|Joe Keithley. (QMI Agency file photo)
D.O.A. could soon be MIA -- provided Joe Keithley becomes an NDP MLA.
The Canadian punk icon says he'll put his band on hold if he succeeds in his bid for a seat in the B.C. legislature next spring.
"I would not be touring at all or playing shows," says the 56-year-old singer-guitarist long known at Joey S---head. "Obviously it's a full-time job, and to do it properly, you have to throw yourself into it. Depending on how much time I had, I would still try to write songs and record. But I would probably make different types of albums -- a jazz record or a country record. I suspect that if I become an MLA, the latest D.O.A. album, We Come in Peace, would be my last punk record."
Likewise, his current cross-Canada tour with bassist Dan Sedan and new drummer J.J. Heath could be his final trek across the Great White North in a cramped van. But before he trades his leather jacket and denim vest for a double-breasted suit, the gravel-throated Keithley got on the blower to talk politics, powder-blue tuxedos and why we need another s---head in government.
This isn't your first run for office, right?
Right. I ran for the Green Party in '96 and '01, and in '01 I did pretty well. I was the second-highest vote-getter for the Greens in B.C. And in '97, I ran for city council here in Burnaby. I've been trying to change the system from outside for the past 35 years or so. So here's my attempt to change the system from inside. It's a natural transition for me.
What makes you think your chances are better this time?
Well, first of all, I'm running with the right party in the NDP. And second, my name recognition will help. People know me. I can draw people to the NDP -- especially younger people that don't vote or people who are sick of the political system. I might be twice as old as some of them, but thanks to D.O.A., I think I've earned a reputation as a straight shooter.
Do you vote?
I have voted in every single election since I was 18 -- civically, federally and provincially.
Isn't your youth appeal balanced out by older people who won't vote for a guy nicknamed S---head?
Ha! That's one way of looking at it, for sure. But you know what? It's a matter of showing up and meeting people and talking to people, and showing them what your ideas are and that you're capable of listening. If I get the nomination, between now and May, I'm going to attempt to knock on every door in the riding.
In hindsight, do you wish you'd picked another pseudonym?
Well, I can't do anything about that. You have to admit, it is pretty memorable. But the one person who really advised me against it was my mother. She would read articles in the paper and get to my name and stop and look at me and say, 'Don't you think you could use a different name?' So all I can say is you should listen to your mother.
Would an MLA salary be a pay cut or a raise?
It would probably be on par. We do pretty well with the (Sudden Death Records) label and the band. We're not millionaires or anything like that, but the band gets paid pretty well. And merch sales are good. Put it this way, I'll be fine either way. Money is not a consideration here.
You've been a DIY guy for decades, but politics is about compromise. How would you handle that?
You've got to go for the greater good. The majority of people are in the middle on most subjects -- neither extreme right nor extreme left. So that's the viewpoint you've got to govern from. You have to take the good with the bad. And if you can't compromise, you shouldn't be there. But at the same time, you can't lose your ideals and you have to keep pushing for what you believe in.
Do you actually own a suit and tie?
I have two. The last one I had was from my wedding 25 years ago. It more or less still fits, so that's not bad. But I went and bought a new one. I thought the old one was a little threadbare.
I hope it wasn't a powder blue tuxedo.
No, thankfully. Then I would look like the guy from My Cousin Vinny when he had to go to court.