Reeves ready to rock on home turf
by Jane Stevenson
Dogstar, the L.A. pop-rock trio with that handsome bass player otherwise known as movie star Keanu Reeves, pulls into town tonight to play their first-ever show on his old stomping grounds.
But the Beirut-born, Toronto-raised Reeves, 32, on the phone from Dogstar's tour bus yesterday, certainly isn't sounding nervous.
Particularly since the first Canadian show of Dogstar's current 50-city trek -- on Friday night in St-Sauveur, about an hour north of Montreal -- was one of the best on the road so far.
They'll be playing at The Guvernment tonight
"It's perhaps a homecoming for me," said Reeves. "It's been fun. I've always like travelling, so it's been nice going across the States again and it's been cool coming into Canada. We had a great time in Quebec."
And despite Reeves's celebrity status -- he's appeared most memorably in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure and Speed over the course of more than 20 films -- Dogstar are only drawing between 500 to 900 people a night.
"I think some of the promoters put us in bigger venues thinking that we'd sell a million tickets, but it's been a good crowd for us," said drummer and actor Rob Mailhouse, best known for his two-year stint on Days Of Our Lives.
"You get a lot of people to see Keanu, no question about it. There's a lot of curiousity factor."
For his part, Reeves -- who moved from Toronto to Hollywood at age 17 -- says the crowds are a mixture of music lovers and movie fans.
"This is our second U.S. tour and we've had an enhanced CD (1996's four-song EP Quattro Formaggi) come out, so we're finding more people who know the songs," he said. "And there's still some people coming out 'cause of Robert's and my film careers. Sometimes when it's an underage show, you probably get girls and people coming out who might not have heard the music."
Dogstar, whose name comes from a Henry Miller book, was formed by Reeves and Mailhouse in 1991, with vocalist-guitarist and chief songwriter Bret Domrose coming along later. They've since recorded a full-length album, Our Little Visionary, but are now label-less after parting ways with BMG's Zoo Entertainment.
"They were really unprofessional," said Mailhouse. "How they handled their business and their money and what they owe you. It's run by a bunch of morons. So we didn't want to be there. We felt were were being taken advantage of."
Now Dogstar are selling Visionary at their own gigs -- averaging about 60 to 70 sales a night -- and on the Internet.
But Reeves, who has been playing bass for about eight years, said touring as a rock star was never a goal.
"It just kind of happened. I had amplifiers, etc., and just friends would come over. I didn't dream of it as a 17-year-old boy."
And with no label, the future of Dogstar remains unclear.
"It's basically be here now," said Reeves. "I'm on the road concentrating on this. I don't have an acting job right now. I'm reading scripts and looking for work for the fall and, you know, just kind making it up as I go along. But wherever I am, I apply myself to what's happening."
Much has been made of Reeves turning down millions to star in this summer's stinker Speed 2 in order to tour with Dogstar, but he says the press got it all wrong.
"It had nothing to do with the band because at the same time they started production on Speed, I started production on The Devil's Advocate," said Reeves.
The horror film in question, also starring Al Pacino, opens in October, and Reeves expects to begin filming the sci-fi film Matrix in 1998 for a reported $10-million paycheque.
Reeves, who surprised everyone by doing a respectable job in a Winnipeg production of Hamlet, also hopes to return to the stage. He recently auditioned for a Chekhov play co-starring Kevin Kline at the Lincoln Centre in New York, but didn't make the cut.
"They said I was too young. It was a great part. It was a good play and it would have been fun to act in New York."
Oh, well. There's always Dogstar to fall back on.
"There's nothing set," said Reeves. "There's only desires and ambitions and hopes and fears, so I don't know what's going to happen. Hopefully we'll continue to play. Hopefully we'll get signed. Hopefully we'll write some songs and hopefully we'll get to record. And hopefully people will dig it."