Punk politics 

Hardcore punk from D.O.A. aims to disturb and engage

P>By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: D.O.A.

Where: The Boot Pub

When: Sunday, Nov. 20

Legendary punk king and D.O.A. member Joey "Shithead" Keithley says punk doesn’t require political vibrato, but instead a will to change the world for the better.

"It’s about your attitude," he said. "So attitude is wrapped up in the politics. It’s not a requirement to have to go out and get in demonstrations and cause trouble. It’s an attitude about wanting to change society for the better and sometimes be vocal about it."

On Keithley’s change list, among globalization, environmental causes, anti-racism, First Nation rights and anti-censorship issues, he might add preserving the Boot Pub to the list.

When told D.O.A.’s show Sunday, Nov. 20 at the Boot Pub might be the band’s last one – shows are only guaranteed as far as next year before development plans move further ahead – Keithley was disappointed.

"It would be a real tragedy because it is a great place to play," he said. "It will be really missed, but that is the price you pay for the Olympics. Whistler will become even more commercialized, if it can become even more than it already is. I really hope it doesn’t happen. There is a great bunch of people working there. It’s got great sound. It always keeps us coming back because they have wild and crazy shows there."

D.O.A. has almost three decades of music under their strings, but not much has changed: passion continues to be the driving factor behind their albums and shows, championing global causes is still on the agenda and wearing their politics on their sleeves is about as much attention as their wardrobe gets.

"When I started writing songs in my early 20s, I knew the world was a screwed up place, but I didn’t know how screwed up it was," Keithley said. "My motivation hasn’t changed. I still get ideas from talking to people, watching the news or reading newspapers or surfing the net. We are known as having a strong political message, but we are also know as being funny too."

Keithley’s first comedic poke at society manifested in the height of Saturday Night Fever and roller skates of the late 1970s. The track Disco Sucks became an underground hit across North America, putting D.O.A. on the music scene radar with no record label in sight. However, 27 years later the album opened the door to international acclaim, riots and three generations of fans. The punk rock icons have also influenced bands ranging from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day to Rancid and The Offspring.

Whether commenting on politics through lyrics or playing benefits for causes such as Rape Relief, Rock-For Brains and OXFAM, Keithley said politics have always been a part of his life. Music became the weapon of change after Keithley, a student with aspirations to become an activist lawyer, went out and bought a guitar on his first day at university.

Keithley also wrote a book entitled, I Shithead, A Life in Punk and ran three times for the Green Party in provincial politics.

"I found while people will vote for shithead, they won’t necessarily vote for Joe Shithead," he said.

And while Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell’s first course of action as mayor was to declare Dec. 21 D.O.A. Day in Vancouver, Keithley said he still doesn’t have the keys to the city.

But 27 years after starting as an underground band, D.O.A. is embraced by every demographic.

"Because of our progressive ideas, we are always able to go out and get new fans," he said. "From 15 years old to 50 and up: a real mix of people come to see the band, which is a testament to our records and track record and the kind of fun we put into people’s lives."

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