Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Singer-activist more than just a 'smelly punk'

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No one can ever accuse Joe Keithley of not being a man of action.

The social activist and leader of veteran Vancouver punk band D.O.A. is still fighting the good fight, 33 years after releasing his band's first single, Disco Sucks.

He is encouraged by the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Everywhere events and did his part by performing an acoustic set at Occupy Ottawa last weekend for the protesters in Confederation Park.

"I think it will plant the seed that you can get out there and change the world and force people with lots of money to at least make some concessions, if not more," he says over the phone from his Burnaby, B.C., home. "My main point is that people power trumps all. Look at Egypt and Syria and Libya."

Keithley, 55, has been on the front lines of countless protests and benefits over the years as an activist and entertainer.

His band's politically charged punk rock is the perfect soundtrack to a revolution and the band's longtime slogan, Talk - Action = 0, sums it all up -- if messages in songs like Smash the State, The Enemy, Death Machine or Hole in the Sky aren't getting through.

Keithley's lifetime of trail-blazing and hell-raising is documented in a new 300-page colour book, Talk - Action = 0, featuring a history of the band, anecdotes, photos, album covers and gig posters dating back to 1977 and his first bands, Stone Crazy and the Skulls.

The posters, photos, touring itineraries, handwritten lyrics and various other memorabilia were stored in boxes in his basement. He went through all them, an estimated 14 to 17, and pulled out 500 of the best posters to use as the starting point, he says.

"When I went down to Arsenal Press, I took two boxes, dumped them out and said, 'Here's your book,'" Keithley says with a laugh, adding he and the art editor then spent countless hours trying to arrange everything in chronological order, since many posters didn't have years on them.

"It covers a bunch of perspectives. First, it gives you the D.O.A. history for the casual fan, or for someone who wants an education about when bands came along and who was on the scene at a particular time, because D.O.A. has been everywhere and played with everyone.

"It's also a guide on how to be an activist and travel the world and cause trouble, which is what I've been doing for 33 years."

The number of bands D.O.A. has performed with reads like a history of outsider music over the past three decades, with almost any notable band you can think of, including the Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Personality Crisis, Nirvana (its second show ever), Descendents, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth and Soundgarden, who opened for D.O.A. as Sound Garden.

Along with the book, D.O.A. has released a new album of the same name and will be in Winnipeg Thursday promoting both. At 5 p.m., Keithley will appear at McNally Robinson for a solo appearance, playing a few songs, telling stories and taking questions from fans. Later, the band -- which also features drummer Jesse "The Kid" Pinner and bassist "Dirty Dan" Sedan -- will play the Pyramid Cabaret.

Everyone in D.O.A. gets a nickname, and Keithley's is the most famous of all, and although it can't be printed in a family newspaper without dashes, it helped form the title of his 2003 autobiography, I, S--thead: A Life in Punk.

With two books to his name already, Keithley has plans for two more: a novel and something that will resemble a manifesto, he says.

"Before people thought I was just a smelly punk, but no, I'm a man of letters," he says. "An author. We joke that I need a smoking jacket and a pipe now."

And since there's no keeping Keithley from keeping on, D.O.A. will hit the studio this winter to record a new album, the band's 14th full length, he says.

-- -- --

One of the bands that appears on numerous D.O.A. posters in Talk - Action = 0 is Victoria trio Nomeansno, who are visiting town again Wednesday at the Park Theatre as they make their way back to the West Coast, meaning you can catch two seminal Canadian punk bands in town over the course of two nights.

Tickets for the Nomeansno show are $15 at Ex-D.O.A. member Ford Pier (lineups 18 and 19 in the mid-1990s) opens the night at 8 p.m.

Concert preview


Pyramid Cabaret

Thursday, 9 p.m.

Tickets $13 at Into the Music, Soul Survivors, Kustom Kulture

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2011 G5

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