VANCOUVER’S MOST AWESOME: JOE KEITHLEY

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Wow…We got Joey Shithead…..

Joe Keithley has been the frontman for one of Vancouver’s most influential groups of all time, DOA, for over 30 years.  They have been around so long that one of their earliest releases was called ‘Disco Sucks’.  I’m glad they won that battle….yikes…

 While some of DOA’s hardcore punk fraternity brothers (Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Black Flag) may have gained more notoriety over the years, no one exemplifies DIY better than DOA, and Joe has been at the helm for the entire voyage.  

And as if playing in a band wasn’t enough, Joe has done several solo projects both musical, and spoken word, and also has worn the hat of record company owner and author.  Equally impressive, are Joe’s contributions to the number of causes which he has supported over the years from running twice for the Greens, to playing hundreds of benefits.  His bio reads “professional troublemaker” but I think he should change it to “dude who gives a f**k”….

Here’s Joe on Vancouver….

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(photo courtesy of Abram Deyo)

Why is Vancouver awesome?

Oh boy…good question…it’s got one of the best climates being right by the ocean, I wouldn’t live anywhere that wasn’t near the ocean.  The natural beauty too, and the weather….half the time.

Where did you grow up?

In Burnaby.

What was the coolest thing about growing up in Burnaby?

Well Burnaby was actually really boring.  At the time, it’s not any more, it had the claim to fame as being Canada’s biggest suburb.  So there wasn’t a lot going on, but what was cool was that I played lacrosse and usually the Burnaby teams won, they always had great lacrosse organizations.  I lived around SFU, right on the mountain, so all the kids would come down the hill and we’d snowball them with iceballs, and then run like shit when they got out of their cars trying to catch us.

Like college kids?

Yeah…we’d be hiding in the trees, that was pretty awesome.  Oh and another thing we’d do is at the very top of Hastings St., it wasn’t a street anymore, it became a trail going to the top of the mountain, when it snowed hard it became like a bobsled run which ran about 500 yards.  It had a big ditch next too, so you always had a good chance of breaking your neck, you’d be going so fast.

What about into Vancouver, what kind of things did you do there?

Well when I was a bit older I’d go to the ‘Smilin’ Buddha’ which was pretty great.  It was the most beat up horrible bar in Vancouver, but it was the only place they allowed punk rock.

Over the years what were some of the best places DOA played?

Well originally, we tried to get a job playing ‘The Cave’ and we played the tape for the guy, and he told us we should learn how to play disco, so we never played there, I guess that’s the best place we never played.  We played the battle of the bands which we should have won at ‘The Body Shop’ on Hornby.  We played Gary Taylor’s ‘Rock Room’ too which was known for some questionable business activity.  There was this one place on Granville street where the owner would have two Dobermans in his office for when you went to get paid….what was that one called?  ‘The Window’ that’s it….if you argued with him he’d let the chain loose a little bit, like the dog was going to rip your throat out.  There was the Commodore back then too which was a lot different that what it’s like today.

What about the Japanese Hall?

Yeah…actually in Vancouver that’s where punk rock started on Alexander street, until they got wise and banned punk rock.  There was no one living in that area at the time, it was almost an abandoned area.  It was really run down so punk rockers could hang out there.  There was another place right around there that wasn’t a club but a bunch of people lived there and there would be bands playing, DOA rehearsed there, it was 343 Railway.  It was completely out of control, it was pretty much a warehouse district back then, it’s a lot more gentrified now.  There were no cops, no people, just out of control punk rockers hanging out.

What were the other Vancouver bands in that era?

The main ones would be the Pointed Sticks, the Subhumans, the Dishrags, UJ3RK5…. There were quite a few, it was a pretty big scene at the time.

Who’s your favourite Vancouver band of all time?

Oh..that’s tough..it’s probably a toss up between the Subhumans and the Young Canadians.  Oh..and the Modernettes were pretty cool too…

Why do you think punk rock flourished in Vancouver?

I can tell you honestly out of all the scenes in Canada, it was definitely the most active, with a lot of quality bands that went on to make something of themselves in the world.  I think the scene was so good because there were no record companies out here, in those days you had to be in Toronto, or Los Angles, or New York maybe, to get a record deal.  Vancouver was considered a joke so people had to be really resourceful and really inventive.  I think that carried over into the tenacity of the musicians in touring and finding shows and into their approach to music too, it was more creative.  ’78 to ’82 was a really good time in the history of Vancouver’s music.

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(photo courtesy of Abram Deyo)

I’m sure you don’t have them too often, but what do you like to do on your days off?

When the weather’s good, I like to sit on my porch and play my guitar.

What neighbourhood do you live in now?

The Burnaby Lake area.  What else do I like doing?  I like going to BC Lions games.  I like going to those because they are pretty down to earth.  They are kind of like the Canuck games like when they were in the Coliseum.  Back then, I really liked that east end feel they had, at about a minute left in the first period, we’d run down as fast as we could and there’d be a beer tent outside, you’d have about two or three, and then you’d run back as fast as you could for the second period.  It was all timing, otherwise you’d get all caught up in line-ups.

All time favourite Lion?

Lui Passaglia…

Hey you’re now in the same company with him on our site, you’re both ‘Vancouver’s Most Awesome’

Yeah?  I went to the last game when he retired.  In his first game ever her scored a touch down, and so in the last game, they handed the ball off to him on the one, and he didn’t really have the power to get in so a couple of the big linemen got behind him and pushed him into the end zone.  All the guys were going to get another touchdown for Lui.  He’s one of the greatest guys ever from here.

Favourite Canuck of all time?

I gotta say Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure is a close second, that guy was incredible when he got some open ice.

I saw the first game he played here.

Yeah he got like five breakaways that game, the Winnipeg Jets had no idea what was going on.  He just walked right around their defensemen.  I was really mad when he left though.

Do you check out the Giants games ever?

Yeah!  That’s another awesome thing about Vancouver, they’re a great team, every time I’ve gone it’s been exciting, the Giants were a totally great idea, I’m so glad we have them here.  It’s unbelievable hockey, they play to win every night.

Best neighbourhood?

I don’t live around there, but I like the Hastings strip in North Burnaby, that’s kind of my old stomping grounds.  I like around by the wheat pools, around Oxford street too…

heights

Hey..that’s near my hood.  The Heights are my second home….What would be the most Awesome thing to happen to Vancouver?

Win the Stanley Cup.  I used to go to Canuck games, like when I was 11 and they weren’t even in the NHL yet down, so I’ve been waiting for a long time, let’s put it that way.

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Joe, sleepless in Shanghai…..

(photo courtesy of Abram Deyo)

Interview on QTV

Disco sucks….