AN INTERVIEW WITH JOEY “SHITHEAD” KEITHLEY OF D.O.A.
SPILL MAGAZINE: You’ve been friends with Dayglo since 1979 and from what I can see, this is the first tour you’ve done together.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Yeah, we played with them probably ten times throughout the years. Maybe 12 or 13. We just played with them recently at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas, this past May. That’s what made us think this could work. They had a really good reaction, a lot of people wanted to see them. We have toured a fair bit off and on in different places, but I think this will be unique because it’s the two bands together.
SPILL MAGAZINE: Why do you think that never happened before? You guys have known each other for so long.
JOEY KEITHLEY: We just never bothered, never really thought about it. (laughs) Everybody’s got their own schedule, it’s really hard to work out the timing on these things sometimes. We used to tour a lot with No Means No for a long time, from 86 to about 98, but we had the same manager so that set it up perfectly. He was picking up the schedule for the year and going this would be a good package, to put these two bands together, but Dayglo’s always been on a different label or we’ve never had the same manager. That kind of thing.
So when we played with them at Punk Rock Bowling in May, I asked Murray, “hey we should tour together.” This is what’s come of that.
SPILL MAGAZINE: You must be pretty excited about it.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Of course. We’ve been playing everywhere. We’ve been playing Europe, we did a west coast tour of the states, we were out at Amnesia festival in Montebello. We’re back down to the states, two more trips, one in October, one in November. I’m excited about every trip, but I just take it one at a time. (laughs) But it should be good.
SPILL MAGAZINE: Why did you guys decide to call the tour Punk Rock Armageddon?
JOEY KEITHLEY: If you look at the way the world’s going, we’re going to hell in a handcart, so to speak. If you think about the political figures like Donald Trump, if you think about ISIS, we’re in a really tumultuous time right now. It’s probably the worst time period we’ve been in since the Second World War. That’s one of the things with punk rock, Dayglo’s in their way and D.O.A. in their own way have been talking about how messed up the world is and can be. Unfortunately, it looks like right now we’re going towards being a more screwed up world than it had been previously.
SPILL MAGAZINE: Yeah, I’m really just in shock that he’s even made it this far.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Calculating the individual, he’s very smart. Sometimes he doesn’t appear to be, but I think he’s actually really smart. So he’s thought this through and he’s taking a xenophobic attitude towards off law people. You have a lot of people who don’t have what they used to and they’re buying this, thinking “yeah, let’s build a wall, let’s stop these people, let’s do this. We’ll make America great the way it was again.” Well, I’ve got news for them. America was never great. There was always disadvantage. I mean it’s a great country in a lot of ways, but there’s always advantage and discrimination, so that really hasn’t changed. Donald Trump is just managing to exploit that and I dare say in a brilliant way, to this point. Sadly, but he’s doing it, and people are eating it up.
SPILL MAGAZINE: I find it pretty interesting too, like you say, he’s quite brilliant. But the comparison has been made that Hitler was a very brilliant man, but brilliance can turn to really horrible things if it’s let into power.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Yeah, I totally agree. If it gets out of hand… I couldn’t see it going that far in the United States, there’s just too many constitutional connections, but having said that, things could get really ugly before they get better.
SPILL MAGAZINE: You guys recently re did Fucked Up Ronnie as Fucked Up Donald. I personally have never seen anything like it, could you compare the way he’s acting to anything else? How would you describe your feelings towards Trump and what he stands for?
JOEY KEITHLEY: I haven’t really seen an example like that. Ronald Reagan was not a great president, he’s portrayed as being a great president, but he was anti-labour, anti-woman, against the environment, he didn’t give a damn about that. Now, compared to Donald Trump… I would also say, not just Donald Trump, but the current crop of most prominent republicans… Ronald Reagan would be too mild to get the nomination now. People would go “I’m not voting for that guy, he’s too much like Hilary Clinton.” He’s not. I wouldn’t compare Hilary Clinton to him, but you can see where right wing people would say that and they would exploit that. Ronald Reagan, who from my political perspective and my friends’ political perspectives, was not seen to be a great president. He was a terrible president in lots of ways, but he appears to be far too mild now for republicans. So Donald Trump has taken the really bad qualities of the republican party and run it to the nth degree.
To answer your question really shortly, no, I haven’t seen anything like that. But it’s a different age, we’re moving into an extreme age of information that didn’t exist 20 years ago and was just barely starting to roll maybe 15, 18 years ago. Now it appears to be in full flight and Donald Trump, being quite wealthy, he’s hired enough people to help him exploit that through twitter, through social media and expand a long way.
SPILL MAGAZINE: In the last almost 40 years of your career, the punk scene has evolved immensely. What are some of the biggest changes that you’ve noticed?
JOEY KEITHLEY: (laughs) I’m not quite sure where to start. There’s a few obvious things. For one, there’s so many sub genres of punk, where when I started out the sub genres were [that] you were a punk band or you were a new wave band. Sometimes we were playing with reggae bands too, so the bills were quite a bit different and more varied. Having said that, I think the sub genres have split punk into so many ways that it’s not the unifying force that it once was. I think it’s fair to say that.
It’s not political the way it used to be, although I would very quickly add to that and say that there are certain sections that are really political and have their head screwed on straight. You still have that smaller edge of punk rock that still is political, still gives a shit, and still talks about stuff that matters. But there’s a much bigger wedge of it, and this has a lot to do with the popular age of punk, that is taking off. So now you have bands that look like punk bands, sound like punk bands, but they say absolutely nothing. Hence, to me, they’re not really punk rock bands.
It’s not a matter of how loud you are or what kind of haircut you have, if you don’t have anything to say about society. You don’t have to be as political as Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, D.O.A., or Propagandhi, or whatever. I think it would be boring if everybody was really political. You have to have some variation, but a lot of the sub genres [are] really just for entertainment. That’s bound to happen to any form of music. Punk has been around for 40 years, so of course it’s going to vary out and a lot of it is just going to be for entertainment and not really mean a lot, but that’s not really my form of punk rock.
SPILL MAGAZINE: That happens with everything, like you said. Like the Beatles, they had something to say and now pop music is Lady Gaga, etc.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Yeah! The Beatles were pioneers in a way, so were the Who, they took on the mainstream society and after a while they became… the Beatles not as much because they broke up, but the Stones and the Who became a bi-product of the mainstream. They’re selling Toyota trucks and TV’s. Now bands are embroiled in selling stuff for Verizon and Virgin Mobile. Music in a lot of ways, especially with these big festivals, is a way to sell these products to kids between 15 and 30.
SPILL MAGAZINE: You’ve said a few times that Green Day could really send out a message to kids, even if not staunchly political, to point them in the right direction. Do you think if more people gave a shit about putting that message out there, it’d stick in more young people’s heads?
JOEY KEITHLEY: I think if you think of Green Day, I’m not sure what they’ve done lately, but when you think of the album American Idiot, that was in the era of George Bush being president. I think that was a pretty strong statement, that made people aware of what was going on there. I think they really haven’t done a lot that has been political since that, but I think it’s good for really popular bands like that to take on those kinds of things.
The big thing [is] that you have to have younger bands that kids listen to, that they’ll get inspired by, the bands that are really popular, that are filling arenas, taking a political stance. It would motivate kids to emulate that and go out and try to change society, which is what a lot of people in punk, or the alternative community, did in the 80’s. I don’t think there’s enough of that going on. If you think about it, kids are not really inspired by people like myself or Jello Biafra. They might get into it because they look at the history and some younger people are totally hip to what’s going on with that and why the politics count, but it obviously doesn’t have a mass appeal. D.O.A is going around playing for 500 people, that’s way different than the band that’s filling a hockey arena. That has a lot of influence.
There’s only been a few periods where music was really political and really effective. One of them was the punk rock movement in the 80’s, rock music in the 80’s, and the counter culture of the late 60’s. The so called hippy-rock, or alternative thing. There’s only been a few times where bands have really made a difference in that sense and have been more than just entertainment.
SPILL MAGAZINE: D.O.A. of course has always been one of those staunchly political bands, and really, the one that inspired getting straight to that point with punk rock. Can you think of any bands today that stick out to you who could be a today’s D.O.A. purse?
JOEY KEITHLEY: That are currently going, no, not really. That’s not to say they’re not there, [it’s] just maybe my ignorance to the current bands, that might be more to do with it. Or they’re not there. I’m not aware of it, but I hope there is, or I hope there will be.
SPILL MAGAZINE: Yeah, that’d be nice to see.
JOEY KEITHLEY: It sure would be. We need it. We’re in a crappy time. We have a new Prime Minister, who appears to be fairly hopeful, but that’s not really proven yet if you ask me. We’ll see what it gets to. He’s got a free pass so far, so let’s give him a chance and see what he does. Hopefully it’s good, but the rest of the world is not doing so well.
SPILL MAGAZINE: There is always some sort of political or media bullshit happening, which is a huge part of punk and well, just music in general. What would you say some of the most influential or even just plain offensive things that you’ve witnessed in your life and decided to make music about are?
JOEY KEITHLEY: Well we’re still talking about the same things we were 30 years ago, which is greed, racism, sexism, and war-mongers. I put those down as the basic four, the core four are still there, so to speak. People want to exploit other people. If you think back to the 60’s and 70’s, people were thinking “we’re making a new world and a new way.” Well, unfortunately more rights came along, in some senses we’re a bit more liberated, we’ve taken a very important step with gay rights, that was a really important thing that started happening, but that’s one of the reasons I’m involved with the Green Party.
If you think of the root cause of what’s really going to make the last part of the century really tough, it’s the climate change. It’s got a lot to do with where our economic system is going to be, having to help people with violent unexpected weather that we haven’t witnessed before, lack of water for crop and food production. Shortage of food is always a prescription for war, so if we don’t get a handle on climate change, enough people through our currently fairly mild political system, we will end up with more authoritarian regimes that are war reminiscent.
SPILL MAGAZINE: You sat down and talked with Jihan Ghomeshi on QTV. What’s your take on everything that happened with him?
JOEY KEITHLEY: The criminal charges that got thrown out, I thought was really unfortunate. I’m not a judge, so I can’t really comment, and I didn’t hear all of the details, but it sure sounded to me like he was guilty. Obviously the guy was really smart and he thought he knew more than everybody else and obviously was really, as has been proven with these women’s testimonies and what’s been said about him, a very self-centered idiot.
SPILL MAGAZINE: What are some other bands that you’d recommend that most of our readers may not know about yet?
JOEY KEITHLEY: There’s one pretty cool one down in Texas called EFE, they’re kind of like a Mexican-American Motorhead. They’re in Houston, I really like those guys.
SPILL MAGAZINE: I know this is a vague question, but in a nutshell, how would you describe all of your years in the punk scene?
JOEY KEITHLEY: Put it this way, I got into this because I love loud, fast music. When I heard the Ramones, the Damned, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash, I thought rock music has been revitalized. I thought “this is great, I want to do something like this.” So I started doing it and I also realized that it’s a great avenue to say what I thought about the world. Like we’ve been talking about off and on for the past half hour, the political side of D.O.A. and political side of myself. D.O.A. is a perfect soap box for me to get up and say what I’ve gotta say.
Another thing that’s really fun about playing, I think this is really the reason why I still do it, when things are going well and you get the right circumstances, when you start getting people really excited and riled up, the mutual feeling between the band and the audience is a great feeling. When they’re getting fucking excited and it feels like they just want to go nuts, tear things apart, or go change the world, or whatever they might feel like at that moment, that’s the reason why I still do this. There’s no substitute for exciting rock music if you ask me. We go at it every night, we want to get these people worked up into a frenzy, excited. That’s the excitement I felt for rock music when I was 15, 16.
SPILL MAGAZINE: I’ve noticed that with punk too, there’s nothing really like it. I find a lot of people look at mosh pits and think they’re going to get punched in the face and that didn’t really start until hardcore I guess. But you get so excited, you have so much energy, that you just want to throw yourself.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Yeah. It’s a mutual feeling. Your friends are having fun around you, or even strangers, everybody is getting the vibe of what the band is doing, or what they’re saying and it’s manic. I agree, the whole violent mosh pit is a total drag. If people fall down, they’re having fun, the best thing you can see is when somebody else reaches down to help them up.
SPILL MAGAZINE: That’s the best feeling, you fall down and you’re terrified at first, you’ve got all these people running around you, but people will make a circle around you and there’s four or five sets of hands there to help you up.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Yeah, and when you think about punk rock shows, it looks really violent to the outsider, but in the end a lot less people will get hurt at these shows than they would with a lot of other types of music.
SPILL MAGAZINE: It’s interesting, because it’s said to be so violent, but you see kids dropping like flies at EDM festivals. You don’t see that happening with punk. Maybe there’s a fight because there’s two drunk guys, but that happens in the streets.
JOEY KEITHLEY: Of course, that’s going to happen anywhere. The funniest thing as far as mosh pits and people going nuts, we were in Japan about 12 years ago and one of the opening bands was playing, a couple guys got into it and smashed into each other. All of the sudden they started fighting and the band stopped playing, everybody’s eyes turned around and stared at them and they both went outside, and they were still both mad, but they bowed at each other and came inside. We were like “did we actually just see that?” (laughs) The band stopped and apologized to each other and the concert carried on. It was pretty unique. You don’t see that over here obviously.