“WRECKING THE PARTY WITH LOVE” An Interview with D.O.A.
by Lynna Landstreet Kick It Over #13, Fall 1985
D.O.A. are one of Canada’s most politically oriented punk bands, despite a reputation (perhaps undeserved) for being sexist, due primarily to a couple of songs with fairly ambiguous lyrics (i.e., is this parody or the real thing?). They’ve been particularly active in support work for the Vancouver Five, among other things. I saw the band on their recent tour in London, Ont. and in Toronto. At the Toronto show particularly, they made a lot of statements between songs (actually, they might have at the London gig, but the P.A. was so bad and the audience so loud that it was hard to make out anything they said), encouraging people to boycott South African beer, go to the Hiroshima Day demonstration, and not to be so rough in the front since women were being pushed back and they were afraid people were going to get hurt. (As a matter of fact, people did get hurt at that show; two people received cuts from irresponsible idiots stage-diving while wearing lots of studs, one so badly he had to have 15 stitches, and one stage-diver missed the crowd and ended up in the hospital with a concussion.) I interviewed singer Joey Keighley (a.k.a. Joey Shithead) and bass player Brian Goble (a.k.a. Wimpy Roy) in London, with Janice Maxwell of the now-defunct fanzine The Livin’ End and Chaz Vincent of Mind Theatre. This interview didn’t turn out too well, partly due to being conducted in a crowded room and partly to the fact that we didn’t have a tape recorder and had to rely on Janice taking notes. Janice and I put the interview together as best we could from her notes and our memories (apologies to all concerned if we got anything wrong), but due to the small amount of material we ended up wih tand the lack of space in this issue, we’re just printing a few extracts from the London niterview. After the Toronto gig I talked to guitarist Dave Gregg. This interview turned out a lot better (and longer) because I had a tape recorder and there was only one other person present, Janice Green (not to be confused with Janice Maxwell), who also contributed some questions and comments.Janice Maxwell: You know, your gigs are not a good place for women to be. Too many ditch-pigs in the audience, so women get hassled a lot.Joey: Well, you know, we can’t really control what goes on in the audience when we’re up on stage.Lynna: This might sound kind of hostile, but don’t you think you encourage that to a certain extent by playing songs like “Let’s Fuck”? (Janice and I had worn homemade “Let’s not” t-shirts for the occasion, but as it turned out, they didn’t play the song.)Joey: It was intended as a satire on cock-rockers, but I guess it’s easy for people to find it offensive, or even to be encouraged by it. Maybe my sense of humour, my sense of satire, is a little too refined for the general public, but to me it’s blatantly obvious. All the songs have to be looked at together; by taking a song out of its context it can be seen the wrong way… A lot of bands perpetuate the macho image, and D.O.A. are sort of victims of that, it’s just naturally assumed that we’re the same.Lynna: There are a lot of bands who call themselves anarchists, or at least put circle A’s all over their records, and probably some of them know what it means and some of them don’t, but you on the other hand seem to support a lot of anarchist causes and ideas, but I’ve never heard you call yourselves anarchists. Do you consider yourselves anarchists?Brian: To me, anarchy means people taking responsibility for their own lives and creating a new world for themselves, which is a great idea and I support it, but the actual word “anarchy” has bad connotations because of people misconstruing it. People need some education before they go throwing around generic terms and easily misunderstood terms. Some people, however well-meaning, don’t have the meaning of it clear with other people, although they may have it clear with themselves… I don’t think extremist bands, like Crass, will really do much good, because they only reach people who are already converted, they don’t actually convert anyone.Lynna: Tonight you were trying to get the men in the audience to stop pushing the women around, to let the women participate more. Do you want to talk about that?Dave: I see it all the time, I notice that the women want to participate, but they get pushed to the perimeter. I thought the way I put it tonight was actually pretty good, that if we’re going to change anything, there can’t be people on the fringe like that, whether it be women, or Blacks, or people with long hair, or people with short hair, or whoever. You can’t exclude people like that, everyone has to be able to participate. It seems to me that the point of women participating in dancing is an easy one to make, because it’s a crime, you know, that this music is being interpreted by people as an excuse to be irresponsible, whereas the exact opposite was the idea. It’s an opportunity to be responsible, and to create something that’s different. I just look around, and I see that the police force is totally dominated by men, the army is dominated by men, politics is dominated by men, the judicial system is dominated by men, the work force is dominated by men, and this is what makes the world go round. And this punk rock business – well, “punk rock” is a joke to me, I just use that for lack of a better word – offered to me the opportunity to try and build something different. This is the foundation. We’ve got to start right here, right now, on the dance floor.Lynna: We’ve got to straighten out our own subculture before we can hope to change society as a whole.Dave: Yeah… But that was one of the things that appealed to me, about playing music, punk rock especially. When we started, there were no rules. It was a golden opportunity to create something that was actually different, because everyone knows that in this world, in this society, we’re not even coming close to fulfilling what human potential is. We’re missing it, totally! And there was this void in the arts world, in the rock world, because there was this huge, monstrous infrastructure that had built up, with bands making millions of dollars, and lifestyles of the rich and famous, and when I looked at it, it was totally devoid of anything emotional, anything really spiritual, which is what music really is. We, D.O . A., and lots of other bands sensed that and started making music that filled that gap. And this great opportunity was created. And, you know, it goes in cycles, and sometimes it’s not so great. I’ve done gigs where, I’m serious, you could count the number of women in the audience on one hand! They’re just not interested in coming out and subjecting themselves to a bunch of fucking guys beating their chests! And I don’t blame them. I don’t even particularly want to be at those gigs. But you’ve got to wade through that because everything goes in cycles, and it’ll get better.Janice Green: I think the bands can usually get the point across, though.Dave: Well, we’ve been trying, but for a long time there I think we just kind of let it slide, we sort of shirked our responsibility, because you don’t really want to get up there and preach to people. I don’t want to say “do this, do that, don’t do this,” but then it became apparent that people needed to be taken by the hand to a certain extent, and we have a conflict within the band as to how to approach this problem, so we just do the best we can.Lynna: I think one reason a lot of women don’t come to your gigs – I know it’s the reason that a lot of my friends didn’t – is that D.O.A. has a reputation for being really sexist. Dave: Yeah, I know!Lynna: Joey said when I talked to him last night that songs like “Let’s Fuck” are supposed to be a parody of that kind of attitude, but that’s not very clear, especially when you hear it in this all-male environment, from an all-male band, it’s very easy to miss the joke, so that it can come across as no different from bands like AC/DC or Van Halen… Dave: Well, I would shudder to think it came across as no different…Lynna: Less different than it should be, though.Dave: Yeah. Well, it took a lot of time, but we eventually realized that that song was doing more harm than good. There’s a lot of people, men and women alike, that do appreciate the satire of that song, but there were more that didn’t, so we stopped doing it. So who knows, maybe a couple of years down the road we’ll start doing it again, but at this point we’ve sort of reached the point of diminishing returns on that song. Satire and parody are dangerous because you can be taken wrongly, but if you don’t push things, nothing ever changes. You’ve got to push things past the point of what’s safe, and people get offended. What can I do?Lynna: One way to deal with it is just to make some kind of statement when you play it that reflects the intent of the song, so you alienate fewer people.Dave: Yeah, we tried that. When we were over in Europe we got tons of flak, and that was really tough because we couldn’t speak the language so we couldn’t do the rap. And in North America when I used to see a male-dominated dance floor, either before or after we’d play “Let’s Fuck”, I’d say “Hey, fellows, what’s the deal? Do you all want to fuck each other? Why don’t you let some of the women participate?” But that didn’t really work, because it was a real popular song and one that we’d really go crazy on, so it would always bring out the most radical reaction, and then the women really would get pushed to the edges, because they don’t want to get the elbows and the big boots and all that stuff. It’s not just women! Fuck, man, I wouldn’t go out on the dance floor in that shit! I think everyone realizes that the situation’s out of control… But on the other hand, there’s nothing quite like being 16 years old. I was 16 years old once, and being a 16-year-old male you have this sense of indestructability which is really tough to beat, and you’ve got to take that into account: Those kids are going crazy and it feels great! I know it does because it felt great to me.Janice: They’re releasing a lot of pressure.Dave: Yeah… But, obviously, I’m not 16 any more, and as a band we want to appeal to a larger group of people. It’s all fine and dandy if a handful of the audience has a really good time, but I’d rather see the whole audience have a really good time. Lynna: What you were saying earlier, about asking the men if they all wanted to fuck each other, there may be a lot more truth to that than people think…Dave: Oh, there is!Lynna: Because, you know, men in this society are not really allowed to touch each other or be physically affectionate with each other, because of these rigid heterosexual roles that everyone’s forced into, so they devise all these ritualized excuses to touch each other, like playing football…Dave: Yeah, that’s sort of why I quit saying it, because there was a little too much truth in it. Because that’s also a part of being a 16-year-old guy, you’re going through puberty, and it’s not as cut and dried as people would have you believe. Sexual roles are not black and white…Dave: People ask us, “What’s this ‘Let’s Wreck The Party’ business all about?” Well, the people on the cover that are having dinner, with the chicken, that represents the status quo. And the status quo is a lie! Like people in the U.S. getting all patriotic and waving American flags, and thinking that somehow or other this is their birthright, that they deserve this lifestyle! Fuck you, man, nobody is doing anything to deserve this! Sure, lots of people work, everybody works. But the fact of the matter is that we’re living off the blood and sweat of the Third World! And that’s what keeps the status quo going! Sure, American ingenuity. But the ingenuity has been “How can we exploit these people, absolutely, to the max?” And what we’re saying is, fuck, let’s wreck it, let’s trash it, let’s kick over the applecart, because this is a lie! And we didn’t burst into the room with machine guns, we just had our guitars, because we want to do it with art, with love. Because you can’t – well, there is something to be said for fighting fire with fire, like the Vancouver Five, but we choose to fight fire with love.Lynna: Like fighting fire with water.Dave: Or fight fire with water, fight hate with love. Because if you fight hate with hate, you’re going to waste your life hating. And so we’re going to wreck the party with love, and with compassion.Lynna: So, in the case of the Vancouver Five, you supported them as activists or as friends, even though you don’t really agree with the methods they used?Dave: Well, we certainly did. We raised money for them, and hopefully we raised people’s consciousness about what they did. It’s not what I choose to do, to resort to violence. But what we did, as artists, was to use their situation as a platform to talk about things, to talk about the fact that there’s a real paradox here. These people used violence to achieve an end, and got no personal gain from it, they didn’t make any money off of it or anything, and they get called terrorists and menaces to society, and end up spending the rest of their fucking lives in prison with murderers and rapists, who I don’t imagine are very fun people to hang out with, and at the same time, we, as citizens of this country, are taxed, and the money goes to maintain a standing army, which is just a bunch of guys who have been cleared of all responsibility, and have a license to go out and “settle” things by force, and to go out and kill people if that’s what they’re told to do, and they can do that and that’s O.K., they’re not going to do any time for it!Lynna: Yeah, there’s a double standard, if you use violence with the government’s permission, that’s O.K., but if you use violence without the government’s permission, you’re a terrorist.Dave: That’s the word I was looking for, a double standard. And in the case of the Vancouver Five, there’s another big double standard in terms of the judicial system. As far as I was concerned, their actions were not just against Litton or BC Hydro or Red Hot Video in particular, but against a whole mentality, a whole insanity as I see it, that’s consuming the world. And I think the judicial system is incapable of being impartial.Lynna: Because they’re part of that system.Dave: They’re a part of the system, and it’s a joke, you know! If the justice system was truly impartial, instead of being just a wing of the government, they would go out and arrest the people at Litton, and they would arrest the people who run the army, and they would say, “You’re going to go on trial for conspiracy to murder!” And I’d be right behind them, I’d say “Yeah, get these jerks out of here!”Lynna: Not only is it a double standard, but it’s the reverse of any kind of logical order. It’s not O.K. to blow up a building to try and save people’s lives, but it’s O.K. to kill people for profit.Dave: And that’s the worst of it, that the justification for it all does just boil down to money. Money makes everything O.K. The one case of the Vancouver Five, the one involving Red Hot Video, I think that one is a little bit different. I think it’s pretty cut and dried. I don’t have any problem saying that that is a case of self defense, because the line you can draw between pornography and violence against women is pretty clear. Why should people sit around and wait to be assaulted or raped, when they can go out and actually do something about it, and change the world right now? It’s self defense as far as I’m concerned.Lynna: When you get into dealing with the porn issue, a lot of people will accuse you of being pro-censorship. You know, they say that if you burn a porn shop, or even if you pour ink on porn magazines at your local corner store or “redecorate” advertising posters outside porn theatres, like I do sometimes, then that’s censorship. What do you think of that argument?Dave: Well, I’m no advocate of censorship, but I think that if women and men alike take a more aggressive stand against that kind of stuff, then it will fall into a more correct perspective in the realm of human experience. I mean, you can’t deny that there is such a thing as erotica, that people like to look at each other’s bodies. That’s just the way it is. But at the same time, it’s so out of perspective. That’s the real problem, not that it exists, but that it’s gotten so blown out of proportion, because of man’s ability to manipulate things. It’s all Madison Avenue, you know, you make something into something that it’s really not. I mean, really, the pictures of Madonna in Playboy — which by chance we’ve got a copy of in the van! (laughs) No, really, there’s a story behind that! We bought it because they reviewed a D.O.A. album in that issue. And if that don’t make you feel funny, nothing does! There we are, right in the lair of the beast, so to speak. But those mags, they’re just pictures of women, but it’s pretty obvious from the way they approach them, the things they write, and the way they get people to sit, or stand, or hang from a tree, or whatever they’re doing, that there’s a message in there that’s subliminal, and it twists everything, and right now it’s twisted so fucking far it’s ridiculous! And that’s why you get people reacting to it, and I say more power to them… I’d like to be able to look at a picture of a nude woman without a huge mountain of subconscious feelings in the back of my head. I’d like to be able to look at it and say “I like it” or “I don’t like it” or whatever, just have it nice and pure and simple, not this huge fucking monster that’s been created!Lynna: There’s all these symbolic meanings in the imagery they use…Dave: Yeah, with me, I get a bunch of subconscious information, and with other people, the subconscious information that they get might drive them to rape a woman. I mean, who knows how people react to this stuff?Janice: In Windsor, there was this case, about a month ago, where this guy watched a TV show in which someone attacked a variety store clerk, raped her, and ran her over about four times with a car, and he watched this on TV one night and then went out and did it, to a woman in a variety store. He dumped her in a garbage can, but she lived, and it was exactly the same thing that he’d watched on TV.Dave: That’s a particularly graphic example. I think most of what you see is more diluted. It’s the product of years and years of people getting fed information. There’s one thing, getting back to music, which I feel separates D.O.A. from a lot of these metal bands. I feel they’re really fucking irresponsible with the kind of images they use. Young kids are real impressionable, and, just for the sake of selling records, to tie women up, to portray women as things that are to be dominated, to put out images of the devil, evil, all that stuff – you know it’s satire, because if they were really evil, they wouldn’t be making rock music, they’d be out killing people – but it’s so cheap and so tacky and, to me so irresponsible… Who knows? I mean, you’re going to reap what you sow, and we’ll see, 10 or 15 years from now, how powerful the music of this generation really was. What are the kids who are listening to Motley Crue and all those other bands that are making bucks off the devil, what are those kids going to aspire to, when they’re not 16 any more, when they’re 35 and maybe they’re married? What are they going to do with their lives?Lynna: They’ll probably be stockbrokers and beat up their wives.Dave: Yeah, if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky, they’ll be unemployed and beat up their wives.Lynna: What about the kids that are listening to D.O.A.? Maybe they’ll end up where Gerry Hannah is.Dave: Maybe. Or maybe they’ll be stockbrokers who beat up their wives, you never know. But I do think that one thing that sets us apart is that we’re trying to be responsible. We’re trying to be crazy at the same time as being responsible. It’s like trying to elevate the concept of human awareness to the point where you can have your cake and eat it too, you can go berserk, you can cut your hair like the fucking Statue of Liberty, you can do anything you want, and you can be cool too, you can be smart, and you can have a heart, and you can know where you fit in the world, participate, instead of being a follower. We try to create new concepts, to go beyond… What I would like to do is to try and redefine the role of artists in the world. I think that artists should run the world – well, not really, I don’t think anyone should run the world, but I think that artists should take the bull by the horns, because, as far as I’m concerned, the cats that are in the White House, and Mulroney, and the guys in the Kremlin, they’re acting like 4-year-olds. I mean, I went to the recruiting office when I was 13, and got all their brochures, because, as strange as it may seem, people can romanticize anything. They can romanticize joining the army, they can romanticize being a bank robber, they can romanticize being a murderer – anything! But I grew out of that. When I hit 17 or 18, I began to realize that there was no future in that. It’s like an endless cycle. Someone’s got to break the cycle. These cats, the politicians, they never grew up. They got sucked into thinking – well, I don’t know what they got sucked into thinking, I can’t figure it out! It’s an obvious dead end. Especially with nuclear proliferation, it’s a total dead end! You’ve got to be a child not to realize that. So that’s why we’ve got to redefine the role of the artist. Someone’s got to be responsible… That’s why I dig art, and music, because they offer us an opportunity to break with these crazy cycles that people are on. People always say to me, “Well, there’s nothing you can do,” but I really disagree. The future’s unwritten as far as I’m concerned.