One of the longest-running institutions in Canadian punk rock, D.O.A. play tough, straightforward rock in a fast, loud, and hard-hitting style. While they have a pronounced sense of humor, they also have a strong progressive political stripe, and have been willing to decry war, economic injustice, corruption, and environmental issues in their music without compromising their rowdy image. Led by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Joe Keithley -- also known to longtime fans by his stage name, Joey Shithead -- D.O.A. started out as a no-frills punk outfit on their early singles (collected on the album Bloodied But Unbowed: The Damage to Date 1978-1984), getting faster and louder on their second album, Hardcore '81. They incorporated hard rock and metal influences on 1985's Let's Wreck the Party and 1987's True (North) Strong and Free. After a brief breakup, D.O.A. moved back to their punk roots on albums like 1995's The Black Spot and 1998's Festival of Atheists, and they continued to play tough, topical music on 21st century releases like 2002's Win the Battle and 2020's Treason.
D.O.A.'s founder, leader, and sole constant member is Joe Keithley, aka Joey Shithead. Keithley was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, on June 3, 1956, and when he was ten years old, he decided he wanted to play the drums after first seeing a band play up close at his sister's wedding. Keithley bought a kit financed by his paper route, and played in several bands with friends before going off to college with ambitions of becoming a civil rights lawyer. College was a poor fit for Keithley, and after four months he dropped out and moved into a squatter's commune in Lumby, British Columbia. He started a band with his fellow squatters called the Resurrection, who after a few poorly received gigs followed Keithley back to Burnaby. There, the group adopted the new name Stone Crazy, and after seeing a Ramones show in 1977, Stone Crazy took up punk rock, settling in Vancouver and calling themselves the Skulls. The band featured the newly renamed Joey Shithead on vocals, Simon Werner on guitar, Brian Roy Goble (aka Wimpy Roy or Sunny Boy Roy) on bass, and Ken Montgomery (aka Dimwit) on drums. A second guitarist, Brad Kent, would briefly play with the Skulls before traveling to America and working with San Francisco punks the Avengers.
After five months in Toronto, where the Skulls had little luck breaking into the local scene, Keithley returned to Vancouver in 1978 and teamed with bassist Randy Rampage and drummer Chuck Biscuits (born Charles Montgomery and Dimwit's brother) to form a new band, D.O.A. Becoming regulars in Vancouver's small but lively punk community, D.O.A. self-financed and released a four-song 7" in 1978. A copy made its way to a college radio station in San Francisco, where a track from the EP, "Disco Sucks," earned plenty of airplay, prompting D.O.A. to drive down the coast to California for their first American shows. By the end of the year, D.O.A. released a second single, "The Prisoner" b/w "Thirteen," and a North American tour followed in 1979, including a date opening for the Clash in Vancouver. D.O.A. also delivered third single "World War 3" b/w "Whatcha Gonna Do?" and added a second guitarist, Dave Gregg, but after a disastrous show at the University of British Columbia, Keithley fired his bandmates and briefly broke up the group. By March 1980, Keithley had a change of heart and re-formed the band with Rampage and Biscuits; they began work on their first album and traveled to Detroit to play a protest outside that year's Republican National Convention.
By the end of 1980, D.O.A. introduced their debut album, Something Better Change, followed by relentless touring, including plenty of shows in California. Borrowing a phrase used to describe the faster and harder breed of punk emerging in the Golden State, D.O.A. called their second LP Hardcore '81, giving the moniker a greater currency than it had before. By the end of 1981, Rampage and Biscuits were out of the band (Biscuits would later play with Black Flag, Danzig, and Social Distortion), and Skulls alumni Wimpy Roy and Dimwit were back on bass and drums alongside Keithley and Gregg. Keithley had struck up a friendship with Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, and Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label would release D.O.A.'s next record, the 1982 EP War on 45. The group pushed their political stance forward with the 1983 Right to Be Wild single, the first of several benefit 7" releases D.O.A. would issue, this one to raise money for the defense of the Squamish Five, a radical group responsible for several politically oriented bombings. (One of the five was a longtime friend and former bandmate of Keithley's, Gerry Hannah.) The band toured Europe in 1984, playing mostly squats and independent venues, and recorded a BBC Radio session for John Peel that was released that same year as the EP Don't Turn Yer Back on Desperate Times.
1985's Let's Wreck the Party found D.O.A. incorporating more metal and hard rock elements into their music, though their politics remained firmly left of center. They also became one of the first Western punk bands to play in Poland as they once again toured Europe. In 1986, Dimwit quit the act, and Jon Card became their drummer in time to record 1987's True (North) Strong and Free, which was released in the United States by the successful rap and hard rock label Profile Records. The album included a cover of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit "Taking Care of Business," which featured a guest spot from BTO guitarist Randy Bachman. In 1988, Dave Gregg dropped out of D.O.A., and Chris Prohom (formerly of the Dayglo Abortions) took over on guitar. Prohom's recording debut with the band came with 1989's Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors, a collaborative LP with D.O.A. backing up Jello Biafra. The group were touring in support of 1990's Murder, another LP steeped in metal production, when Keithley was bashed in the face with a mike stand by a fan at a show in Dayton, Ohio. The incident led to Keithley breaking up D.O.A., staging a farewell tour of the West Coast before staging a final concert at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom in December 1990. A live album recorded in 1989, Talk Minus Action Equals Zero, appeared as a postscript in 1991.
In 1992, Keithley decided to give D.O.A. another chance; with Wimpy Roy on bass and Ken Jensen on drums, the band put out a new album, 13 Flavours of Doom, that put them squarely back in punk rock territory, while two compilations of vintage material were also issued, Bloodied But Unbowed: The Damage to Date 1978-1984 and The Dawning of a New Error. John Wright of NoMeansNo produced 13 Flavours and played keyboards on the sessions, and also played drums with D.O.A. for a brief spell after Ken Jensen died in a house fire. They also added guitarist Ford Pier for the recording of 1993's Loggerheads. Pier would leave D.O.A. before the recording of 1995's The Black Spot, and Keithley would be their sole guitarist from then on. Brien O'Brien signed on as drummer shortly after the recording of The Black Spot, which was released in Canada by the short-lived, Virgin-distributed Essential Noise imprint. In 1996, Keithley ran for public office for the first time as a candidate for the Green Party; the following year, Wimpy Roy left D.O.A. due to financial concerns, and Kuba van der Pol took over on bass. Frustrated by the band's relationships with record labels, Keithley relaunched Sudden Death Records, the label he started to release D.O.A.'s first singles and benefit releases. For their first LP on Sudden Death, 1998's Festival of Atheists, Keithley played both bass and drums, as van der Pol had drifted out of the lineup; the same year, they also brought out The Lost Tapes, a collection of rare and unreleased performances.
In 1999, Joe "Shithead" Keithley (as he was credited) brought out his first solo album, the acoustic-oriented Beat Trash. Following the departure of Brien O'Brien, D.O.A. brought aboard a new drummer who called himself the Great Baldini; he also doubled as an auto mechanic, a valuable addition for a band often on the road. In 2000, Kuba van der Pol officially left the act, and Randy Rampage, who had left D.O.A. in 1982, came back to the group. 2000 also saw Keithley run for office again, gaining 15 percent of the vote in the provincial election in British Columbia. 2002's Win the Battle featured guest vocals from Canadian pop punk star Bif Naked; following touring in North America, Europe, and Japan, Randy Rampage once again quit D.O.A. to return to his job as a longshoreman. Bassist Dan Yaremko signed on in 2003, appearing on 2004's Live Free or Die. 2008's Northern Avenger saw both Yaremko and the Great Baldini out of the lineup; Randy Rampage was back on bass, and Floor Tom Jones took over behind the drum kit, though by the time the group hit the road in support, Rampage had once again left and Yaremko had returned. The album was produced by Bob Rock, former guitarist with the Canadian alternative rock band the Payola$ who had gone on to produce Metallica, M?tley Cr?e, and Bon Jovi. Keithley and Floor Tom Jones were joined by bassist Dirty Dan Sedan for the recording of 2010's Talk - Action = 0 (not to be confused with the similarly titled 1991 live disc), but following the touring cycle for the LP, Jones parted company with D.O.A., and Jesse Pinner was in his place for the recording of 2012's We Come in Peace.
In 2013, Keithley once again announced he was seeking office, this time with Canada's New Democratic Party, and that he was retiring D.O.A. to focus on his campaign, playing a farewell tour in early 2013. As before, retirement didn't agree with him, and in 2014 D.O.A. were back, with Keithley on vocals and guitar, Mike Hodsall on bass, and Paddy Duddy on drums. This turned out to be one of D.O.A.'s more enduring lineups, recording 2015's Hard Rain Falling, 2018's Fight Back, and 2020's Treason. 2018 saw Keithley finally find success in electoral politics, winning a spot on the city council of Burnaby, where he helped to defeat the city's notoriously right-wing mayor, Derek Corrigan. Keithley also announced that he intended to keep D.O.A. alive, playing and recording as often as his new schedule would permit. ~ Mark Deming
ORIGINVancouver, British Columbia, Cana