Seething, agitated and anarchistic, DOA continues to unleash tuneful and frenzied songs, proving they are far from retired. For more than 30 years, the band has unleashed rock and roll tethered to lumberjack toughness and 'green' environmental issues.
They balance flannel-shirt, beer-smeared, hockey-drenched jukebox drunkenness with punk savagery, aggressive politics and worldly wisdom deploring both corporate madness and lazy public attitudes. At the helm, singer/guitarist Joey "Shithead" Keithley has always stared down power by culling the hefty history of leftism. He's not Bruce Springsteen waxing sentimental about rivers and steel towns; instead, he exposes fault lines of religion, police brutality, and economic woes.
Rocks Off: On the latest live album, you offer up a lively rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas," but you do have longstanding ties to bands like the Dicks and Really Red. How do you recall the salad days of Texas punk? Shithead Keithley: Yes, "Deep in The Heart of Texas." I always remember a scene in a movie, Glenn Ford is in Japan, and he sings that! (laughs). We played with all those early Texas bands. They were great, from Really Red to the Dicks and DRI to the Big Boys. The shows were usually pretty good.
I remember Liberty Lunch in Austin, I think, as being a classic open air Texas club and Randy from the Big Boys called out this guy who had been handing out white-power bullshit pamphlets. A small riot ensued. Also, I remember being amazed that it could be 75 degrees at 7 a.m. That's just not possible in Canada!!! (laughs)
I know Pete Seeger has been an icon to you. Do you imagine punk as a kind of folk music -- music of the people? Early punk was the heir to folk music as was early hip hop. They all tried to say something about society and the "human condition," and yes, I love Pete Seeger. I can only hope to do a 1/4 of what he did.
Your choice of covers, from "War" and "The Midnight Special" to "Eve of Destruction" and "Fortunate Son," are legendary. Do any current popular songs speak that strongly to you? Those were all great songs that I grew up with, so they really spoke to me and many others, but sadly I haven't heard anything lately that has the same kind of impact on me. Maybe the last trend of music that resonated and spoke volumes at times (though much of it was wildly overrated) was Seattle's grunge scene of the early 1990s. ProTools and a lack of will have taken a lot of soul out of most music for the last 20 years.
If you had to sum up the punk political ethos epitomized by DOA, would it be lines from your record covers like "No God No Country No Lies," "Talk Minus Action = 0," or something else? Hmmm, nice comparison, never really lumped the two together. They both work for me.
Interview continues on the next page.
I know recently you supported the Occupy Wall Street movement and ran for local office (as well as in '96 and 2001) in favor of access to education and fairness in government, but what issues do you see lurking around the next bend? What I really liked about the Occupy Movement was the fact that a lot of people in the world did not realize how even more economically unbalanced things have become the last 30 years or so, and Occupy opened up that debate. It could not sustain itself as a movement, but it has done its job. It all boils down to the same thing, education = empowerment, and that bring all of fortunes up together, not just a few.
There will always be wealthy people, let's just level the playing field a bit.
One issue I will try to promote over the next number of years is cooperatives, where people have a chance at partial ownership of where they work. People work a lot harder when they have a stake in something, but let's stress, this is something that you would have to bust your ass for -- it will never be a gift -- but people can better themselves and their families with hard work and a little entrepreneurship.
You appear in American Hardcore and published your own biography, but do you feel Canadian punk in general gets short shrift in the media's coverage of punk history? Well, perhaps, but attention is always drawn to the biggest media centers, hence people always associate punk and its offspring to L.A., the East Coast (D.C., Boston, NYC), and London, which were all great scenes, but there sure was a lot of cool shit and a lot angst coming of the backwater towns, 'burbs, and small towns everywhere.
Did you really approach Willie Nelson and Neil Young about recording with you? Wow, no I never did, but I should -- they are two of my faves of all time.
DOA plays at Warehouse Live's Studio room Thursday with Donkey Punch and Talk Sick Brats. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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