Joey “Shithead” Keithley

Interviews | By on Dec 7th, 2009

Canadian ambassadors of suburban punk rock, DOA, are still loud, still yelling, and still passionate at what inspires them. Punk rock is over 30 years old. Among the bands from the first generation of punk rock musicians that continue to play what they do best and perhaps even louder or energetic than ever is DOA. Rock star journalist Ray Manuud discusses punk rock, politics, beer, hockey, and other issues around the globe with DOA front man and founder Joey “Shithead” Keithley.

DOA’s second album, Hardcore 81, is credited for popularizing the genre’s namesake. How and why do you think that name caught on and became a label for what was already considered punk rock? Why such a need for another label?

DOA put on a festival in Vancouver in early 81 called Hardcore 81 with DOA, Black Flag and 7 Seconds. Right after that we released the album Hardcore 81 and then a subsequent North American tour under that same label, so that’s the basics of how the term got pushed into the common vernacular. But the difference between the hardcore punk of the West Coast and the most of the rest of the musical world, with probably the exception of Washington DC, was that the sound and the style as not rooted in either London or New York punk (which were the 2 most copied scenes in those days).

Basically bands like Black Flag, The Avengers, Dead Kennedys, DOA etc. had developed our own unique approach 1980-81ish.

We all know Ronald Reagan became the mascot for punk rock during the 80’s but ironically George W. Bush wasn’t quite used in the same intensity. Reagan and George W. were both highly criticized public figures but in regards to punk rock music, Reagan became sort of a poster boy for punk rock aggression and political satire as seen from countless album covers and song lyrics. Though George W did not get away from being a pop culture target during his administration, it seems the punk scene had much more fun with Reagan. Why do you think that is so? Sure the characters were different but some of the playing fields were still the same.

Yes. Good point. Both Presidents could have been very similar cannon fodder, so to speak, for anti authoritarian action. I believe the main difference is the generations of musicians and activists. My generation from the 80’s were a lot more strident than the kids of the 2000’s. Punk during the past decade has been more of a “style” (with some exceptions of course) whereas punk from the 80’s was a lot more about defiance and taking on the system.

Another key factor is that the 9/11 attacks were so different from the upheavals of 1965-74 and 1980 -88, the 9/11 scenario really threw activists for a loop.

How does your view or optimism on the world’s future differ now than it did during the 80’s?

I have always been an optimistic person. My philosophy is basically; be your own boss, think for yourself, try to affect some positive change in this world, sum it up as Talk – Action = 0. But to really answer your question, in the 80’s, I knew the world was a screwed up place. I just didn’t realize how screwed up it really was! In other words, its a lot more complex than I originally thought.

Seems like the first decade of this century left it wide open for some serious reflection especially within punk rock, once again opening an outlet for socially aware music in the same way that bands such as The Specials and The Clash voiced real concerns for issues of their time. Are enough artists releasing socially conscious music today?

There are a few for sure but the avenues for them to be heard are a lot more limited. Previously, a band like the Clash could crash in on the mainstream public. Now, the mainstream is lot more focused on pop divas, reality shows, 5 minutes of fame. Its kind of like we have gone back to the 50’s in a sense. A notable exception would Green Day’s American Idiot; that was cool.

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One of America’s biggest most talked about issues today is Healthcare. As a Canadian citizen who was born and raised within a publicly funded health care system, what are your thoughts on America’s current health care state and its slow progression towards health care reform?

Its pathetic but obviously the insurance companies and the “health” industry and their paid lackeys (usually referred to as The Republican Party) have no interest in something that might cut into their profits. Good luck with this America, come and join the rest of the civilized world.

Given the current resources and advancements in renewable energy technology, it seems that China has gained a foothold in the clean energy industry by recently becoming the world’s largest market for wind energy. How much more time do you think nations in the west such as the US would take before a renewable energy industry truly takes off or is taken advantage of?

Till oil really runs out! Hopefully it’s not too late for us at that point; it will definitely be decided by business in the western world.

So what do Canadians really think of its American neighbors?

I really enjoy traveling in the USA; I have spent about 5 years of my life there on DOA tours. Its like any country, some cool people and some not so cool people.

Canadians generally like Americans; I do find my lefty friends are a bit too quick to paint every American with the same brush that people that includes the likes of Rush Limbaugh, George Bush, etc.

Most memorable Hockey moment?

1972 summit series. Canada beats USSR on a last minute goal by Paul Henderson.

So what is Joey Shithead’s brew of choice?

If its handy, Newcastle Brown Ale or Sleeman’s Honey Brown.

Sudden Death Records initially functioned as the “do-it-yourself” outlet for releasing DOA’s music. Today, its a source for a variety of music and has a plethora of artists on its roster. What is exciting these days from the Sudden Death Records camp?

We just released a DOA comp. about hockey called “Kings of Punk Hockey and Beer.” There are some new tracks we recorded for that; it’s pretty entertaining. We are rehearsing for a new DOA album that will be out in May 2010, recording starts in January. I am working on a new online show, as yet untitled, but it will be on www.suddendeath.com in February and I have just written the music (11 songs) for a theatrical version of Hardcore Logo, which will start making the rounds in early 2011.

You once studied to become a civil rights lawyer. What social injustices inspired you to choose such a field and which ones made you passionate enough to fight?

I was very inspired by Greenpeace as a teenager and also inspired by William Knuntsler, a US civil rights lawyer. So, rights for people and protection of the environment. Those are still my basic concerns, as not a lot has improved in the last 30 years. You have to keep fighting.

Be sure to buy DOA’s newest album “Kings of Punk Hockey and Beer” here. Visit their Myspace page for all things DOA.

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