A thing about innovators is that they have to have enough energy to cause an explosion for the continuation of whatever they are starting; they are like a seed. So the guys who started punk must have done it in a very impressive way. I’m not sure I could have handled one of those gigs actually; maybe it would have been too much of everything together for me. But it wasn’t too much for Joe “Shithead” Keithley, founder and leader of the band D.O.A. Five years ago he published I, Shithead: A Life In Punk, and by that time he had already been rocking hard for twenty five years. He probably could write at least one or two more books, with all the stories he could tell. The book begins with a prelude where he remembers that “…punks were rebellious and believed we could change the world. I set out to prove that theory right. I didn’t know I was in for twenty-five years of trouble-making.”
Layabozi interviewed Mr. Shithead, and when he was asked about how punk changed the world he said: “The biggest thing that punk has done is popularize the Do It Yourself ethic. Of course it existed before punk, but punk pushed that idea a lot, so now you see more people taking charge of their life, philosophically and in a technological sense.” For a second one could think that believing your work changed the world on a large scale is the belief of the evolved ego of a rock star, but then again this is punk, a kind of music that caused a revolution in the minds of many. Certainly the effects of the punk movement in the 70s, when D.O.A. began its career, were much clearer and stronger than what we feel nowadays, but there it is, still noisy enough to wake, shake, and even bother many people.
D.O.A. have been totally committed to their punk spirit for thirty years now. They released Northern Avenger, their twelfth studio album and forty-fourth release over all, last October. It was produced by Bob Rock, who has also worked with Metallica and Motely Crue, among others. The album has got good reviews, some of them comparing it to their first classic, Hardcore’81. The thirty-year anniversary album was released with the later announcement that the band was coming to tour China with its eyes and ears open to do some additional work during the tour.
To have a history of three decades rocking hard is not a job just anyone can do; there are certain characteristics one must have to do that. Thirty years of rocking must certainly give one or two lessons to share. When Layabozi asked to Joe Shithead about it, he mentioned D.O.A.’s slogan: Talk-Action=0, saying “…I have a philosophy: Be your own boss. Think for yourself. Try to effect some positive change in this world, in other words Talk minus Action equal zero. D.O.A. has always been the perfect vehicle for me to say what I think about this world”
For this tour Joe “Shithead” Keithley, the leader since the very beginning, will handle vocals and guitar. Dan Yaremko is on bass. He re-joined the band recently after a three year absence, during which time the bassist was Randy Rampage, who played with them until the release of Northern Avenger. Those three years were the third time Rampage had joined the band and, as he declared here, also the last one. James Hayden has been the drummer since 2008, when The Great Baldini left after six years with the band. There have been many more changes during their thirty years of activity; perhaps the explanation can be found between the lines of their slogan.
Changes and troubles: these are neighbor concepts. Punk is certainly a kind of music that deals with this, the idea of breaking rules, the statement against the establishment, the loud yelling guitars opening tender ears to the noise of revolution with raging drums calling war cries. D.O.A. has a strong political idea; art and politics meet constantly as art is a language and politics are part of the human situation. Punk, hardcore punk, spends part of its creativity standing up with political ideas. So then what about the music? Not that politics are not important, but when it comes to this matter there’s a fragile border between good quality art and cheap propaganda for the good and success of the artist. Joe Shithead commented about the quality and importance of music itself in punk rock: “well, people used to say that over here [Vancouver, Canada], but some of the best musicians of any type are punk musicians. I think it’s just a matter of applying yourself and practicing hard”. The best way to find out on which side of the border D.O.A. lives is to listen to their music—their records and their live shows—and that’s what we are going to do this Sunday at Yuyintang [ie in about 24 hours. Technical difficulties delayed this post].
Finally, I have to say when I read Shithead’s prelude, which talks simply about their history of trouble-making, I felt curious about the expectations one can have of this tour, which includes China and Europe during 2009, a year with already a lot tension in it. Layabozi asked Mr. Shithead if, after thirty years of making trouble, he still hasn’t had enough? He said “No, apparently not! It should be a real cool time this Sunday.”
Their tour in China began yesterday in Beijing and includes Shanghai and Wuhan. It will include cameras and a contact book. D.O.A. is going to film their shows and their trip for a documentary and Sudden Death Records, also run by Joe Shithead, is ready to find some original Chinese punk bands. Joe says “…I am hoping bands will bring CDs to give me, as I run Sudden Death Records. That would be cool.”
D.O.A. stands for Dead on Arrival; we may get ready to comeback home D.O.A. after their gig this Sunday evening. Should cancel my appointments on Monday?
D.O.A. on myspace
Photos from the show at YuyinTang
Mache is a hippie witch that was born under Beltane's full moon. She enjoys talking to ghosts and interdimensional beings, and cooking for her friends and beasts. She has Chilean wine in her veins instead of blood,and at the moment she belongs to China.
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