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Keithley, D.O.A. keep changing with the times

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Who: D.O.A.

Where: Boot Pub

When: Sunday, Jan. 13

He’s been called the Godfather of Canadian punk.

And God Save the Queen, as Joe Keithley brings 20 years of punk experience to Whistler Sunday night.

After 13 CDs, 3,000 shows, 500,000 record sales, and "331 tires," Keithley still keeps busy with D.O.A. and other musical pursuits at his own Burnaby-based company, Sudden Death Records.

"I got into punk music because they gave me an opportunity to play and think for myself. People should really try and take control of their destiny, because they can to some degree," says Keithley.

And he is living proof. Although he’s best known as the lead singer, guitarist and only constant in the 20-year history of D.OA., Keithley has also tried his hand at politics and, more successfully, at business.

He was a Green Party candidate in a Burnaby riding in last year’s provincial election. Although he wasn’t elected in the Liberal landslide, he has stayed active, including producing a benefit CD for the Green Party. Artists on the CD include Bruce Cockburn, Kinnie Starr, Bif Naked, the Ripcordz, D.O.A. and Keithley as a solo performer.

A new project, Rabble Rouser, will partner Keithley and Barry Greenfield as part of an acoustic and political medley of music production. Meanwhile, an ongoing interest in spoken word performance balances the hardcore, fast punk act.

"I play over on the island a lot, and sometimes I’ll play acoustically and mix stories in with the act," says Keithley. Going solo, he explored spoken word with "Beat Trash" performances at the Sugar Refinery, and still occasionally plays in this vein.

On the business side, Keithley’s Sudden Death record label now has two dozen international acts signed, including The Damned and The Vibrators from the U.K., Southwestern punk and garage bands JP5 from Vancouver, The Real Mackenzies, and Tacoma’s Portrait of Poverty

Keithley is also developing new arm of Sudden Death, Anarcoustic, ensuring postpunk independent music labels are alive and well for aging rockers.

But D.O.A. isn’t dead yet – not by a long shot. The band toured Japan last November, including shows in Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya. But Keithley says Miyazaki was the highlight.

"At that show people were so enthusiastic. I must’ve posed afterwards for about 200 photos," he laughs.

Bass Records distributes D.O.A. recordings in Japanese markets, a relationship established completely via telecommute.

"I didn’t talk to the guy once by phone, instead we arranged everything through e-mail," Keithley says.

This year will see another Asian tour, including dates in the Philippines, Korea, and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, D.O.A. has another album out. The music is, of course, fast, hardcore and political.

" Those Goddamn Canadians , the new album, looks at themes of resistance and struggle, but there’s a human side to it as well, because you don’t want (the album to be) too dry," says Keithley.

Highlights from the album include an extra tune on the end of the CD called Don’t Turn Your Back on Desperate Times. UK DJ John Peel produced the song at BBC studios as part of the Peel Recording Sessions. The single received airplay on BBC 2 radio. All Across the USA features local favourite Bif Naked on vocals. Keithley describes the song as "reggae-ska, with a pure rock chorus." Billy Hopeless of the Black Halos punk band also assisted with several tracks in the studio.

Geographical themes continue to be a part of D.O.A.’s music, with I Am Canadian, a song about "buying beer at the Husky, and other real Canadian type events," says Keithley. Lumberjack City features a live chainsaw, while a re-make of the old D.O.A. original Fuck You incorporates a longer, more bluesy riffs. Additional singles include Beer Liberation Army and Livin’ Next Door to the USA.

The show at The Boot will also feature a new single, Just say No to The WTO (written prior to the Sept. 11 attacks), a song that looks at the concept of "fair" versus "free" trade.

The current D.O.A. lineup includes Randy Rampage on bass and The Great Baldini on drums. The D.O.A. lineup, like that of many bands that have been around for a generation, has gone through several personnel changes, but does this alter the operation?

"You just gotta change with times, or stop playing," says Keithley with a resounding air.

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