It's a good day when the first human being you talk to is named Shithead. And it's even better when it's Joey Shithead (real, more boring name: Joey Keithley), longtime front man of canonical punk band DOA; sometime folkie-acoustic troubadour; onetime Elvis impersonator (well, "impersonator" doesn't do the endeavor justice); several-times Canadian Green Party candidate; lifetime hockey fan; and—with luck—future mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia. The guy's a prince among Shitheads. And, he says, it's not a nickname he's ever gonna get rid of.
"No matter how old I get, people still walk down the street and go, 'Hey, Shithead!'" he says. "It's fun to say. People really like it. Like 'I'm hanging out with the Shithead!' As opposed to hanging out with just 'a shithead,' you know?"
And he's definitely not just any shithead. DOA earned stripes for life way back when, quickly maneuvering into position as a linchpin band in the Canadian punk scene, giving a little structure to a lot of loud noise with their seminal-scene-defining Hardcore 81 EP and sticking to their guns through so many U.S. presidential administrations that the song that first saw life as "Fucked-Up Ronnie" now stomps out onstage as "Fucked-Up Bush." Again, even. But Joey—who wryly admits that 50 years old isn't too far away these days—says there's a softer side to Shithead, too.
"DOA is a good way to say what I think—but at the same time, it's gotta be rock, and it's gotta be loud and obnoxious and funny," he says. "So I do other stuff: acoustic shows, spoken word, politics, stuff like that. A lot of the time, it's not so much the song as the angle or the philosophy you're coming from. And that gets you involved—people know you're sympathetic to certain things. Or unsympathetic."
It's part of what he calls the "talk minus action equals zero" philosophy: "Do it yourself. Be your own boss. Try and take control of your life and go from there."
Shithead's really into Woody Guthrie—for every Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath LP he was blastin' as a forest-dwelling, log-chopping Canadian teenager ("The real sign of a man in Canada?" he says. "The guy can start a chainsaw on the first pull!") back in the '70s, there was something a little more subtle. Leadbelly, maybe, or even pre-electric Dylan. DOA's amps-on-11 shtick came from the one side, he explains, and the politics from the other. Punk is folk, right?
"It has been for years," Shithead says. "One guy in some music mag in England said DOA is like a 'megadecibel minstrel.' A lot of people don't realize the really strong connections—both are really political, but there's such a different sound. The two sets of fans piss each other off. But then there're a few crossovers—like me."
Of course, the DOA that's hitting the road is pretty much the regularly loud DOA of old, in spirit if not in lineup—they've got a new album out (Win the Battle, their silver-anniversary album!) and a bunch of the old ones reissued, after Shithead's painstaking negotiations with whoever owned the rights to his music. We're just trying to bring the man behind the Shithead to life: the activist, the folkie, the logger and—of course—the Elvis fan. See, Mr. Shithead appeared in a symphony production called the Memphis Cantata, representing the "middle Elvis." He sang four songs (two straight, two "totally bizarre," he says) and was honored by the opportunity to play the Shithead who would be King.
"I've been to Graceland—I'm a huge fan," he says. "When we went there, we went down the hall of fame where he's got his gold records and all his outfits, and as it goes on in time, the outfits get bigger and bigger. And John, our drummer at the time, goes, 'How do you gain that much weight when you do so many drugs?' And the whole tour party stops and the guy goes, 'MR. PRESLEY NEVER DID ANY DRUGS!' Um, yeah, right. But we'll never get another talent that dominating again. Pop idols go by too quickly—of course, when you consider what's come along lately, that's probably a good thing."
DOA PERFORMS WITH THE SKULLS AND THE CROWD AT THE TIKI BAR, 1700 PLACENTIA, COSTA MESA, (949) 548-3533. MON., 9 P.M. $10. 21+.
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