The story of how Joey “Shithead” Keithley — frontman of the Canadian hardcore legends D.O.A. — pivoted from punk to politics is the focus of the upcoming documentary Something Better Change.
After four decades at the helm of the influential Vancouver punk band, Keithley entered the politics arena in 2018 in an effort to unseat the mayor of Burnaby, British Columbia. Despite a $7,000 campaign budget, the underdog Keithley ended up winning a city councillor seat, which in part helped end the mayor’s five-term reign.
Filmmaker Scott Crawford (Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC and CREEM: America’s Only Rock’n’Roll Magazine) captures Keithley’s political pursuits in Something Better Change, an in-the-works documentary that features interviews with Duff McKagan, Beto O’Rourke and Krist Novoselic, plus Keithley’s fellow politically minded hardcore vets like Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye and Black Flag’s Henry Rollins. The film gets its name from D.O.A.’s 1980 debut album Something Better Change.
“When Scott Crawford approached me about making a documentary, it wasn’t long before I saw that we shared the same vision; we both wanted tell the same story — that punk rock activism can take on any bullshit thrown our way and create results that really make a difference in our communities,” Keithley said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
“When I started playing in D.O.A., I realized pretty quickly that the band was a great way to get people to listen to ideas and help to make this world a better place. Much like the band’s motto ‘Talk – Action = 0’ says, now that I’m elected official, I’m really getting a chance to see those positive changes in real time.”
Along with the first trailer for the documentary, Something Better Change also established a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to complete the film, including music licensing fees, archive licensing fees and post-production. Rewards for pledges include D.O.A. merch, a thank you in the end credits and an autographed Keithley guitar.
The documentary hopes to arrive ahead of the 2022 British Columbia municipal elections, where Keithley will once again run for office.
“I’ve been D.O.A. for 40 years, and the entire time we fought against racism, greed, war and sexism,” Keithley says in the trailer. “There’s a lot of reasons I ran for politics. I believe in grassroots democracy where people really have a say and an input into what’s going on.”
“If you really believe in something, you got to fight for it and you cannot just talk about it,” fellow punk-turned-politician Beto O’Rourke says. “Joe Keithley running for office; I mean, this is one of the hardest things you can do.”