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Full Lesson Q&A with Joey Keithley of D.O.A.

I watched this video interview with Joey Keithley before I talked to him for today’s English lesson on Ebaby!, so I knew the guy could talk. Which is great. I always edit the interviews for the lessons, and the more someone has to say, the more there is to work with.

So what I’m getting at here is that there’s a lot of material that didn’t make into the lesson from our 15-minute conversation. In addition to explaining how his band name can be used in a conversation, Keithley talks about playing Poland in the ’80s, how D.O.A. got booked for a tour of China that starts this week, his philosphy on political music and a longer-term view of the singing-in-English phenomenon I discussed with Hutch Harris. Full text below, but first, D.O.A.’s tour dates, which are also available on their MySpace.

Jan. 9th Beijing, China at Mao Live House
Jan. 10th Wuhan, China at Vox Bar
Jan. 11th Shanghai, China at Yuyintang
Jan. 12th Nanjing, China at Castle Bar
Jan. 13th Beijing, China at D-22
Jan. 29th Oak Harbor, USA at Oak Harbor Tavern
Jan. 30th Seattle, USA at El Corazon
Jan. 31st Portland, USA at Satyricon
April 1st Valence, France at Mistral Place
April 2nd Barcelona Spain at Estraperio Club
April 3rd Zaragoza, Spain
April 4th Arrasate, Spain at 360 Arretoa
April 5th Limoges, France at CCM John Lennon
April 7th Torino, Italy at United Club
April 8th Milano, Italy at All Blacks Pub
April 9th La Spezia, Italy at La Spezia, Italy
April 10th Roma, Italy at Forte Prenestino
April 11th Firenze, Italy at CSA Ex Emerson
April 12th Cremona, Italy at CSA Dordoni
April 13th Gorizia, Italy at Pieffe Factory
April 15th Vienna, Austria at Arena
April 17th Kerkade, Netherlands at The Rock Temple
April 18th Diksmuide, Belgium at Muziekclub 4AD
April 19th Cologne, Germany at Sonic Ballroom

Jason: Have you guys ever been to China before?

Joey: No we have not. This will be a first.

Jason: And what do you expect the punk climate in China to be like?

Joey: I guess I’m going there to find out. I’m also going there to find out what China’s like in general. It’s fun to go play shows and entertain people and get them to sing and stuff like that, which is what D.O.A. always does. It will be an eyeopener culturally, politically and musically. You know what? I’m hoping to stumble across some great Chinese band and sign them up to my record label. Who knows, there might be something there that’s really great. Now, sure, there will be a million bands we won’t see, but who knows, there could be something that’s really unique, right? Something with a different twist. There’s got to be Chinese punk rock that people have heard but maybe there’s something over there that nobody has yet. So that’s one thing, and we’re pretty fascinated by it. D.O.A. has been about trying to go to places that we’ve never been before. New vistas, I suppose.

Jason: How did you end up getting booked in China?

Joey: It always involves somebody saying, “Hey, I think I can put on a couple of shows, or a mini tour or a whole tour.” We had to go find people in Europe when we started going there in ’82 and ’84, and we went some unusual places like Poland and Yugoslavia that, you know, punk bands hadn’t been to before. So it’s a similar kind of thing. You just have to find somebody to say, “OK, I can get it together, you’ll play here, here, here and here.” Because it’s too hard to do it from here. So finally a promoter approached us last September, and said, “How about D.O.A. coming over? There seems to be some interest.”

Jason: You guys have been touring internationally for a really long time and i wondered if you guys have seen the number of bands that sing in English increase over the years.

Joey: I would say so. Take an early German band like Die Toten Hosen all their early records were all in German. A lot of punk bands we played with there sang in German, but I find a lot of bands now will sing in English. But I think it’s kind of cool if they mix it up and appeal to different people that way because I guess English is the language of music around the world, that’s how it turned out. There’s this great record from when we played Japan in 2001. It’s called, We Still Keep on Running with D.O.A. and it’s all Japanese bands covering D.O.A. It’s pretty hard to find. You can find it on my label. It’s not exactly a well-known record. But they did some really great, incredible versions of a bunch of D.O.A. classic songs. And they sang in English too, and the inflection makes it pretty interesting, right?

Jason: I wanted to ask you about the band’s slogan, “Talk – Action = 0.” I wondered if singing a protest song is talk or action.

Joey: I guess in a sense you’re trying to inspire people to action. It’s both, I suppose. You can change the world to a far greater degree by convincing people that you have a good idea and getting that idea to spread around as opposed to taking a violent method, which I’m not backing. At the same time, sometimes people really get backed into a corner, right? It does take sometimes protest to really change things. You just have to look at Eastern Europe for example with the fall of the Warsaw Pact. Or Suharto in Indonesia or Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia is another example. It’s kind of the people power sort of thing, right? That’s why I think it’s interesting that D.O.A. is going [to China] because we have something of a reputation, but we’ll see what happens, right? I’m pretty excited about it.

Jason: You’ve been involved with a lot of different causes doing benefits and things. What are some that are on your mind right now?

Joey: The usual things we’ve done the last few years are ecological or environmental-type causes. We’ve been involved in a bunch of concerts and rallies opposed to the Iraq war. There’s a big one we did a couple of years ago, we were the warm-up act for Noam Chomsky. That was pretty interesting, about 20,000 people on the beach in Vancouver. And “free trade” versus what I like to call “fair trade”.

Jason: You guys have been around for so long that there are a lot of bands that have been influenced by you. Have you also been influenced by some newer bands? Or are you still drawing on some of the same influences from 30 years ago.

Joey: No, you know, I really write songs and get my view of the world from talking to people, watching TV, reading newspapers or websites. I don’t think D.O.A. is really influenced by any younger bands, some of them certainly we admire. They’re doing good work, like Anti-Flag. Musically and politically, I was influenced by people years and years ago. I’m talking like Woody Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix and stuff I heard in my formative youth. That kind of spirit stuck with me even though the stuff we do doesn’t sound anything like that.

Jason: We always have people define a slang term so our members can learn a new term and I figured an obvious choice is the name of your band.

Joe: We took the idea from an old movie starring Edmund O’Brien. It was Dead on Arrival. It’s like a toe-tag. So when an ambulance picks up a body and they’re not quite dead when they arrive at the hospital, they stick a tag, I think on their right toe and it says, “D.O.A.” on it, because they arrived dead. So the most famous D.O.A. is John F Kennedy. Dead on Arrival. You could make up all sorts of things for that. There was a pretty funny thing with this English band called Dead or Alive for a while. We’ve kind of outlasted them, I would say. This older lady was booking us into a hotel one time and she’s really straight and she goes, “What’s D.O.A. stand for?” And our base player in a rare moment of brilliance goes, “Disciples of the Apostles.” She went, “Oh, you sound like really nice young fellows.” She thought we were a religious group or something like that.

Jason: What are some ways that “D.O.A.” might come up in conversation outside of a morgue?

Joe: It’s a common thing in the band practice. “If you don’t get this part right, you’re going to be D.O.A.” We don’t threaten each other quite that much. But it’s something like that, like, “You’re D.O.A.” It’s gonna be curtains in some way or another.

Photo by Bev Davies.

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One Response to “Full Lesson Q&A with Joey Keithley of D.O.A.”

  1. Augusto Says:

    hey I just wanna say it was a helpful inerview for me. i hope that keep doing these kind of interviews with these kind of guys they have a nice thoughts and ideas

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