I want to talk about a hardcore album. No, not Hardcore 81 which kicked off the whole spit in your eye, kick you in the ass music genre, instead I want to talk about the newest D.O.A. album called Treason and strip it naked like an exotic dancer hard up for cash.
This is the protest album for 2020. For those of you too afraid to question authority or speak out, this is what anti fascism sounds like.
Songs like “All the Presidents Men” and “Fucked up Donald” get straight to the point with a gut punch, where tracks like “Wait for Tomorrow” highlight not just the migrant struggle but asks the broader question, is it possible for America to ever regain a sense of its pre-Trump identity? Again this is a protest album through and through.
The group is known for political song writing as well as slipping humour into their albums. The song “It was D.O.A.” scratches the humour itch while the rest of the album shocks the apathy out of you with an unrepentant slap to the face.
The D.O.A. timing and delivery remains not just fully intact but forged stronger by the worlds current tribulations. This album is by far D.O.A.’s best work and its relevance makes its direction and message as critical as it is topical.
The album begins with a sample of disgraced Mayor Rudy Giuliani weaving a web of confusion around the truth with one of his bizarre quotes while talking to media. The song then breaks its own neck by the speed it takes off with the aid of a scream that bests the intro from Slayer’s “Angel of Death” in my humble opinion. Leave it to the punks to out do the metal heads.
With the eight songs comes imagery of the good crushing the corrupt in the most primitive and forceful way possible. A punk rock victory march for the truth seekers. Those who don’t swallow everything they’re fed.
This strange attitude still exists and is personified in its full brilliance through the raw energy present in the new album.
I was recently introduced to Joe Keithley via email and set up a time to talk on the phone. He was kind enough to oblige and answer my questions.
The counter culture or the music, what is more important to the punk?
Punk rock music draws people in. It’s the groove, the feel, the beat, the seismic upheaval or what ever the music does to you. But you may also be intrigued by the counter culture because it represents something different to everyone. They’re probably on par. Put em 50/50.
You and your band helped found the hardcore genre. Do you feel like you have gotten the proper acknowledgement for that undertaking?
Yea I think people know. I think people will acknowledge that it was D.O.A. that put that term “hardcore” into the popular vernacular.
Footage of your band was used to study while making the film adaptation for the book Hardcore Logo. You are also used in a cameo as well as credited on the soundtrack, yet it has never been acknowledged that Hardcore Logo was based on D.O.A. Is there any truth to the rumour that the main character Joe Dick was based on you?
I think if you read the book the first quarter was representative of D.O.A. because it talks about an acoustic show that we did with the Hard Rock Minors and Michael Turner (Author of Hardcore Logo) was in that band.
One thing I really want to point out is I’m a lot smarter than Joe Dick and a Hell of a better musician.
People used to think your band was from California because you played there so much, was geography the only reason you weren’t making New York the bands second home?
Distance right, when we first put out Disco Sucks in 78, I just started mailing it around to people like, “hey we’re a punk rock band from Canada here’s our single.”
Then we got a chart back from a university station in San Francisco that said Disco Sucks was their number one song. We were young and we got pretty excited so we booked some shows and found our way down there. It was so fun and we got such a great reaction that we ended up going down six times a year.
Black flag would call us up and say “hey were doing a show in a couple weeks can you make it?”
Eventually it became a home away from home, but I will state that I love New York too, great place.
The first single you ever bought was the Hawaii 5-0 theme song, what was the latest album that you bought?
I’m not much of a record buyer.
Probably the last record I bought was a used “The Harder They Come” soundtrack that has all reggae songs on it. I went to Jamaica as a kid and always loved that music and loved that record. I saw it in the store and having only a worn out cassette at home, I bought an LP version.
What drew you to being a front man?
It was really kind of an accident. We had our first rock n roll show in a little logging town in B.C. We were called Stone Crazy and were fired the first show. We also had our asses kicked out of town.
We stopped on the drive out and Dimwit said “maybe we should start a punk band” which we were starting to get into at the time with bands like Iggy Pop and the first Ramones album, this was around early 77. Dimwit said we should start a band called Joey Shithead and the Marching Morons. He looked at me and we both said I’ll be the singer, I’ll be Joey Shithead.
I’m originally from Edmonton, what is your favourite venue to play in the city of champions?
We used to have fun playing the New City Liquid Lounge. It was right downtown. We had a Hell of a time there, it was great.
What sticks out the most about Edmonton was first meeting SNFU. They were probably all about seventeen or eighteen years old. I think it was at a place called the Sportsman’s Hall or something like that on the north side. I think it was a community hall. Who ever organized the show rented it, hired SNFU, hired us, it was great. We came back the next year and did it again.
A punk rock historian named Steven Blush said the term “hardcore” refers to “the sense of being fed up” while it has also been described as “turning inwards and ignoring broader society,” which do you think is more correct?
Neither. To me hardcore was like this, punk rocks been around a couple years and we’ve seen the English scene and their sound, we’ve seen New York and their style, so we thought it was a west coast sound. A lot less style. If you look at old pictures of D.O.A. or Black Flag we looked the opposite of those guys. Less studs on the jackets and our hair wasn’t sticking straight up, instead we were in tee shirts and jeans.
In general we thought hardcore was a straight forward, uncompromising, take no bullshit type of attitude.
What did Neil Young say about you covering Hey Hey My My on an album called Treason?
(Laughter) I don’t know if he’s heard it yet. I hope he likes it. We’re big fans of his and we’ve never covered one of his songs. We were looking for a cover to do as we like to do one cover an album when Mike suggested it. We worked out a version pretty quick.
You started sudden death records in 1978. How does COVID-19 rank in the labels biggest obstacles?
Not the biggest. There are a lot of challenges with COVID-19 like the record shops are closed and stock is stuck in warehouses but the biggest challenge was converting from physical product to digital. That was a hard one, especially on small record companies that didn’t have deep pockets.
What is the most outrageous fan or hate mail that you’ve received?
We did one album called “Festival of Atheists” and inside the CD cover was instructions on how to hold your own festival of atheists. So the guy working for the label at the time decided to send it out to a bunch of religious groups in the United States.
We started getting phone calls that we are gonna burn in Hell and one guy even emailed us the entire bible.
When you were in the Skulls you once had to perform drunk wearing one boot for three days straight for a biker gang, was that your most challenging performance?
We were nervous on that one. Those guys were huge and we were like eighteen. They joked around and tried to scare us. My boot fell apart and to avoid getting electrocuted because the PA wasn’t grounded, I had to balance on one foot. By the end the bikers were square with us.
You introduced your children to music with guitar at first and then with trumpet and piano. How important is it for a developing mind to learn an instrument?
It’s really a key aspect to why I started the Harmony for All program as a City Councillor in Burnaby. I though it was important to get more kids playing music. It develops a lot of your skills and you learn to use your mind in a new way.
It’s also really hard when you start and that teaches you discipline which can really help kids.
We also have a real diverse community with many languages, music helps kids who don’t speak the same language bond. Every culture speaks the language of music.
This is such a divisive time, but everyone loves music and that can unify us.
Unification is what our world needs right now and music can help glue our fractured ties.
For real change to occur we need to rally under a real message and to keep our sanity we need an outlet for all the angst and frustration.
The timing of the new album Treason puts wind in the sail of democracy. The American election needs a soundtrack and this is it. But this album is more important than that. It applies to every nation around the world. One rebellious message. One unifying fist to smash through the barrier between us and them. One voice to speak up on behalf of the little guy. This is the reminder that we are all equal, all one and all pissed off at the way things are going.
Talk minus action equals zero - D.O.A.