React (US), November 13 - 19, 1995
Keanu Rocks ...Kind of
Do Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp really want to be rock stars, too?
Acting Like Rock Stars
Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp are film icons, but what they really want to do is play guitar.
by Danelle Morton
You're in a marginally talented rock n' roll band. You spend your free afternoons in the garage, mutilating tunes in the name of self-expression. Only in America can you - in less than a year - rise above your natural inadequacies and mediocre stage presence to open for Bon Jovi in front of 12,736 people. That is, if your bass player happens to be Keanu Reeves.
Earlier this fall, Reeves' garage band, Dogstar, did, in fact, kick off a Bon Jovi concert at Los Angeles' cavernous Great Western Forum. Reeves and his two not-so-famous bandmates don't even have a record contract (they didn't at press time, anyway). But the swooning audience seemed to care less about buying albums than it did about getting within screaming distance of the humble mega-hunk.
Across town, brooding bad boy Johnny Depp performs with his four-member group, P, at the Viper Room, a Hollywood nightclub co-owned not coincidentally by Depp himself. P is releasing P, its first album (on which Depp plays guitar, drums and piano) on Nov. 21.
Celebrity rock is not a new phenomenon. But usually it's what a star does once his acting career fizzles (Brian Austin Green of the fading-in-coolness Beverly Hills, 90210 is pursuing a music career) or as a one-time-only fun project (Ethan Hawke sang a song on the Reality Bites soundtrack but has no plans to be a singer). But Reeves and Depp will probably be considered hot actors for years. And yet they seem to be devoting a lot of time and energy to their bands.
This raises the question: Why do these guys need to be rockers? Are they just unfulfilled A-list movie stars? Could it be that even with the public hanging on the slightest raise of their eyebrows, these two very, very deep souls are crying out for more complete expression?
Or are they simply trying to get more girls?
Certainly, Reeves is scoring a lot of attention in his role as bass master. "We had to fight our way past the groping girls," remembers Rex Screamer, whose band Bishop opened for Dogstar this summer at a small club in Connecticut. Screamer compares the crush around Reeves to Beatlemania.
Depp, who's been attached to model Kate Moss for about 18 months, isn't doing too badly in the female fan department either.
"Every girl in the place was trying to get as close to the stage as possible - in a real oblique, Hollywood-scene kind of way," recalls an aspiring actress who has seen P at the Viper Room. "But Johnny just plays with his head down and his hair over his face. I remember thinking that this was really silly. He's up there trying to act like he wasn't the center of attention."
Reeves also keeps his head down and his guitar slung low - an aw-shucks kind of pose. At the Bon Jovi gig, he hid his famous physique under a loose T-shirt and his signature haircut under a knit cap. He dared not glance up at the audience; the few times he did, all that shrieking drowned out the band.
Meanwhile, Capitol Records is trying to downplay the fact that Depp is in P. Depp, says a spokesperson, wants people to think about the music, not about him.
All right then, how is the music? You'll have to make up your own mind. But Depp does have music credentials. He was in a band, Rock City Angels, before he got his first acting break in 21 Jump Street.
As for Reeves, Rex Screamer characterizes the actor as a competent bassist but nothing out of this world. Reeves' bass-playing, says Screamer, is "not the best, but not the worst. He'd probably have a better time if he knew what he was doing."