That bassist looks familiar
Dogstar performs tomorrow at World Cafe
by John Berger
Does a struggling musician have to have a demeaning "day job" to be legit? The three members of Dogstar get more than their share of flack from people who think so.
Dogstar includes actors Rob Mailhouse (drums) and Keanu Reeves (bass). Soap fans may remember Mailhouse from "One Life to Live," although he's also guested in "about 20" prime-time shows and two independent films.
Reeves is the guy -- remember "Speed"? -- whose presence made Dogstar a media item. His big-screen success has caused some music critics to dismiss Dogstar as a dilettante's vanity project. Others pout that Dogstar gets opportunities -- like opening for Bon Jovi and David Bowie -- that it doesn't deserve.
Reeves suggests doubters catch Dogstar at work. "I'm proud of the music and we have a pretty fun show. We've been at it for four years and we're still trying to get (our music) out there. Fighting the good fight as they say," he said Sunday, by phone from Japan with Mailhouse and guitarist Bret Domrose. (They share interview duties equally whenever possible.)
Dogstar follows its third Japan tour with a one-nighter at World Cafe tomorrow. They're looking forward to spending several days in Hawaii before returning to California for Christmas. They'll hit the road for New Zealand and China early next year.
"It's weird," Domrose says of Dogstar's popularity outside America. "I've talked to my friends in 311 and No Doubt, and they're huge in America, but in Japan we're playing bigger places."
Domrose describes himself as a "full-time musician," but was seen playing a musician in an indie film titled "Me And Will." He is also Dogstar's songwriter. The trio enjoys playing a few favorite oldies in concert but emphasizes original music over remakes.
"Most of the songs we'll be playing (in Hawaii) will be from our next album," Domrose says. Mailhouse mentioned a Dogstar version of the Carpenters' "Superstar" as one of the exceptions.
Mailhouse and Reeves formed Dogstar in 1991 as a grunge quartet. Mailhouse took the name from a Henry Miller novel. By 1995, Dogstar had morphed into a three-man line-up with Domrose singing. The band's sound evolved into an amalgam of classic punk, new wave rock and mid-'60s "English Invasion" guitar rock, without cloning any of those sounds.
An interactive four-song CD, "Quattro Formaggi," was released in 1996 and led to a Zoo Records deal. A debut album, "Our Little Visionary," was completed for Zoo, but the label was bought out by another label which shelved the album.
Reeves sees the album's fate as "a 'bitter rock story' " and says he was disappointed when the new label killed the project. Copies exist, but it is unlikely that "Visionary" will be officially released.
Reeves said it's possible for bands to distribute and publicize its own music, but said record companies help bands most by providing tour support.
In the meantime, he and Mailhouse juggle Dogstar touring and acting commitments. Mailhouse recently completed his second lead in the indie film "Kimberly," opposite Gabrielle Anwar and Molly Ringwald. Domrose says he's making a living as well.
OK, so two of these struggling musicians already have glamorous "day jobs," instead of performing grunt work. They're still serious musicians.
Dogstar: At World Cafe, 8:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets $20 in advance at Blaisdell Box Office, Tower Records and Tower Video; $25 at the door. Call 593-8333.