A lot of bands formed the early sound of hardcore punk, including Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Black Flag. A band from Vancouver, B.C., called D.O.A. — a punk outfit led by a guy called Joe "Shithead" Keithley — had a hand in that sound, too. Those other bands all fell away as the years passed, but D.O.A. has been a band consistently for 36 years, writing songs about every issue that got under its skin: racism, sexism, police brutality, nuclear war, the banking industry — you name it, D.O.A. has sung about it.
In early 2013, the band declared that it would launch its final tour — but even Keithley (D.O.A.'s only consistent member) says he's not sure how long that final tour will take: "I did see the Ramones three times on their farewell tour, and that took over three years to complete," he said over the phone last week.
D.O.A. isn't exactly standing by itself in the 30-plus-year punk rock category. Bands like Poison Idea and MDC have been around nearly as long, and Keithley says at this point, they've all become old friends. But D.O.A. is different in a few ways.
"It's twofold really, because D.O.A. has been around for so long ... there's a sense of nostalgia about the band. But with each album, we try to take an approach with writing lyrics about what is going on in the world currently," he says. "D.O.A. has been seen as a progressive activist force for doing some good things, as well as a crazy, wild punk rock band."
D.O.A.'s longstanding mantra is "TALK - ACTION = ZERO" and in recent years, Keithley has upped the ante on what that means for him personally. In addition to running a record label, writing two books and being a vocal activist, he's made three unsuccessful runs for political office in Vancouver — something he says he hopes to pursue after this D.O.A. tour is over.
Keithley says after all this time preaching from the pulpit of punk rock, he knows he can't stop trying to take action and inspire others toward change after D.O.A. is done.
"Some people ask me, 'Joe, are you still a punk?' And I say, 'No, I think you gotta be 15 to 25 to be a punk. I'm long past that,'" he says. "But thinking for yourself, taking control of your life and being your own boss — those are really good principles that came out of punk and hardcore that I still adhere to, even though I'm not a punk anymore."
Punk is in his veins, he says. And that won't ever go away. ♦
D.O.A. Farewell Tour with special guests Defeatist, Reason for Existence, the Revision Scheme and Astro Cobra • Fri, April 4, at 7 pm • $12 • All-ages • The Hop! • 706 N. Monroe • thehopevents.com • 328-5467