DOA plays the Legendary Byng Roadhouse in Cranbrook on Tuesday

Punk legends DOA to rock Cranbrook

Joe Keithley shares his never-say-die spirit with the East Kootenay

Ferdy Belland

DOA (“Dead On Arrival”) are Canada’s leading punk-rock export to the world, having stayed true to their abrasive guns since 1978 under the  command of Burnaby’s Joe Keithley ( known by his  punk moniker of “Joey Sh**head”). DOA are credited with founding the Canadian branch of hardcore punk, alongside of other historic first-generation punk bands like Black Flag, the Germs, and the Dead Kennedys.

Keithley & Co. are making their grand return to the East Kootenay with a  live performance at the legendary Byng Roadhouse (along with local bands Elk Hunt and Bonecrusher & Friends, Tuesday Oct. 28.

“I don’t have any real regrets,” laughs Keithley in an interview. “I could have done a lot of other things in life, but this crazy music stuff has turned out just fine.”

Just fine indeed; having released 18 studio albums over the past 35 years, and clocking in over 2,000 live performances, DOA remain vital and prolific. And aside from DOA itself, Keithley has also delved into political spoken-word performances, solo albums, a critically-acclaimed autobiography (“I, Sh**head”), his own independent record label (Sudden Death Records), provincial politics, and generally spending much of his waking hours stirring the pot.

Keithley finds himself busier than ever at the moment. Another new DOA album is in the works (the band now features two Nelsonites: bassist Mike Hodsall and drummer Paddy Duddy now find themselves standing in the iconic footprints of Randy Rampage and Chuck Biscuits, respectively), and is scheduled for release in March 2015; then comes another gruelling world tour: Canada, the USA, Latin America, East Asia, and Western Europe.

At odds with Vancouver’s global legacy as one of the primary birthing grounds of the international punk-rock community is the ongoing gentrification of the West Coast. With far too many vital and beloved local venues bulldozed and unreplaced, it’s impossible for disenfranchised punk rockers to make themselves known and heard when there’s almost nowhere to play. Keithley was asked if the punks are adapting in “No Fun City.”

“It’s always the same story,” Keithley shrugs. “Punk rock bands usually play in dives, and after awhile the dives get knocked down. Bands will always find new places to play. I would say they have, in and around Vancouver. My new favorite Vancouver venue is the Rickshaw Theatre. We recorded our recent live album ‘Welcome to Chinatown’ there; a great atmosphere right in the middle of Canada’s worst urban neighborhood: Main and Hastings. The Biltmore Cabaret is cool, but it didn’t use to be…angry bikers used to beat up punk rockers there, back during the Smilin’ Buddha heyday.”

Keithley was asked whether he agreed with the modern musicological treatise that punk rock has become a modern-day folk music. “Absolutely,” he says. “Punk has taken up the flag of telling stories of the oppressed and regular folks, which is what folk music started as.”

Unlike many punk rockers who shout out anti-establishment epithets as shallow fashion, Keithley  walks the leftist walk; an active member of the Green Party since 1996, Keithley’s voter magnetism was almost on par with Adriane Carr in 2001. His political allegiance has since switched to the NDP, but the yearning for working-class empowerment remains strong.

“Yes, I am still politically motivated,” Keithley admits. “Clearly I’m thinking about working from the inside; hence, my recent bid to run in the last provincial election. One of my main points I’ve been trying to focus on lately is too get more people politically involved, to make their elected officials more responsive to the wishes of the people. Also, the big issue nowadays is petroleum energy; how do we move it around North America? By railway? By overland pipeline? So we have to be looking into speeding up the widespread use of alternate energy, such as wind, solar, geo-thermal, etc. I was just in Germany, and I have never seen so many windmills and solar panels in my life. Canadians have to start making progress in that area.”

Keithley still enjoys the road life, even into his fourth decade as a punk rocker, and has been transformed through his hundreds of thousands of kilometres on his musical adventure. “Yes, travelling can be terrific, when you see new places,” says Keithley. “And it can be a real snore…like airports. I’ve been on about 30 planes so far this year around the USA, China, Australia and Europe. I bring a soccer ball with me to keep in shape, so that helps. Canada is unique, but it’s too big, so now we always fly out to Toronto to play the Eastern half of the country.”

Keithley was asked if he had any sage advice (or cynical sneering) to pass along to any budding young punkers out there who wish to put their hearts to the fretboard and roar out their angst to the menacing world. “Try to be original,” he offers. “As soon as you try to copy what’s popular, it’s too late. And remember: talk minus action equals nothing.”

Hardcore punk legends DOA explode onstage at the legendary Byng Roadhouse in Downtown Cranbrook the night of Tuesday October 28th, with guests Elk Hunt and Bonecrusher & Friends. Showtime 9:00pm; advance tickets available at Lotus Books.

“Yes, I am still politically motivated,” Keithley admits. “Clearly I’m thinking about working from the inside; hence, my recent bid to run in the last provincial election. One of my main points I’ve been trying to focus on lately is too get more people politically involved, to make their elected officials more responsive to the wishes of the people. Also, the big issue nowadays is petroleum energy; how do we move it around North America? By railway? By overland pipeline? So we have to be looking into speeding up the widespread use of alternate energy, such as wind, solar, geo-thermal, etc. I was just in Germany, and I have never seen so many windmills and solar panels in my life. Canadians have to start making progress in that area.”

Keithley still enjoys the road life, even into his fourth decade as a punk rocker, and has been transformed through his hundreds of thousands of kilometres on his musical adventure. “Yes, travelling can be terrific, when you see new places,” says Keithley. “And it can be a real snore…like airports. I’ve been on about 30 planes so far this year around the USA, China, Australia and Europe. I bring a soccer ball with me to keep in shape, so that helps. Canada is unique, but it’s too big, so now we always fly out to Toronto to play the Eastern half of the country.”

Keithley was asked if he had any sage advice (or cynical sneering) to pass along to any budding young punkers out there who wish to put their hearts to the fretboard and roar out their angst to the menacing world. “Try to be original,” he offers. “As soon as you try to copy what’s popular, it’s too late. And remember: talk minus action equals nothing.”

Hardcore punk legends DOA explode onstage at the legendary Byng Roadhouse in Downtown Cranbrook the night of Tuesday, Oct. 28, with guests Elk Hunt and Bonecrusher & Friends. Showtime 9 pm; advance tickets available at Lotus Books.

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