Volume 93, Issue 95
Wednesday, March 29, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Shithead keeps talking Trash
Photo by Laura Keithley
DON'T TALK... IT MAKES IT CRAWL BACK UP. Joe "Shithead" Keithley, godfather of Canadian punk, takes a few moments to collect his thoughts and drop by Call the Office on Saturday night.
By Luke Rundle
One would think aging alternative icon Joe "Shithead" Keithley would have run out of things to say by now.
Not only has this 43 year-old been the guiding force behind legendary Canadian punk band D.O.A. for the past 20 years, but he has also acted on stage and screen and run two unsuccessful campaigns for public office in British Columbia, under the banner of the Green Party.
Apparently he's still got a few opinions to air, which he does on Beat Trash, a combination of acoustic/spoken word that Keithley is set to regale his audience with at Call the Office Saturday night.
When asked what prompted him to embark on a number of live spoken word performances ˆ la compatriots Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra, Keithley emits a self-depreciating guffaw. "Well, they say old punks never die, they just do spoken word," he snickers. "We can't go down into the pit anymore, so we've gotta do something."
Shithead's band formed in Vancouver, B.C. in 1978 and quickly established themselves as one of Canada's seminal punk bands, working hard to spread punk counter-culture around the world.
As this monumental band's founder and frontman, Keithley has earned the title of the godfather of Canadian punk from countless journalists. Although Keithley isn't the biggest proponent of this belief, he grudgingly accepts the title.
"Enough journalists have used it, so I guess it's something they believe," he laughs. "Of all the bands from Canada that went out and travelled around in the early days, D.O.A. was one of the only ones that travelled far and wide, to the U.S., Europe, all around the world. We kind of imagined ourselves as Canada's cultural ambassadors."
Keithley says D.O.A.'s first tentative name was actually Joe Shithead and the Marching Morons, but when they settled on D.O.A., he decided to keep the moniker for himself. "All the old punk rock guys had nicknames Hippie Pinhead, Randy Rampage, Chuck Biscuit, Dimwit. You couldn't be on the scene without a punk rock handle, it was just the thing," he recalls.
"I still think it's funny when I walk into a restaurant and somebody yells, "Hey, Shithead" and everybody looks when I answer."
Whether or not his success is dependent on this name recognition, it is clear that people are familiar with Keithley. D.O.A. is still performing and in 1998, celebrated their 20th anniversary together as a group. In addition, his provincial and federal election experiences undoubtedly contribute to Beat Trash's strong political bent. "From that, I'd say that what I learned about politics was that people will vote for shitheads, but not necessary Joe Shithead," he says jokingly.
But it is Keithley's solo spoken word tours which have gained him a more recent notoriety. For over a year, Keithley has collected enough of his biographical stories and vociferous opinions to fill a two hour spoken word show and perform in venues across North America. "It's very loosely based spoken word," he explains. "It's more like running social commentary combined with guitar. I call [the show] punk rock bedtime stories."
Both the Beat Trash album and the live show follow the same structure, in that they contain a number of Woody Guthrie-esque acoustic numbers with definite political themes, followed by a second half of Shithead preaching his stories and opinions to the populace.
"This is my soapbox, my chance to say what I think. I really try to make it entertaining," he says. "I think it just gives people a chance to hear something honest and real, without any of the bullshit factor that a lot of politicians and musicians use. I don't harp or preach at them, I just say what I think."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000