let punks in.
You have run for office a couple of times, correct?
I run for the Canadian equivalent of Congress twice. I ran as a member of the Green Party. I have also ran for city council here, too. I was met with defeat each time. Recently, I have tried to get a nomination with a more mainstream party and I lost the nomination by five votes. I kind of put off starting this farewell tour because I was sure that I was going to win the nomination. You have to have confidence in your life. That is OK. I will try again in three years. In the meantime, I am still working at the [Sudden Death] label. I write songs. I may do some recording and we may play special events. In 2015 or '16, a friend of mine might finish a D.O.A. documentary and that would be a good time to play again.
Isn't December 21st officially D.O.A. day in Vancouver?
Yes, we had a mayor who turned out to be more hip that most mayors. His name was Larry Gamble. Some advisors told him about the city being known as no fun city. You couldn't do anything without police hassling you or giving you a ticket. Gamble's first act in office was meant to be something fun so he named December 21 as D.O.A. day. We got a large scroll with the city seal on it. It was this declaration that said we had started punk rock in Vancouver. It went on and on.
What did you do on D.O.A. day this past year?
For several years, we organized this big party. Some years, it's just a few beers. It depends on everyone's schedule. It's a bit awkward since it is so close to Christmas. The mayor doesn't throw us a parade every year. D.O.A. day is forever if you ask me.
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