Joey Kiethley interview

(D.O.A. – Joey “Shithead” Kiethley, Randy Rampage, and The Great Baldini)

Elling Lien speaks with Joey, lead singer and guitarist of D.O.A.


I’ll apologize in advance: there’s a band jamming downstairs and the phone is a little low so I might not hear you perfectly.

[laugh] Those damn bands making their bloody noise!

Those loud bands! I can’t stand them!

[laugh] Bad bands, bad bad bands. Be quiet! Stop your barking!

So you guys are coming to Newfoundland!

Yeah! The first time since 1984.

Yeah. April 7th, 1984.

Exactly 23 years ago. And 23 is a strange number, especially if you’re Jim Carey right? That’s the only significance I can think of for 23.

Yeah! It’ll be great. Last time we played the show and the reception was great, and I remember we had this big article in the [Newfoundland Herald], the guy who wrote the article, he actually doubted all the information we gave him. I had sent him all our press information and he thought it was all a bunch of bullshit that we made up that we’d been all over the world, been in these riots, got arrested, and all that kind of stuff. “Their press release is impressive, but not necessarily believable.” And so we played the show and it was great, I forget what bar, but it got moved at the last minute. I remember that.

You guys have played some 3000 shows, and I was worried that you wouldn’t have remembered…

Well, it was really extraordinary. We had just come back from Europe, we’d been over there for about two and a half months and got into a friend of ours’ place in Toronto where the gear had been stored and we sat down and the NHL playoffs had just started. So we had a bunch of food and a bunch of beer and we went “oh, it’s great to be back in Canada!”

Then I pulled out a map and started looking at it, and I was like “You guys realize how fucking far away Newfoundland is?” Because coming from Western Canada you think you’re in the biggest part of the country, and we were fooling ourselves. So we got off our asses and raced off to Sydney and the boat ride over we’re used to ferries over here in BC, it’s a coastal province right? But they had to bolt all the cars down so they didn’t play pinball inside the hull, and there were icebergs in the harbour in Sydney. It was April and we were going “What the hell is goin’ on?” because we’d never seen anything like that before. It was pretty rough on the boat, and our bassplayer Wimpy was just as green as can be on the boat ride over.

Then it took 12 hours once we got to the Rock, and there was a sleet storm — like rain and snow mixed — and then we played the show in St. John’s. Then the next day the ice storm of ‘84 hit. All the power went out in St. John’s. One day later and there wouldn’t have been any show at all. The ice storm hit the city the day after we left. A day and a half later we got to New Brunswick and then there was a huge snow storm – a foot, two feet of snow – and the van was only running about 25 kph.

“These fucking people! Who forgot to turn off winter here?!”

Coming from Vancouver we’d never seen anything like it. I’ve driven across Canada many times, but it just seemed a little too late for us.

So that’s why its taken you 23 years? So you were scared after your last experience?

[laugh] No not really, we’ve been to Halifax every two or three years, and a few of the towns around there, like Moncton and places like that. We probably just didn’t pursue it hard enough, even though we thought it was a really great time going to Newfoundland.

But this time around, a friend of mine in Halifax was like “Oh, I know a guy in St. John’s who’d do a show…” Steve Molloy. Hats off to him. He’s organized two shows.

It’s really nice that you’re playing an all-ages and a bar show.

I think so too. We do the same thing in Halifax. We should be thoroughly dead. 7 shows in 5 days – it’s pretty rigorous, but we keep our trips short and when we do go places we try and make them count and do the best job that we can.

If you don’t play for kids, you never get new fans. It’s a funny thing when we play, the majority of the people that come to see us are between the ages of 18 and 25, so basically half our age. And that’s just because the word of reputation of the band got around and we get up there and kick ass when we play, and there’s a message, and it’s loud and obnoxious and it’s fun.

Although punk wasn’t at all foreign to St. John’s at the time, when you were here in ‘84 you seemed to leave quite a bit of influence. I mean, there’s a vibrant hardcore scene here now… Is this something you hear often?

Well, we were often the first band to tour at a lot of places. Yeah, that’s great that we left that kind of after-effect. In Europe, I run into a lot of people who were like “Yeah, you guys were the first punk rock band I ever saw,” and it’s kind of cool. People say “You guys really had an effect on my life,” and then I’ll go “Well, was it good or was it bad?”

[laugh] Did you end up in jail or did you do okay? But I like to think it’s positive most of the time.

It’s pretty cool. We play a lot of shows and we’ve been true to our beliefs and raised hell, and having a good time when we’re doing it. You can have a good after-effect if you’ve got that attitude.

Because the band itself fell together accidentally, and then the band was just based on a friendship. And when friendship wasn’t happening, or peoples’ attitudes changed and they left the band and sometimes came back.

Randy’s back, his third time back, so we have our original bass player, Randy Rampage. He’s out of the band off and on for close to twenty years and he’s still one of my best friends. We have a riot traveling around. [laugh] Jan, our drummer says “Hand a beer to Randy or Joe and it’s like hanging out in the Punk Rock Legion. The war stories never stop.”

“There I was on Vimy Ridge! The Jerries had us pinned down..” [laugh] “We did this show with Black Flag and …” Anyway, you know what I mean. So there’s that camaraderie and shared experience.

And what are your feelings about punk these days?

Well, you know, there are a lot of cool bands around doing the kind of political stuff we did. Activist is probably the right word. And doing things in a DIY way.

And then there’s this kind of mall punk that you see on MTV or Much Music … and not every band is like this on the Warp Tour, but a lot of the bands on the Warp tour would fall into the kind of pop-punk, or mall punk…

Some of the bands are not that creative, and some are terrible, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because the whole anti-authoritarian thing of punk has carried over still. It’s just a funny thing that it took business-people twenty-five to thirty years to sell it.

[laugh] It was a tough nut to crack.

Yeah, it took ‘em a long time. But it was perfectly made to piss off your parents, the police, and your teachers. So no wonder kids love it.

I think you can express a lot of things within punk rock. I try to go beyond it. Punk rock is an important part of what we do, but it’s activism, and what you say, and the feeling that you give out to people when you play shows and when you talk to them that is part of it too. To me, that’s bigger than the music.

D.O.A. are playing two shows on Sunday, April 8 at Junctions. All Ages w/ Nerve Attack, Dig Up The Dead and Fireign (3pm.) Bar show w/ Dog Meat BBQ and Tough Justice (10pm.) $12 advance, $15 at door. available at Freeride, X-It Skates, O’Keefe’s Grocery and Gas Bar, Books-R-Us Plus.