Hot Dogstar! - On The Road With Keanu's Band!
(Previously published in July 1995 as a longer version under the title 'Mad Axe Attack!')
by Lesley O'Toole
When Keanu's not Speeding from set to set he's basically becoming just as famous as a muso!
Sweating It Out!
When Dogstar played at a tiny LA club The Troubadour last October, you couldn't buy tickets for love or money! A message on the club's recorded infoline proclaimed gleefully, "Not a ticket in the universe!"
The Troubadour was onto a good thing. For a time, Dogstar had something of an exclusive - if - sporadic residency there. The shows didn't need to be advertised, being energetic thrash rock with Keanu Reeves as the bass player. Female Keanu fans would call the club weekly for news of the next show, and board planes from all over North America for the chance to see their love god up close, and sweaty! Now that's devotion!
Any of Dogstar's musicianly shortcoming are more than compensated for by their boundless enthusiasm. Frontperson Gregg Miller gives all the right cocky - but not too - cocky attitude: fellow frontperson Bret Domrose is the band's young, serious muso. Tall, gangly, Robert Mailhouse plays drums and Keanu the bass, well enough, in fact, to have been invited to play on a Sting record. He was flattered, but unable to find the time. Like Keanu, Robert and Gregg are actors. Robert has starred in Days of Our Lives, guest-starred on Seinfeld and played small parts in Models Inc. and Speed. Gregg made a feature film Who Shot Pat?, with Keanu's old chum Sandra Bullock in 1991.
This year Dogstar played at San Diego's Belly Up club, where, though the audience is infinitely cooler than the teenybop posse in LA, it still comprises besotted female specimens, like the one who holds a video of Speed aloft for virtually the duration of the set.
There's also whole gangs of blokes trying to fathom exactly what it is about this Keanu Reeves guy their girlfriends have candlelit shrines for at home.
"Huh," snorts one, "Even I can play better than him," (failing to realise the girl he's trying to impress is Bret Domrose's sister Tash).
A succession of scantily-clad, gorgeous, nubile young women dash onstage to grab Keanu and all but stick their tongues down his throat, perhaps even wield a knife! He brushes off the stage invasions, not altogether convincingly, "Oh, I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I know that if one of them pulled a knife out, my bandmates would have been the first to jump in and wrestle it from her hand. I'd have said, 'Stop! Hurry! Get her number!'" Security around the band has, however, become noticeably tight.
In San Diego, hundreds of Keanu-loving women prowl the corridors of Dogstar's hotel after the show - some have been given the address by their practical joker tour manager! Others have sussed out Dogstar's vehicles during soundcheck and followed them back to the hotel. These girls are smart, if scary. in their single-mindedness.
How It All Began...
Keanu and Robert met in a Hollywood supermarket in 1991. "I saw this guy in a Detroit Redwings hockey sweater and asked him about it," explains Keanu. Besides music, hockey is Dogstar's main love - ice hockey or roller hockey (not the wimpy stuff we Aussies play on grass). "Because I'm from Toronto, Canada, I was looking to play some hockey. Being a goal-tender, the tradition is to ask someone, 'Do you need a goalie?'"
Robert did, and the pair soon became fast friends by playing music together, Robert on the drums and keyboards and Keanu playing bass. A few weeks later, Robert invited his aspiring-actor friend Gregg Miller from New York to join in. The threesome jammed for about six weeks, playing Joy Division (UK indie group from early '80s) and Grateful Dead (ancient US rock group) songs, and then decided to play live. "Which was a huge mistake," laughs Keanu.
The name Dogstar didn't surface until much later. "We couldn't come up with a name," adds Keanu. "We were BFS too. I called us Bull F-ing Shit. Or Big F-ing Sound."
They played The Roxbury when it was LA's hippest club, the same night Madonna held a birthday party there. Did she see them? I think she was playing spin the bottle with strippers," jokes Robert. "We were in this tiny bar at the back, everyone at her party was probably spanking each other."
Adds Gregg: "I heard she stood there and watched us for about a minute."
Despite his claims that Dogstar "suck", you get the impression Keanu would be happy to take a year away from movies to devote to the band, a prospect Keanu's people are less than thrilled at; their immensely profitable charge slugging round the country earning almost nothing per show! For the most part, each sings the songs he's written. The band's catchiest song is "Camp" by Robert, and Keanu has written two songs "Isabelle" and "Round C". "That's the name of a cheddar," he explains helpfully. "But it's really about love! At times, singing can really thrill your blood, resembling the best part of what I get from acting."