Joe Keithley: Of politics, punk, and a very Canadian beaver

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      When the Straight reaches Joey "Shithead" Keithley, he's in the kitchen of his family's townhouse near Edmonds Station, cooking pumpkin seeds. It immediately raises the question of what a "DOA Halloween" might look like.

      "The kids are all grown up, right, but we still did a big pumpkin carving thing on Sunday night, so that was fun," he says. Every year, besides trips to Keithley's mother and father-in-law's place to shoot off fireworks, "we cook up the seeds. A little bit of salt, a little bit of olive oil, cook them for about 40 minutes and they're the tastiest, healthiest snack you ever tried!"

      Straight readers will have two opportunities to catch Keithley in action over the next while. First up is his acoustic set this Friday (October 30) in Coquitlam at Roo's Pub, which is part of his campaign for the Green Party. There will also be performances from Holly Arntzen, on piano and dulcimer, and Keithley's friend Greg Hathaway of Roots Roundup.

      "People up there know me, but this will give a chance for any Green Party members, irate counselors, or concerned members of the electorate to come down and find who this Joe Keithley character is, who is trying to become their MLA. We'll do some fundraising, that's why Adam [Olsen, Green Party interim leader] will be there, and I'll do, like, a two-minute speech, nothing too boring. Then there's a three act entertainment."

      Keithley's set will include a version of DOA's new "Pipeline Fever", as well as a recent re-working of DOA's play on CCR's "Willie and the Poor Boys". During Expo 86, the song skewered "Billy and the Socreds". Now, nearly 30 years later, it takes a poke at "Christy and the Liberals".

      "That was like shooting fish in a barrel, coming up with that one," Keithley says with what could be described as a guffaw. "It talks about LNG and taxes and [deleted] emails. That's when I take pleasure in writing songs, when the subject matter is so screwed up you can write it in ten minutes."

      For readers who prefer Keithley in electric mode, there will also be a full-on DOA concert at the Rickshaw on November 7, featuring the band's newest rhythm section, Paddy Duddy and Mike Hodsall ("we call him Mike Maggot"), both of BC/DC. Hard Rain Falling, DOA's newest album, shows the trio in fine form, with fast, mean hardcore songs (and one reggae cover).

      "I know that bands always say this, but we took a back-to-the-basics kind of approach. When I wrote the album, I just tried to think, what are the songs like on Hardcore 81 and Something Better Change, and for the most part, they're pretty short and pretty punchy, right? So we've kind of taken that approach, and live, we play faster, harder, and a little bit shorter, because people's attention spans are not what they once were."

      Album high points include "The Cops Shot a Kid", which, akin to the Dead Kennedys' "Riot", shows the self-destructive nature of community overreactions to police violence. The song was particularly inspired by the Michael Brown shooting and the violence that followed in Ferguson, Missouri.

      "At first people will think, 'Oh, it's an anti-cop song,' but no, it's not, because not all cops are bad. In Ferguson, I don't blame people for being mad or taking to the streets, but then there's sniper fire shooting at the crowd that could indiscriminately kill anyone. It's not that they shouldn't be furious at what happened, but violence only begets more violence, y'know? It's one of the reasons we're really lucky to live in Canada, that we have a really civil society, where stuff like that doesn't happen. It's happening far too often with our cousins to the south. It's painful, basically."

      "Punk Rock Hero", similarly, points out the folly of throwing beer bottles at cop cars, though once again, people might assume from the title it's coming from a different place.

      "If you don't know the song you go, 'Oh, he's singing about Joe Strummer or Joey Ramone' or something like that, but it's not like that. If you go to a show, you always have anywhere from five to 20 guys who think they have the right to do anything, because they've got sleeves of tattoos and a Mowhawk, or they're drunk out of their mind, or they're chaos punks. This is not a knock on how they look or their lifestyle, but how does having this attitude of not giving a fuck about anything entitle you to go and ruin everything for everybody else, and then think you're King Shit of the Scene, type thing? There's always been that element in punk rock from day one, there's always these guys who think they have a right, and then the people there who want to dig the message or the music, they end up, not always but some of the time, having the show completely fucked up by these idiots."

      Keithley laughs at me a little when I ask him if any particular episode inspired the song. "How about 37 years of being in a punk rock band?"

      If Keithley succeeds with his current political campaign, this time out, he's decided he won't be hanging up his guitar. No more DOA Farewells are planned for the immediate future.

      "We had a good talk about how to approach this, and the other guys were really supportive. They say, 'If you're elected, you can still play, why would you stop? So if I do get elected, knock on wood, the House sits in the fall and spring, so we could do festival stuff in the summertime. So why not? It's a fun thing to do, and the band has had a far bigger impact on people than I ever would have guessed when we started out. And people keep showing up. There are new generations of kids that like it, and I really enjoy playing, so..."

      A final question has to take in Triumph of the Ignoroids, DOA's first, 1978 EP, the original cover art of which features an upskirt image of the mother of the current Prime Minister of Canada, illustrating the song "Rich Bitch".

      "We used to dedicate that song mostly to Thatcher in the old days, or various people like Leona Helmsley. We didn't really target Justin's mother," Keithley explains. Margaret Trudeau's beaver's cameo on the cover "was Ken Lester's idea of how to make an outrageous cover. He certainly succeeded, for the times." 

      Apparently, Keithley continues, "halfway through the campaign, Nardwuar got down to the convention centre, and brought out a number of records, like fifteen of them, that had different things about Trudeau, but he did bring out the cover and showed it to Justin Trudeau as he was speaking on the stand. The funny thing is, you can tell that Justin Trudeau is not really paying attention, but he doesn't lose his smile, and he's sort of vamping on what Nardwuar is saying. It's kinda funny, whereas with Harper, Nardwuar would have been dragged away and thrown into the harbour. Y'know, let's give Justin a chance and see what he does." 

      DOA plays the Rickshaw November 7 with Gob, the Boids, and the Wett Stilettos 

      People who can't attend Friday's event can donate to Keithley's campaign here, with reward levels that include DOA CDs, hoodies, and a "Joe Keithley Meets Prime Minister Shithead" t-shirt (where the Shithead is actually Stephen Harper).