“One of the things I love about this plank of wood is the physicality… I vibrate with the bass tones”: watch Keanu Reeves discuss his bass guitar journey, Peter Hook’s influence and songwriting

Keanu Reeves
(Image credit: Fender/YouTube)

‘Don’t Give Up Your Daydream’ is the name of the video segment on Fender’s YouTube channel and Keanu Reeves has no intentions of giving up his anytime soon as he sat down with the Big F to talk about all things bass guitar, with his rock band, Dogstar, now back in business after a long hiatus.

It has been some 23 years since the release of the Los Angeles-based rockers’ last album, Happy Ending. The band split in 2002. But the Covid pandemic found them with some time on their hands and in the jam room, and after officially announcing their return in 2022, Dogstar have a new studio album out now, Somewhere Between The Power Lines And Palm Trees. 

In the intervening years, Reeves has been kinda busy. There have been more Matrix movies. He has become the face of another action franchise as John Wick. There have been the motorcycles, which he talks about here. But this conversation with Fender, which features some live footage from the jam room, and some in-the-moment basslines from Reeves, really focuses on the gravitational pull of the bass... A force Reeves was powerless to resist.

It tells of how Reeves got his first one (at Guitar Center in Hollywood, but not actually in the store, in the parking lot, “like a bass drug deal”). How Peter Cook’s playing with Joy Division was a great epiphany. And how the low-end frequencies of Reeves’ well-played, well-loved and evidently sweet smelling 1965 Fender Precision Bass make him vibrate.

“I always wanted to play bass. I guess one of the things I love about this plank of wood is the physicality… The tones,” he says. “I love when I listen to it I vibrate with the bass tones of it. It spoke to me. This is a 1965, rosewood neck. She sounds beautiful and this neck is one of the most beautiful necks I have ever played.”

Reeves did not do as many players did when he first got the instrument. He didn’t listen to songs and try to work out what was going on. He would just play. And while he sounds a note of regret about that, there’s something to be said for just picking it up and going by the gut.

“The thing is I didn’t have anyone to play with,” he says. “I am a wild animal playing with a piece of wood. I didn’t learn a lot of songs. I didn’t listen to a song and try to figure it out. Kids, I regret that. You’re picking up an instrument, it’s cool to figure out what people have done before but I wasn’t doing that, and so I would just play. I had no theory. I couldn’t play blues.”

Later on, when shooting My Own Private Idaho, Reeves would have the occasion to ask Flea for a lesson. But even the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist was little help. “There was a house and there was amps and instruments and stuff like that, and I was like, ‘Hey, Flea. Could you give me a lesson?’ And he was like, ‘Sure, man!’ He was like [plays notes]. I was like, ‘All right.’ And he’s like, ‘Just feel it, man.’”

Which all sounds a little bit like a variation on the “There is no spoon” philosophical hugger-mugger that went down when Reeves, as Neo, went down to visit the Oracle in the Matrix. You can check out the segment above. Somewhere Between The Power Lines And Palm Trees is out now via Dillon Street Records.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.