- Start rocking harder than a motherfucker.
- Don't stop.
No one has played punk rock longer than D.O.A. Formed in Burnaby, British Columbia, in 1978, the band is still going strong and hasn't mellowed in the slightest. Their latest album, The Black Spot, is one of their hardest--and best--ever, featuring songs such as "Blind Men" (a rant about skinheads) and "Marijuana Motherfucker" (sample lyric: "I like marijuana, you like marijuana/We like marijuana too").
The D.O.A. convoy--singer/guitarist Joe Keithley, guitarist Ford Pier, bassist Brian Goble, and drummer Brien O'Brien-- rolled into Seattle on Wednesday night, when they opened for NoMeansNo at the all-ages Pioneer Square Theater. I spoke with D.O.A. frontman Keithley before the show about politics, touring the world, and what it means to be punk rock in the 90's.
ATN: You've been involved in social causes from A to Z throughout your career. I've heard lately that you're running for office. Is this true?
Keithley: Yeah with the Green Party.
ATN: For what position?
Keithley: For an MLA, which is the same as a state congressperson down here. It's a provincial position, stands for Member of the Legislative Assembly.
ATN: What are your issues?
Keithley: About three main ones. Basically, one, we're trying to get a freeze on any greenspace left in Burnaby. Having grown up there, I've seen it change so much, so what I'm trying to do is not get any more of the green stuff hacked down. Vancouver's growing the same way Seattle is. It's almost as big, and it's growing just as fast. Burnaby is one of the main transportation corridors in the Vancouver area, and we need trees to keep the air clean from the carbon monoxide and diesel from the trucks and all.
This ties in with my second issue, which is transportation. There's absolutely no transportation planning in greater Vancouver. They came up with a five-year plan, but we don't need a five-year plan--we need a fifty-year plan. It's really hard to predict fifty years ahead. A lot of things can change, but one thing that won't change is how much greenspace is disappearing, so rather than put more emphasis on the automobile and more highways, which is what's happening, we should be putting more emphasis on local transportation. Iim suggesting more bus routes, more rapid transit in the way of electric trains, and a system of minivans that would make a specialty of giving women and elderly people rides home to and from their door so people aren't in danger from hooligans or idiots.
Finally, everyone's future is going to depend on education. So I say no tuition fees for people--you go to school for free. The Premier got a big cheer because he froze tuition fees. We're saying "no tuition fees." Unless it's proven that you come from some astronomically rich family.
ATN: How would you compare Canadian politics with American? Do you think it's more progressive in Canada?
Keithley: Yeah, a little bit. It's not as knee-jerk. We don't have a guy like Rush Limbaugh or Pat Buchanan. We're known more as compromisers, whereas I think Americans are known for "How the West was won"--with a gun, right? Not that Canadians didn't do their fair share of screwing over native people who preceded them, but it wasn't quite the genocide and bloodshed as when the West was settled. Of course, people in Washington, DC, always think of Canada as a branch plant of the United States, which is one of the things I really hate. The last thing we should be trying to do in Canada is trying to become more like Americans. We should not have proliferation of guns; we should try to protect our health-care system and our education system.
ATN: What do you say to critics who say that music and politics don't mix?
Keithley: Music is an artistic endeavor. Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, was a playwright. That's interesting that people there, coming from a history of 47 years of being totally oppressed under the Soviet system, it's a real expression of freedom that they would pick somebody from an artistic endeavor to have enough vision to lead them. I guess if an actor can be president of the United States, then a musician can be a cultural politician.
ATN: Letis switch gears and talk a little more about music. What do you think of the so-called punk revival?
Keithley: I think it's funny--in one sense, it obviously involves a whole lot of commercialism, same way as hippie music and the alternative culture of the late sixties and early seventies got completely capitalized. The end result of that musical revolution was a lot of people selling a lot of bell bottoms and belt buckles with peace signs on them. This one is an awful lot of--well, I wish I'd gotten into the hair-dye business. A lot of money there.
Then again, that's focusing on the negative. A lot of it is complete style over substance. On the positive side, though, the good things about punk rock that never died, that you can't take away no matter how much you try to sell them and co-opt them is that spirit of rebellion and the do- it-yourself thing. Those were the two key things that made it worthwhile in the first place. Obviously a big side of it when it first started was the nihilistic side, Sid Vicious being the king of that. Hey, the Sex Pistols are on a comeback, right?
ATN: Um, sure.
Keithley: I'll go see it--I think it would be funny as hell, right? Never Mind the Bollocks is one of the five greatest albums ever made, I think. I couldn't name the other four, but I'll just throw it out as an arbitrary figure.
So I think it's okay. You can go play more places. But then again--there was this Green Party benefit we were playing up in suburban Vancouver, and these people were kind of dressed like punk rockers, and we were playing "Fuck You," which is a well-known song for us. They just sort of walked by and nodded their heads and walked out, but didn't stay to listen. So Ford hopped off the stage and went to the glass door and was singing "fuck you" after them as they left.
ATN: How do you like being on tour?
Keithley: I think it's pretty fun. That's one of the reasons I do it. You have to enjoy doing it, because it would be insane if you didn't.
ATN: I've talked to a lot of people who hate it.
Keithley: I suppose a musician always has an idea--well for one thing, they have to get enough money to eat, they have to survive, and if you donit know anything else, you go play your guitar or whatever. And people always hold onto the possibility that maybe things will start getting better. We're kind of cruising along on an even keel. We'll see how we do with this new record.
ATN: I know there was a lot going on during the making of that record--
Keithley: Yeah, well, it was really weird because Ken Jensen [D.O.A.is drummer] died in a fire, and it was so totally fucked because he was the nicest of young guys. He was full of enthusiasm and his drumming was getting better all the time. And I've worked with a lot of musicians who had good sides but also had dislikable angles, and Ken didn't have that. He was--mellow's not the right word, but easygoing. So we kind of recovered from that and finally came out with this record.
ATN: How do you think this record measures up to the rest of your catalog?
Keithley: Pretty good. I think that in the last ten years the best records we've made are this one... 13 Flavors of Doom was pretty good; True North was a decent record. We made some really medium albums too. I guess that's the thing about D.O.A., usually we've got a good reputation live, but we've been a bit spotty with records.
ATN: What are some of your favorites on the new album?
Keithley: I like 'em all, go buy it, it's available at-- well, I really like "Paying For Your Body." Ken had written this song. Jensen wrote a couple songs, and they were too weird, sort of not for D.O.A. I guess he got sort of pissed off because Brian and I made fun of him. So then he came up and says, "Listen to this, you guys gotta like this," and he played it and I said yep, it sounds about like three old D.O.A. songs rolled in together from the early 80's, but I can't figure out which ones. Then Ford came up with the lyrics, so I really like that one--that's a nice tribute to Ken.
ATN: What's ahead for D.O.A.? Is there an end in sight?
Keithley: No, I think we'll go for quite a while. People probably have a hard time believe that, since we've been going for 18 years, I guess. We'll just play it by ear. We're doing a lot of touring this year, and we'll probably get on with another record early on next year. I guess weill just play it until either we hate it or people donit care anymore. Thatis all you can do, I think.