DOA today (left to right): bassist Mike Hodsall, guitarist-vocalist Joe Keithley, drummer Paddy Duddy

DOA: Very much alive on arrival

Punk Rock Legend Joe Keithley and DOA return to Cranbrook for mid-summer show

Ferdy Belland

“After all the crap we’ve seen since the 2020s began, the world needs Punk Rock more than ever,” says DOA’s bandleader Joe Keithley.

“When I first formed DOA, I thought the world was a screwed-up place back then. I just didn’t realize how screwed up it was, and it’s been getting more and more screwed up as the years go by. And a lot of Punk Rock over the years has been loud, angry protest music. These days, there’s lots to angrily protest about. When we first started, we were fighting against warmongers, greed, racism, and sexism. Forty-plus years later, we’re still fighting against warmongers, greed, racism, and sexism — so it’s still the same deal. Not too much has gotten much better.”

However grim the daily news might be these days, the world is still a better place with DOA in it. And Cranbrook will be a better place, at least for the evening of Friday July 29, when DOA hits the stage at the Cranbrook Hotel Pub to shake the foundations for the Heatstroke ‘22 Festival (with supporting guest appearances from Leather Apron Revival, Garuda, and Chungus).

“The overall audience attendance for these last rounds of national shows have been noticeably bigger,” says Keithley. “Everyone ate their hearts out over the pandemic. All of us. Now that the worst is hopefully over and everything’s unlocked, everyone’s remembering what it was like to be human beings in social elements. The energy and excitement at the shows are just through the roof. It’s incredible. Enthusiasm doubled and tripled. It’ll be a long while before anybody takes live music — or anything else — for granted again. And we remember our last Cranbrook show fondly. We look forward to a repeat!”

Formed in Vancouver in 1978 during the first heady days of the global Punk Rock cultural explosion by Keithley (known by his abrasive punk moniker of ‘Joey S***head’) and a revolving-door cast of bandmate characters (with equally colorful names like Randy Rampage, Chuck Biscuits, and the Great Baldini, among many others), DOA is world-renowned as one of the best-respected purveyors of Hardcore Punk, and is known for spearheading the global appreciation for Canadian Punk in general.

In the 44 years since, DOA have performed thousands of concerts worldwide. They’ve released 18 studio albums, courtesy of Keithley’s independent label Sudden Death Records. Keithley’s outspoken activism on numerous sociopolitical issues marked him early on as one of the Punk world’s more compassionate and eloquent spokespeople, and has seen him evolve to him delivering calm debate on Burnaby City Council (a municipal position he’s held since 2018).

But whether he’s wearing a tattered sleeveless denim vest festooned with punk patches or wearing a smart three-piece suit, Keithley’s philosophies and attitudes remain unchanged, and he’s never afraid to call it as he sees it.

“The people who are doing horrible things don’t appear to be getting any weaker,” says Keithley. “What’s different now is that it’s so much harder for them to keep their dirty deeds hidden away in the shadows, thanks to the age of information we’re in. Unfortunately, the same internet tools that help keep the miscreants accountable for their mistakes and their crimes are the same internet tools that help easily spread hatred and lies and disinformation and all that.

“Looking back, 20-30-40 years ago, if someone said some racist remark, someone else would say ‘oh, that’s just a normal thing.’ Now everyone gets called out on it, since the information spreads so quickly online. To me, that’s one advantage to the Information Age. A lot of the rest of it hasn’t been great at all. There’s a lot of b.s., with no facts to back it, spread out so thick and deep.”

Since 2014 the band has enjoyed one of its longest-running (and hardest-rocking) lineups with the addition of Kootenay rockers Mike Hodsall (bass, vocals) and Paddy Duddy (drums).

“I loved DOA ever since I was a kid,” says Duddy. “I was moping around in a Catholic School, wishing I was somewhere else, so of course the fire and fury of Punk Rock helped me get through it. When I played drums in Rusty Nails, and later in Circle the Wagons, we opened for a bunch of DOA shows and I became friendly with Joe. About ten years ago Joe announced he was selling one of his Gibson SG guitars, and my ears perked right up. Since I run a printing company, I got ahold of Joe and convinced him to trade me the guitar for the equal value in brand-new printed-up DOA T-shirts, which he could then sell for more money — he was impressed enough with my shrewdness to ask me aboard when he pulled the band out of hiatus! He liked my drumming, too (laughs). North America, Europe, China — I saw the world from behind my drumkit! The songs I used to scream along with — now I’ve played them live in 35 different countries. And now I’m DOA’s longest-running drummer. Go figure.”

“Like Paddy, I’d already been a die-hard DOA fan since I was a teenager,” says Hodsall. “Once I could get into the bars, er, legally, I saw lots of DOA shows in Vancouver, so they shaped a lot of my early Canadian underground mindset. In the late 1990s I was playing in both Circle the Wagons and BC/DC, and after a long chat with Joe after a DOA show in Nelson we kept in touch and exchanged touring information — if we don’t help each other, then there is no true scene! Circle the Wagons ended up sharing bills with DOA a bunch of times, so Joe knew what I could do musically. Then Paddy ended up being recruited by Joe, and soon they needed a bass player, so I got swept right in! Eight years later, it’s still great. Paddy and I were already bandmates for many years before DOA, so of course we’re tight friends and there’s no on-the-road drama…which makes it easy for Joe, since he’s had to deal with more than a few wild cards in the DOA ranks!”

These days, the DOA concert experience is a multi-generational affair.

“When we started out, we were playing to our punk rocker friends and our fellow punk rock bands,” says Keithley. “And as the years went on, people at the shows would say ‘my older sister told me about you guys!’ and from the turn of the century on it was ‘my Mom told me about you guys!’ We still see a lot of the old faces from the early days who keep coming out, tour after tour, and there’s a lot of fresher faces who are always happy to be there. We haven’t yet heard ‘my grandpa told me about you guys!’ – but it’s just around the corner!”

Keithley looks forward to returning to Cranbrook, not only for the poignant significance of bookending the pandemic, but because he simply feels at home in a tightly packed room with his battered but trusty Gibson SG (nicknamed the Northern Avenger) slung over his shoulder, his overheated amplifier behind him, and slashing out yet another 90-minute set of two-minute punk epics.

“I never cared how hoity-toity or how decrepit the venue might have been, then or now,” says Keithley. “A big hall, a theatre, a polished cabaret, or a dingey, sagging old club with flickering lighting, doubtful electronics, doubtful doormen, whatever (laughs) — we in DOA always prided ourselves in bashing out a great show no matter where we were, no matter what the circumstances. The entire longstanding thrill about the DOA experience, for me, revolves around the people who show up for the show. It’s always been DOA’s job to get them excited and whip them up into a frenzy. That’s my goal, every night. Always has been. Always will be.”

Vancouver punk rock legends D.O.A. hit the stage at the Cranbrook Hotel Pub (719 Baker Street) Friday July 29, for the Heatstroke ‘22 Festival, with special guests Leather Apron Revival, Garuda, and Chungus; presented by Arctic Front Productions. Advance tickets available at Huckleberry Books .