Ace of Bass(Typed by inkhuldra)
Keanu Reeves is a man of many parts. The totally humble hunk has been most excellent in the Bill and Ted flicks, a skydiving fed in Point Break, a hooker in My Own Private Idaho, truly awful in Bram Stoker's Dracula and in Speed he was a convincing all-action hero.
But away from the big screen, Keanu has another burning passion: rock 'n' roll. He plays bass with folk grunge trio Dogstar and they're heading for Dublin for a gig at the Olympia Theatre on July 18. Of course, actors who rock are a very common breed. Johnny Depp has his own band called P, Bruce Willis has been known to croon a few soul classics, and when Madonna's not filming she likes to sing a few numbers, too.
Keanu is different, though. I learn this very quickly when Felicia from Zoo Entertainment, Dogstar's American record company, tells me she has one thing to say to me before I can talk to the big K. "You will have all three members of the band there," she says. "But in terms of Keanu's movie career, you can ask him the difference between that and music; I'm not telling you what questions to ask but please don't gear it on his movie career or at all really. I just have to say that because it depresses him. OK?"
It's what they call a conference call which basically means that I don't get to talk to Keanu on his own; I also have to engage his band mates, one Rob Mailhouse who plays drums and one Bret Domrose who sings and plays guitar, in conversation about rock 'n' roll. In short, it's like thatting to Zig and Zag and Beavis and Butthead after they've had too much Woodys to drink. However, in the best tradition of not letting a couple of nobodies get in the way of a good story, we have taken the liberty of editing out the contributions of Bret and Rob to bring you the lowdown on what Keanu has to say about life, bass playing and rock 'n' roll.
I start by asking Keanu where he is. "We're in a giant drum," he tells me. "No, we're in Zoo Records in LA." You're playing Dublin on July 18. Ever been to Ireland before? "I've been to Dublin for one day but we'ver never played there. I've heard of Dingle Berry and County Mara, it's green and wet and misty."
Dogstar cite loads of influences, bands like The Pixies, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division. . .
"All bands that are better than us, " says Keanu. "You know I used to call us a folk band." Why? "Because we were a folk band. We've changed now we're not a folk band anymore, we're just folksy people. Hey, is there any good Irish football in town when we come?"
No, but Ireland have been playing over there in America recently. So are you a big football fan? "Yeah. Sure." Do you think it's as good as hockey? "Pardon? What? I . . . I blaaa, blaaaa, blaaaa! Is it as good as hockey? I don't know. They're both great sports." Can you tell me about the Dogstar live experience? "I don't know. What's it like? It's a heated emotional outpouring of sweat and violence. But that's only backstage. Hopefully for the audience it's an emotional experience - happy, sad, angry, relaxing and plaintive."
Dogstar's debut release, Quattro Formaggi (that means four cheeses in Italian), features four songs: Honesty Anyway, Behind Her, Return and 32 Stories. Why four cheeses? "We always refer to each other as cheeses," elucidates Keanu. "It's almost like cheeky. You know, cheeky, cyeesey. Cheesey, like silly. It's a kind of an inside joke for the band. We were thinking of calling it Audie Quattro but there was a car called that already."
How serious are Dogstar about making it as a band? "We're pretty committed. I've got my Dogstar tattoo," says Keanu. "It's on my forehead. We're serious, we've put in the hours, we spend a lot of time rehearsing, and we've put in a lot of time on this record. Long hours, sometimes we work till three in the morning, whoooaaa. We drink a lot of beer. It's serious, as serious as you can get."
In terms of recent American rock 'n' roll, dare i say you sound rather dated, very 1992. Very proto Grunge. . . "That's good. Thank you. So we're dated, retro, our band is not nice. That's coming back, that grunge, you watch. We're not cutting edge, that's what you're saying. I don't think it sounds grunge, its poppier than grunge."
The bass is mixed very high in the songs. "Yeah but that's also due to Rick Parasher (Dogstar engineer who also worked with Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains). I didn't mind it. I don't mind at all actually. It's a good mix, I love it." You covered Transmission by Joy Division in your earlier days, and I hear that you like to play the bassline to Love Will Tear Us Apart. Would you hum it for our readers please? "Can I hum it? OK let's se. . . da, dah, dah. . . " OK, thank you. "Da, da, da, da, dah, nrgggg." Sung beatifully in the best tradition of Bill and Ted. Keanu, what do you think of Adam Clayton as a bass player? "He's awesome. I love Adam Clayton. He's a really good bass player. He's really in touch with the band he's in with the music he's playing. He plays excellent around and throughout the band."
You've supported David Bowie at the Hollywood Palladium. That must have been interesting for you Keanu considering that your mother used to design clothes for him? "No, she didn't. No. He made clothes for her. She made clothes for Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris but not Dave. I made him a pair of shoes once. It was very scary playing support to him, it was an honour, he was very cool to watch. He's a gentleman and a scholar. His wife hung out with us too which was cool because she made us look good. The only thing weird about it was that it was Halloween night and when you looked out in the crowd everyone was dressed up like . . . David Bowie!"
Keanu wants to know about the music scene in Dublin and is particularly intrigued by the likes of Relevino, Mexican Pets and Luggage. Can you say something horrible about The Cranberries? "What! Is that fashionable now? I like them. There's one thing I will say about Dolores O'Riordan, what's up with the American flag type jumpsuit she's wearing? I bought that album for my parents. There's a lot of guns and tanks and bombs in there. Zombie!" What about Dogstar's lyrics? Does Bret write all the words? "Yeah, he writes the words and most of the music," says Keanu. "The rest of us play backgammon and were getting really good at it. We're just along for the ride I guess."
This wasn't a bus you had to keep under fifty mph or anything like that was it? "Hey, that's really funny. Ouch! My hip. Hey, what's the story with the mad cow disease? That hasn't trickled into Ireland? Irish stew isn't tainted? What about Northern Ireland? Is that British beef up there, too?"
What happens if Dogstar take off and compromise your movie career? What happens if you start selling a lot of records. Will it be a dilemma for you? "I think that would be a great dilemma as dilemmas go. I think it would be a great dilemma but i'm gonna have to wait and see."
When you go on tour do you go for the lifestyle? Are we talking excess, lot of booze, groupies? "I've seen some things," ha says teasingly. Are your sisters Kim and Karina big fans of Dogstar? We're a little too light for Karina and Kim likes it. Karina likes hardcore industrial, crazy, crazy, Nine Inch Nails and Fugazi but I turned her into Supergrass."
What about those cynics out there who say that Dogstar are only getting attention because of their bass player. "They're right to a certain extent, but we're trying to change that. Yeah. By playing and hopefully people coming out to see us and digging it and putting out a good record, we're real proud of this record. We get a lot of offers and we feel at lot of those are due to my name so we're real careful to pick the ones that preserve our dignity. Also, sometimes we'll be reviewed in a newspaper and the word 'music' won't show up or there will be no song titles mentioned. They don't even say that we suck because of the music they'll just say, 'Reeves can't play, Reeves was wearing a black cap.' So that's the kind of stupid stuff we have to put up with." Maybe Dogstar should write and song about that. "No man. That would just cheese off the press. We're peace loving Buddhists, give love, give love, love, love. We don't wanna be fashionable. Fashionable! Smahionable. We're gonna be ourselves. We're not going to put on any airs. Hum the Irish national anthem for me man"!
I do. "It's adirge, man. A dirge," Keanu, you've called yourself 'a goofly meathead' in the past. Do you think that's an essential part of the rock 'n' roll psyche? In other words, is it important to be thick to rock 'n' roll? "From my point of view, no. Some people treat rock 'n' roll very seriously. I'm one of them. Is Sinead O'Connor still living in Ireland? I actually met her once. Awesome." I'm going to have to make Felicia a tad angry and ask Keanu about his new movie Feeling Minnesota. The line goes silent and then Keanu says in a strangled voice: "Sure, but we gotta just kinda wrap this up." What about your co-star Cameron Diaz . . .?
"Beautiful person, beautiful actress." I believe there's a great scene where she gets, er, very intimate with you... "Yeah it was fun. Listen I gotta go. Hopefully we'll see you there in Dublin." Click. Buzzzz. . . •