By Alan Brostoff
Singer, guitarist, political activist, record label owner, godfather of Canadian punk rock. This and a lot more can be used to describe Joey Keithley, mouthpiece and guitarist for the bans D.O.A. Keithley was also elected a city councillor in Burnaby, BC in the 2018 municipal elections as a member of the Burnaby Green Party.
With a brand-new album about to come out, Joey spent a little time talking with Goldmine about the band’s new record, the world right now and, of course, politics.
GOLDMINE: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about the new D.O.A. record, Treason.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Things can be a little nicer in the world, but you know what? They're not. So, you just have to deal with it right?
GM: The new album, eight songs in 19 minutes.
JK: Does that qualify as an album? So, when you look at Hardcore 81 which is one of our best-selling albums to date, side one is 11 minutes and side two is seven minutes, so we beat that by one minute, but you got 14 songs on that record. You know what? It was the funniest thing because I just had an idea probably a week before Christmas. The idea of let’s do a record. I mean, I was watching a lot of news about the potential impeachment trial and all that kind of stuff and hence we came up with this. We went in and rehearsed for a few days, played three shows in Hawaii, came back and recorded for a few days and there you have it.
GM: When you release an album that is very honest and to the point about one political party or another do you ever anticipate backlash or life being a little more difficult for the band?
JK: We get stuff. We are Canadians and we get people from America who send us stuff all the time saying, “Why don’t you mind your own business?” What they don’t seem to realize is that the world is a lot more intertwined. It’s not isolated like it was 150 years ago. I think it’s a fair comment, but backlash, yeah, we get it and it’s expected. It goes with the territory. Let’s be clear, were not just pushing the Democrats as being a bunch of saints or something like that. We picked Trump and then the four guys around him on the cover, it’s pretty obvious, they are all laughing like, “We got away with that one,” ha ha, what’s next? They are all gleeful, like “We fooled those idiots.” I can’t remember which politician said it but “You can fool some of the people all of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
GM: I don’t want to lose sight of some of the humor on this record, a lot of the songs take on politics and the world, but "It Was D.O.A." is one of the funniest songs I have listened to in a long time.
JK: Yea, I just kind of had this idea in my head. “D.O.A., D.O.A. my back still aches when I hear that name.” It was written kind of like an old reworked county-western song about a guy working in the fields, but when you join D.O.A. you kind of become an indentured servant, almost a form of slavery. This is the unfortunate story of how a drummer gets asked to join the band and thinks it’s going to be awesome and then he finds out the reality. It’s one of my favorites on this album also. When we started to record the demos and the different versions, we could hear the parts that were not right, or had the wrong approach. It’s punk rock but it has a tiny bit of county in it. Country music, in a lot of ways, has always been the best way to tell a story. Guys like Red Sovine and Johnny Cash or whatever, they told stories, and everybody got the story.
GM: You have a cover on the album from another Canadian: Neil Young. Covering "Hey Hey, My My." What made you decide to put that on the record.
JK: Yeah, we were talking about CCR songs and then our bass player Mike said “How about this one?” We tried it out and it had this real (feel). We wanted to make sure that it did not sound too much like either of Neil’s versions, the heavy one or the acoustic one. We took a real hard drive at it without trying to make it too fast and turning it into just a punk rock song. We did not want to make it a total manic, up-paced thing. It’s interesting because it’s this serious subject and it dovetailed perfectly because Neil Young is this great artist and then the song sings about Johnny Rotten. That is right up our alley type thing and everyone knows the words to this great song. We just thought that this was a driving type song that just worked for us. It was just a happy coincidence that it was written by a Canadian also.
GM: D.O.A. has/had a tour planned to come up. So, what has been the impact of the virus on the band:
JK: So we have about 25 shows planed right now until the end of August. Basically, I have talked to all the promoters and they are saying “You will have a show” but who knows. Right now, where we are in British Columbia, you can’t have a gathering of more than 25 people. I would want to have a gathering of two people right now. Self-isolation is the way to go to slow this down or at least flatten the curve. As these next few weeks go by, I will be contacting people and trying to reschedule for the fall and then hopefully it will be good to go in the fall, but I’m not so sure about that either. I think we could be without large gatherings for about a year. So, anyone who saw our last shows and had a good time, savor that because who knows when you will get to see another show. I watched the Price is Right today and The Rifleman yesterday, so I just getting time to relax since I’ve been in self-isolation for two weeks since our return from New York and Philly. Those all cancelled. We had been playing with the Dead Kennedys in Norfolk, Virginia and Washington D.C. When we were in Washington D.C., they said it’s the last show at the club and then it’s being closed. They had a big meeting with the staff to tell them how to prepare everything for dealing with the crowd. How to control the crowd, but don’t go in there wrestling. We played to about 1,000 people and then we went up to Harrisburg by ourselves and we were supposed to play the Philly show and we realized the flights back to Canada were getting harder to get, so we got one and said “Let’s get out of here now, before this goes completely out of control”. We bailed on the Philly show and the other two nights in Boston and New York had already been cancelled, so we got a flight up to Toronto and then one to Vancouver and we were back. The three of us have been in separate self-isolation since that time.
GM: So how is life as a politician going for you?
JK: It’s going well. I mean we are working on all sorts of positive stuff. We got our city to adhere to the IPCC Greenhouse gas reductions that the UN established. I chair the environmental committee in the city, and I was looking forward to implementing some changes and moving them forward on April 15 but all of our meetings have been cancelled except for council meetings that are going to be done by phone or video conference. We closed down everything except essentials. Before all of this I was having a really good time. I mean people may think its strange statement, but I actually find politics fun and constructive. I’m in for this term and then I will look to run again and see where it takes me from there.
GM: You currently in the middle of making a movie that documents your political run, correct?
JK: Yeah, the filmmaker Scott Crawford made two films so far, one called Salad Days, which was about the Washington DC punk movement and another one about Creem magazine called Boy Howdy, which is just about to get into distribution. He’s a really competent filmmaker. We have shot a bunch of stuff and like everything else we were going to start a crowdfunding campaign to get the doc started and now it’s on the backburner. Scott and I have not talked in a few days, but we will, and once people are done having to worry about having enough to eat, we will start that campaign. Right now, there are more important things to worry about. The movie will be good and we thought about it in different ways because some people said “Hey, make a documentary about D.O.A.,” seminal punk rock band from Canada type thing. I just thought, 15 years ago, yeah, but now there are so many docs out there. This one is more about the politics and the activism and less about the music. So, this will be the story we are telling once we get it shot and rolling. We thought we might have it ready for 2021 but now it might be 2022.
GM: What is the best way for people to spend some of their stimulus money on the new D.O.A. record, Treason? Should they be going on the Sudden Death Records website?
JK: That’s interesting because I just shipped all the CDs down to our distributer in San Francisco and now California is locked down. So, the best way to get it might be through our website. Suddendeath.com may be the only way to get it for a while. The vinyl is not ready yet. We just got the test pressing but the plant is in L.A. so who knows. The tour is delayed, the record is delayed but we are hoping to have it out in September so we can come down and play some shows in California and Texas. We want to end in Washington DC around November considering the new record and its title. It should have its maximum effect.