by David Trethewie
Dogstar have a slight credibility problem, in that their bass player is one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Keanu Reeves is an okay actor. He's been in some good films (River's Edge, Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure), as well as some turkeys (Bram Stoker's Dracula, Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction). Dogstar as a band play earnest American pop/rock of the Goo Goo Dolls / Better Than Ezra variety. It's nothing special, but put it this way - it's better than Hootie And The Blowfish. Dogstar last played in Australia to audiences largely made up of swooning females in 1995. Since then Reeves has made Sydney his home. He's working on a new action film there.
Dogstar formed after Keanu and bandmates Bret Domrose (guitar and vocals) and Rob Mailhouse (drums) met over a discussion about ice hockey. The band's current album is called Our Little Visionary. David Trethewie speaks to Keanu Reeves and Bret Domrose over the phone from Sydney.
When did Dogstar last play live?
Keanu: Five months ago.
Bret: January 31st.
Keanu: We played at the Viper Room and at the Palace in Los Angeles.
Bret: We played at the Palace with a whole bunch of bands.
Keanu: Including Dick Dale. We opened up for the king of surf guitar.
You said you're taking your music in a more aggressive direction. What did you mean by that?
Keanu: I don't know. Robert (Mailhouse, Dogstar's drummer) describes it as postpunk.
Bret: I think that's what punks play when they get old.
Keanu: We're a rock'n'roll pop band but I think sonically and lyrically it's become a little bit more aggressive.
Did you grow up listening to punk and hardcore in the 1980s?
Keanu: I missed the second circle, just missed it, I was listening to the Exploited, Discharge, The Ramones and GBH but the hardest show I ever went to was the Ramones. I hardly saw any of the bands I was listening to live. I grew up in Toronto, Canada so I was just buying the records. The band that was big in Toronto was called BFG, Bunch of Fucking Goofs (laughs), They had their own house. It was crazy, they used to have parties.
Bret: I thought it was Martha and The Muffins…
Keanu: Martha and The Muffins were from there too. Bret played in The Nuns!
Yeah, I was going to ask about that. Who were The Nuns?
Bret: That was a punk band.
Punk-pop or more hardcore?
The Nuns were pop?
Bret: They started out hardcore in the early 90s and then they went pop. It was kind of a little transitory thing that happened.
Keanu: Were you part of that?
Bret: I was part of the pop edition of the band. I only did one album with them. They've been around for 23 years.
What are they guys from that band doing now?
Bret: I think they're making babies and trying to stay clean. I don't really talk to them anymore.
I hear you're looking for a new record deal. Where are you looking?
Keanu: In my closet (laughs).
Come on, you must be talking to someone.
Bret: We're talking to Japan. Were thinking about making a record for Japan. We do pretty well over there. The more that we talk about it, that's how we're looking for it. By saying we're looking for it. Hopefully someone'll hear it.
What happened with Zoo Records (the label that released Our Little Visionary)? Did that fold?
Keanu: We had them killed.
Bret: Yeah, they went out of business. They, I guess, ran themselves into the ground or something.
Who else was on their books?
Keanu: The Hoodoo Gurus. They had Little Feat, Matthew Sweet and Tool. They had a hard time.
Was it bad management or bad luck?
Bret: I think it went beyond bad luck into bad planning. They were putting out a lot of money into a lot of bands without plans to retrieve it. They put a lot money out and didn't have the staff to back it up.
Keanu: They'd make the records and sign the deals with the bands. Tool was a classic example. Aenima hit the charts at No 2 but there was no support for their single.
Did Zoo hook you up with Ed Stasium for the recording of Our Little Visionary?
Bret: They let us pick pretty much. They gave us a list of names and we chose Ed Stasium and they agreed.
Which producer would you like to work with on the next record? Have you got anyone in mind?
Keanu: We're looking through the phone book.
Bret: I'd like to get Prince actually.
Keanu: Yeah, like he'd produce us. We're not good looking enough.
Bret: I like Tim Palmer a lot.
Keanu: Butch Vig.
Who's Tim Palmer?
Keanu: He's a mixer extraordinaire.
Bret: He's done Sponge, he mixed the first Pearl Jam record.
Dogstar play the Central Club on Saturday July 14th.