How Dogstar, Keanu Reeves’ mediocre ’90s rock band, took the world by storm
Keanu sings a song or two with Dogstar, as bassists are often allowed to do. He handles lead vocals on “Isabelle”, which he tells people is about his friend’s three-year-old daughter, and “Round C”, which he tells people is about cheese. Singing on stage is an incredible feeling, he says, because it reminds him of the best parts of being an actor: “When you can feel it, your blood is vibrating, it’s physical, your heart is open.” But mostly, he keeps his head down and plays bass. Domrose likes to say that when he’s on stage with Dogstar, he’s always staring at a sea of left ears, because everyone’s eyes are on Keanu as he walks away to the right of the stage.
In 1997, twirl sends writer Benjamin Weissman to follow the band on tour. Denied an interview, Weissman files a “Frank Sinatra has a cold” style write-up that lands on the ostensibly confusing question of what Keanu sees in those doofs he’s sharing a bus with. The answer actually seems pretty clear: these doofs offer Keanu the chance to get out and be a doof too, to drink beer on a bus while postponing the answer to the larger, more difficult question of how he will make a living as an actor if he no longer wants to make films like Chain reaction and no one wants to pay to see it Feel the Minnesota.
What the guys in the band get out of it is obvious. They’re in their thirties and have been wandering around the entertainment industry for a while and we imagine that when the offers start rolling in, Keanu can’t just unilaterally turn them down and give up business advancement to play by Fugazi’s rules just because he makes 10 million dollars a picture and doesn’t need the money. So Dogstar is touring before they’ve even released a record and signed a deal with major label affiliate Zoo Entertainment, and usually ends up sending mixed signals about how serious the band they’re supposed to be. Their first album, Our little visionary, was released only in Japan. It looks a bit like a store brand Foo Fighters and a bit like a generic Goo Goo Dolls and a bit like one of the thousands of other less fortunate postgrunge outfits that managed a hit song or two before falling back into the crab bucket of the ’90s alternative rock scene, except instead of a hit single, Dogstar had Keanu.
It’s obviously a double-edged sword for the guys in the band who weren’t the star of Speed. They have access to incredible opportunities that only a masochist would take advantage of. Because they’re Keanu’s band, a lot of people can’t wait for them to suck, and that’s especially true of the large, mixed crowds they play to at rock festivals. They get bombarded with fruit at Glastonbury and splattered with mud at the Milwaukee Metal Fest, where they’ve somehow been booked as part of a lineup that includes bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, and where they annoy everyone by playing a cover of “New Minglewood”. Blues” from the Grateful Dead. Another cover from their repertoire is the Carpenters hit “Superstar,” a depressing ballad about a pop singer who abandons the narrator after a one-night stand but continues to haunt her as a voice on the radio. In interviews, Keanu denies that there was any particular reason they decided to record this one. It’s on their second album, Happy ending, which was released in 2000. The cover art is a simple black-and-white photo of the band standing against a stone wall; Keanu is on the left, eyes downcast, still trying to pass unnoticed.
Dogstar played their last show in the US in July 2001, in Laughlin, Nevada, and – while it’s hard to imagine such a 90s band in existence after 9/11 – played their last show in 2002 , at the Ebisu Garden Hall in Tokyo. Mailhouse continues to play drums in a band called Becky; the singer is his girlfriend, Real World: Seattle former student Rebecca Lord, and Keanu play some bass on their only album, 2006 Take it on the chin. Years later, when the public part of the Dogstar affair was over, the guys in the band who weren’t Keanu would give interviews saying it was hard to know if they were really reaching people as a band. , or if people would have paid to stand in a small club or a giant arena and watch Keanu do just about anything – card tricks, sock puppets, mimes. They’ll say it like they don’t know what the answer is all the time.
Excerpt from the new book Keanu Reeves: the most triumphant by Alex Pappademas published by Abrams Image ©2022.