Thursday, September 19, 2019

DOA: of 1978 and Punk the Vote: a Joe Keithley interview

Joe Keithley and I took time last weekend for a fast conversation, apropos of the upcoming Federal Election and the September 21st Punk the Vote concert at the WISE Hall. As you'll see from my Straight article, most of the focus was on politics and the environment, with a bit about the experience of being elected to city council, and Joe's experiences on the campaign trail. 

"The thing about me running and getting elected," Keithley explained, was that  "it wasn’t all young people or DOA fans" who'd voted for him: "There were tons of old people, tons of people who don’t like my music, right? They’re like, ‘I like what you’re talkin’ about; I can’t say I’d buy one of your records,’ you know, and when people say that me, I say, ‘that’s great. I’m not trying to sell you records, I’m trying to get you on board with ideas that I’ve got.’”

But DOA does have a new record out – a superb compilation of unreleased tracks, demos and early singles, called 1978, with most songs featuring the classic lineup of Keithley, the late Randy Rampage, and Chuck Biscuits. Biscuits, in particular, makes an interesting showing on the record; also the author of the classic, "Last Night," which appears on Something Better Change, the lightning-fast teenaged drummer also sang“Kill Kill This is Pop,” which appeared on the Vancouver Complication. "Chuck wrote the lyrics and the song and he sang it, and I went, 'what's this about?' He went, 'ah, fuck, nevermind!' I went 'okay, whatever, just sing it' - because I had no idea what he was talking about. It ended up being a funny song..."

That tune pops up up 1978, as do two less-well-known songs, "The Mutant" and “Rip Dis Joint,” which pilfers from a similarly titled Stones song, and also features a lead vocal from Biscuits. We discuss that a bit in the Straight piece, linked above - it was recorded, apparently, during the sessions for this infamous single:

As for "The Mutant," which previously popped up on The Lost Tapes, it is one of the few tracks on the album also previously unknown to me. “We did one demo of it," Keithley remembers of that song. "I can’t remember where we ended up with it, he didn’t like it, or, 'it's not going to go on the record,' but when I listened to it later, it was like, ‘okay, this is really funny!’ And I think that’s the idea – some of the stuff on it is just like, ‘wow, these guys are out of control, really young, and would do anything! Which is kinda like what punk rock was, right; these songs kinda embody that. They weren't overly thought out, and they weren't way underproduced, and it kinda was the spirit of the time."

The main question, of course, is how it came to be that there should be any unreleased DOA material at all. Joe's never been shy of putting out retrospective albums - from singles albums to the Greatest Shits DVD to bonus material included on CD reissues of classic albums, Joe has mined the DOA back catalogue pretty extensively. Quite a bit of 1978 has popped up in one form or another, though it's really kind of hard to keep track. 

"I didn't really think about it too much," Joe told me when we talked. "It's kinda one of those things: it would be kind of have another retro album out with unreleased tracks, and then Randy died, and I thought, let's do something that kind of commemorates him and Dave and Wimpy and Brad and all the gang that passed away. Mostly on that record, it's Randy, Chuck and I playing on everything. And the fun part was, I got a hold of Don Denton. He used to be the photographer for the Straight, and I asked, do you have any photographs that no one has ever seen before, and he dug up a bunch of incredible ones, and we used a few on the record. Every time I look at them, I just laugh."

DOA will be headlining the Punk the Vote Festival at the WISE Hall on September 21st. Event page here. Mike Usinger's review of the album is here... Should be a great show. It's been a few years since I last saw DOA but this is maybe the tightest, fastest trio since the days of Randy and Chuck. Wonder who the "special surprise guests" will be?

No comments: