June 23 2010 12:00 AM

Pioneering punk band D.O.A. is still at work, 32 years after forming


While many of his peers in the original ‘80s hardcore punk scene have hung it up, moved on or since reunited, Joe “Shithead” Keithley, front man and founder of Vancouver’s D.O.A., has continued to write, record and crisscross the globe to spread the gospel of “be your own boss, think for yourself and try to affect some positive change in the world.”

The title of your new record, “Talk – Action = 0,” is a longstanding mantra for the band. What made you decide to name an album that at this point in your career?

It’s the D.O.A. slogan. It’s not necessarily a call to arms, so to speak, but a philosophical call to arms for people to get up and think and take action. We had used it on a (out-of-print) live album 20 years ago, but I just thought it was the right time for that slogan for a D.O.A. album.

Tell me about the first single, “I Live in a Car.”

I read this article about this whole family living in a Suburban in Los Angeles, and it was just like, this has gone way too fucking far. When you’re young, sure, I’ve lived in a car, I’ve lived in a van, I’ve slept in a park and gotten chased away by cops, but when you’re whole world is inside one old vehicle and you can’t even really get enough money for gas to get from point A to point B, things are seriously fucked up.

You’ve made more than 20 records. What sets this album apart for you?

This one I think is a bit more back to the early days, a bit dirtier and a bit more of a punk rock album. I think it’s good and sharp, and we’re really happy with the way it came out. And I got to write about some of my heroes; there’s a song about the “Star Trek” crew, about them saving people and doing things and not collecting dough for it. They’re just TV characters, but these guys had the right idea of why you’re on this Earth.

In 2008 you celebrated the 30th anniversary of the band by recording an album with uber producer Bob Rock. How did that come about, and did you ever think D.O.A. would last this long?

To be around 30 years, that’s a total surprise. I wouldn’t have thought we’d have lasted five years. Bob worked on our first couple of singles. He was a young engineer at a studio here in Vancouver. It was a f a m o u s studio, but we would go in at midnight, Courtesy Photo when the time was really cheap. I approached him about doing the record (in 2008).

What’s your take on recent nostalgia for ‘80s hardcore punk?

That was a really great era of music. It was like, “We’ve got a bunch of really energetic and angry music. Let’s just go to a studio, play as hard as we can and put it out.” Sometimes the bands were really rehearsed and sometimes they weren’t, but in either case you could get great records. It was loosey goosey. To find other bands, we would go down to the record store and write down addresses from magazines to find gigs, and we would send letters to people, like, “Can we come play in your town?” I don’t think kids today realize that. Communication was not there, even though it was the modern world.

I would imagine that weeded a lot of people out.

In those days, to record in a studio, the minimum was $500 a day, and that was a lot of fucking money, so when you did it, you had to go back it up by playing live shows. Now people can record an album and put it on MySpace. I don’t think you go through the proof of the pudding, because the way bands gets really good is to play tons of shows for people. Before D.O.A. did our first album, we had probably done 200 shows and rehearsed like 1,600 times.

I first encountered D.O.A. by watching Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers wear your t-shirt in the “Under the Bridge” video. Is there a story behind that?

We were in Los Angeles in ’89 or ’90, and we had a couple of days off. We had met the guys from the Chili Peppers. Our drummer and bassist at the time went golfing with (RCHP bassist) Flea and Anthony, and they ended up giving him a t-shirt. A lot of people ask, “How’d those guys get your shirt?” It’s a total tip-off if you can get a big band like that do that; it’s always going to help.


Shotbaker, Against the Grain, Taozins, Chugger 7 p.m. Thursday, June 24
Mac’s Bar 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing $10/$12 (517) 484-6795 www.macsbar.com