By Dylan Hackett, News Editor
Last week I had a chance to interview DOA frontman and NDP candidate for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, Joe Keithley, discussing the issues at hand in the May provincial election, his own political history, and the process of securing party nomination.
The Other Press: First off, I would like to thank you for coming here today to meet me. Do you think you could walk, jog, or stroll my readers and I through the process of securing the nomination for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain?
Joe Keithley: Basically, I put in my papers with the BCNDP a couple of months ago. They have an online vote so [members] can look at every possible candidate. You don’t want to end up with someone who doesn’t suit the party or someone that has done something really strange in their past. I’ve appealed to all the members of the riding—there are 80 at this time, which is not a lot. I phoned every one of them and mailed a handout saying what I do, who I am. Mostly, I’m in the process of trying to sign up new members, which is the key thing.
To be a new member you have to have been signed up 90 days before the nomination meeting. We don’t know the date yet but it will be in December or January. I’m trying to sign up as many members as I can in the next two weeks. Students are the primary people that I would try and get to sign up because I think they’re under-represented and they don’t get a break—they haven’t gotten a break from the BC Liberals.
When the nomination meeting happens and if I’m so lucky that the people of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain decide that I’m the right person, then we go into a full-on election campaign for the next four months with the election being May 14.
OP: Music and politics are often linked together. I know for myself, personally, my first big political awakenings were from punk music—when I first discovered Crass, and the UK82 stuff like Discharge. Here’s a fun question—name three musical influences on your politics and three political influences on your music—negative or positive.
JK: Woodie Guthrie would be number one, Bob Dylan, back in his early days. He still knows how to write a song but he had a big impact back in the sixties. I would say another one would be Jimi Hendrix. He was actually a veteran—he didn’t serve in Vietnam but he was in the Air Corps. He stood up to the Vietnam War.
Political influences on music… well, back in the heyday of punk rock in the late seventies, early eighties the guy who had the biggest influence on punk rock was Ronald Reagan because he was such a negative figure. He was anti-people, anti-environment, pro-war—he begat a lot of punks and punk bands because people rallied against Reagan and his policies. He’s probably the biggest influence in some ways.
For an inspirational person that was political but came from an arts background was Václav Havel. He became the president of the Czech Republic right after the fall of communism. The guy was a playwright. I thought if a playwright could be president then surely a musician can be an MLA.
OP: You’re known for saying “talk minus action equals zero.” What do you think the talk is in the political scene and what should the action be?
JK: [The phrase] comes down to a grassroots thing. I’ve always thought change doesn’t come from politicians or business leaders or the media. Politicians are kind of like poll readers in a way. They read what people want and but it’s the people that run things. A lot of the time, unfortunately, people don’t realize that they can have a great influence on society. I think really big change starts right within your own community. If you have a good idea, it goes out from your community, across the province, across the country, and maybe even across the world—if the idea is good enough.
It’s going to morph into something else and be called something else, but I’m a fan of the Occupy movement. A lot of people, especially in Vancouver, have some negative connotations towards the Occupy movement but you have to think that at the Occupy camp in Vancouver, of course people that are homeless and have problems would go there because there is safety in numbers, some shelter, some food, and medical services. I think the important issues of the Occupy movement and whatever it morphs into over the next few years, and I think it will continue strong, is that there has to be equality and a fair sharing of the goods on this earth. People who have the money should pay their fair share.
OP: Who would you say is the worst politician right now and the best musician/artist?
JK: I have to say that I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They’re pretty high on the list. I’m not too big on Stephen Harper.
In the arts, there are a lot of people who are really great. It just depends on your taste. My personal favourite right now is Willie Nelson. He puts his money where his mouth is, he takes a lot of righteous, cool stands on politics. Even though he has this country image he’s not afraid to mess with establishment and right-wing people and rednecks.
OP: You ran for the Green Party, twice, over a decade ago. Why the orange this time?
JK: After the last time I ran, in 2001, I ran in Burnaby-Willingdon and I came in third with about 15 per cent of the votes, which is one of the highest that the Green has gotten across the province. I realized two things after that: one is that the Green Party had good environmental ideas, but some social conservatives got involved in the party. Even though I liked their environmental policy, I thought that these are people I don’t agree with, Elizabeth May being one of them. Two, is that I found I really couldn’t stand Gordon Campbell and I found the Green to be a vote-splitter.
I had been a member of the NDP when I was 18-20, before DOA started going and I realized [now] a lot of friends and people I work with were friends of the NDP or outright supporters of the NDP. It made sense for me to go back.
I’ve worked on stacks and stacks of benefits like anti-war stuff, rape relief, fair trade as opposed to free trade.
John Lennon had this song, “Power to the People”, and I kind of paraphrase that and call my whole trip, “people power.” People deserve justice, everybody deserves a chance, everybody needs to live their life to the fullest and in a lot of cases, that doesn’t happen.
If people out there at Douglas College think that I would be a good candidate, sign up soon and I’m easy to find. JoeNDP@gmail.com.”
This interview has been condensed and edited for print.