D.O.A. is a hardcore punk band from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They are often referred to as the “founders” of hardcore punk, along with Black Flag, The Germs, Negative Trend, and Middle Class. Their second album Hardcore ’81 was thought by many to have been the first actual reference to the second wave of the American punk sound as hardcore. Singer/guitarist Joey “Shithead” Keithley is the only founding member to have stayed in the band throughout its entire history. However, original bassist Randy Rampage has been active in the band in recent years and has played on one of the band’s last three albums, although he is not in the current lineup. D.O.A. has often released music on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles Records, and they have released an album with Jello Biafra titled Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors.
D.O.A. has always maintained an uncompromising leftist political stance. The band is known for its outspoken political opinions and has a history of performing for many causes and benefits. Its slogan is “Talk minus Action equals Zero.” The band has been active on many issues, including anti-racism, anti-globalization, freedom of speech, and the environment.
Founder Joe Keithley now spends a great deal of time working with his record company Sudden Death Records which has branched off into many areas of music.
D.O.A was preceded by The Skulls, an early Vancouver-area punk-rock band that included future D.O.A members Joey “Shithead” Keithley, Brian “Wimpy Roy” Goble, and Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery.
When the Skulls broke up, Joey Shithead (guitar/vocals) formed D.O.A with Dimwit’s brother Chuck Biscuits on drums and Randy Rampage on bass and vocals. The band put out a few singles and E.P.’s on Shithead’s own Sudden Death label, and toured North America, sometimes with violent clashes with audience members and police. Their early sound was very basic, raw singalong melodic punk rock, with a lot of similarity to early punk bands like The Sex Pistols and the early albums by The Clash and The Ramones.
In 1980, they added second guitarist Dave Gregg, and put out their full-length debut Something Better Change on Friends Records. This was followed quickly by Hardcore ’81, which is often credited with being the namesake for the hardcore punk movement. The music, as well, had gotten faster and more powerful and dynamic, a blueprint for the emerging hardcore sound.
Randy Rampage left the band on January 1, 1982, to be replaced by ex-Skulls drummer Dimwit on bass. After a short tour of California, Chuck Biscuits left the band and joined Black Flag. Dimwit switched back to drums and Subhumans’s singer Wimpy Roy was hired as the new bass player and second singer, leaving Keithley as the only remaining original member. This lineup would last from 1982–1983 and later 1985-1986 and produced several notable releases, including the EP War on 45 (now expanded into a full-length album). War on 45 found the band expanding their sound with touches of funk and reggae, as well as making their anti-war and anti-imperialist political stance more clear. 1985’s Let’s Wreck The Party and 1987’s True (North) Strong And Free saw the band taking on a more mainstream, hard-rock oriented production, but without watering down the band’s political lyrical focus. Meanwhile, the band’s lineup changes continued after Let’s Wreck the Party, with Dimwit replaced by Kerr Belliveau. Belliveau stayed only three weeks with the band but recorded the Expo Hurts Everyone 7″ as well as two songs for True (North) Strong and Free before being replaced by Jon Card from Personality Crisis. Dave Gregg quit in 1988 after D.O.A. fired their manager Ken Lester, to which he was very close. The band hired Chris Prohom from the Dayglo Abortions as a replacement.
1990’s Murder featured rawer, almost thrash-metal production, rather than their original basic punk sound. The same year also produced a collaboration with Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra with Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors. In August 1990, Joey decided he was breaking up D.O.A. but, at the suggestion of promoter Dirk Dirksen, they did a farewell tour of the West Coast, playing their “final” show on December 1, 1990 at the Commodore in Vancouver. In 1991, they released a posthumous live album entitled Talk Minus Action = 0 while Joey tried to become an actor.
However, 19 months after D.O.A. broke up, Joey Shithead and Wimpy Roy had reunited as D.O.A in the summer of 1992. Fellow Canadian punk rock veteran John Wright from NoMeansNo suggested they hire Ken Jensen from Red Tide as the new drummer, which they did. The new lineup released an EP and two albums in the early 90’s, 13 Flavours Of Doom and Loggerheads. These albums found the band replacing the more hard-rock oriented sound of the 80’s with a return to punk rock, although it was a heavier, tighter brand of punk than their earlier work. These albums were produced by Wright, who also played keyboards on the recordings. The band then added Ford Pier on guitar and vocals.
Tragedy struck in 1995 when drummer Ken Jensen died in a house fire. The “Ken Jensen Memorial Single” EP was released on Alternative Tentacles, including two tracks each from D.O.A. and Red Tide. With John Wright filling in on drums, ninth full-length The Black Spot was recorded. The album featured a more basic, sing-along type punk rock sound that was reminiscent of the band’s late 70’s and early 80’s output.
The late 90’s found the band’s lineup in turmoil, with Wimpy Roy leaving the band after a decade and a half of service. Keithley experimented with different bassists and drummers, managing to release another album of basic hardcore punk-rock style music with Festival Of Atheists. By the early 00’s, the band had found a permanent drummer in the form of The Great Baldini. In 2002, Keithley put out his first solo album, Beat Trash, and original bassist Randy Rampage returned to the band after nearly 20 years for the Win The Battle album. However, the reunion did not last, with Rampage leaving the band again after the recording of the album, to be replaced by Dan Yaremko.
“The Lost Tapes” was the first release on Keithley’s revived Sudden Death label, followed by “Festival Of Atheists”. During this period, Keithley also oversaw the re-release of the band’s classic early records on Sudden Death, many of which had been out of print for many years.
In 2003, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell declared December 21 to be “D.O.A. Day” in honour of the band’s 25th anniversary. In the same year, the band released a career-spanning retrospective entitled War And Peace. 2004 found the band releasing the ska-flavoured Live Free or Die. In 2006, Randy Rampage rejoined D.O.A. for his 3rd stint in the band.
The lineup remained stable until 2008, when The Great Baldini left the band to be replaced by new drummer James Hayden. Also in 2008, it was announced that Bob Rock, of Metallica fame would be producing the band’s next album in time for their 30th anniversary. James Hayden quit before D.O.A. started to record to be replaced by Floor Tom Jones In September 2008, D.O.A. released Northern Avenger and embarked on their 30th anniversary tour. On the eve of the tour, it was announced that Randy Rampage was being replaced by Dan Yaremko once again.
D.O.A. played several dates in the summer of 2009 as part of the Van’s Warped Tour 2009.
On May 1, 2010, D.O.A. released their fourteenth full-length album, their second to be titled “Talk Minus Action = Zero.” Drummer Jesse Pinner from the band Raised by Apes took the place of Floor Tom Jones beginning on D.O.A.’s Canadian tour in August 2010 because Floor Tom Jones, a Canada Post employee, couldn’t free himself from his job to tour.
April 1, 2011, D.O.A. performed in Oak Harbor WA at Vagabond Sound. Recording the set. And later releasing highlights on a split 12″ with Oak Harbor’s own Potbelly; titled “The Vagabond Sessions”.
In 2012, Joe announced that he would be seeking nomination as an NDP candidate in the B.C. provincial election. As a result, D.O.A. was put on hiatus, and began their farewell tour on January 18, 2013 in celebration of the band’s thirty-five year anniversary.
On September 22, 2014, Keithley officially announced on the Sudden Death Records website that the band had reformed, and would be embarking on a Canadian tour in October in support of the recently released live album, “Welcome To Chinatown”. A world tour is planned to follow in 2015.