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Music

From Fugazi to Joy Division: Keanu Reeves' favourite bands

Keanu Reeves is a legend. Star of Bill and TedMy Own Private IdahoThe Matrix and more recently, John Wick, he’s an all-round nice guy that’s long been regarded as the “internet’s boyfriend”. He has a penchant for striking up a rapport like no other, he’s as casual as his onscreen character Ted and duly, is one of Hollywood’s coolest figures.

He exists in the same orbit as characters such as Christopher Walken, Bill Murray and the late Harry Dean Stanton, owning an effortless sort of personality that is far more endearing than the botox and kale charged regulars of the movie industry. 

Another key facet of Reeves’ persona is how much of a massive music fan he is. Much like with Ted, music has played a key part in Reeves’ life since he was born. Aside from acting, he also made a foray into the world of music with his band Dogstar in the mid-1990s. Active between 1991 and 2002, the band actually found moderate success. 

In 2017, he told Jimmy Fallon: “You know, we started in a garage, and then you end up starting to write songs, and then you’re like “Let’s go out and play them!”, and then you’re like “Let’s go on tour!”, and then…you’re playing.”

Dogstar, named after the brightest luminary in the sky, didn’t always have such a run of the mill name. They were originally called Small Fecal Matter, before changing their name to BFS, which stood interchangeably as Big Fucking Shit or Big Fucking Sound, depending on time and place, which is the most Bill and Ted name you could possibly imagine. However, they finally settled on Dogstar after reading Sexus by Henry Miller.

“Keanu just loves playing bass,” said guitarist Gregg Miller to The Orlando Sentinel in 1995. “He’s not the frontman of the band, although he’s the focus of the band. We’re faced with that, but I’ve been doing (music) my whole life and Rob and Bret have been doing it for a while. We’ve had this opportunity, but it’s not like we have this break and we don’t deserve it. We feel that we can put on an entertaining show. Otherwise, we’d just play in the garage for our friends.”

The band released two albums over their career, 1996’s Our Little Visionary and 2000’s Happy Ending, which were both received to moderate fanfare. Even more interestingly, the band had a handful of opening acts that went on to become huge, including Rancid and Weezer. In fact, Weezer’s first show was opening for Dogstar.

Back in 1996, before the release of Our Little Visionary, Reeves sat down with EW to discuss all things music. ”Our songs are kind of deceiving. They have a pop aspect to them, but the lyrics are not poppy,” he said. ”We’re not trying to copy anyone’s sound: We’re doing our own thing. Hopefully, people will like it.” 

After the discussions of Dogstar had ended, it then moved onto Reeves’ music taste. Asked which bands he liked at that moment in time, he explained: “I like this band Plexi I’ve seen in L.A. And Lifter — I just got their album (Melinda (Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt)) a few weeks ago.”

Then it got super juicy. The interviewer asked Reeves who his favourite bands of all time were. He said: “I’d say Fugazi, The Ramones, Exploited, Discharge, early Elvis Costello, The Clash, Violent Femmes, Joy Division, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains. That’s definitely what I cut my teeth on.”

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It’s no real surprise that Reeves mentioned so many punk bands, he loves punk. He’s mentioned a couple on the list many times before and has spoken at length about his love for punk at large over the years. Furthermore, Dogstar were known to regularly cover Fugazi’s classic ‘Merchandise’ from 1990’s Repeater.

In a 2014 Reddit AMA promoting John Wick, Reeves explained his love for Manchester post-punk heroes, Joy Division. After batting off questions about his favourite fruit and his favourite ice hockey players, Reeves was asked by a fan what his favourite track of all time is, to which he responded: “Today I am going to pick: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division!” 

That wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned the influence of Joy Division. In a 2000 reveal-all interview with Rolling Stone, Reeves explained that Peter Hook of Joy Division and then New Order, is his bass playing hero.“It’s kind of a bass line but a melody line,” he explained. “And kind of romantically epic, in a gothic kind of way.”

In a 1993 interview with Detour Magazine, Reeves also mentioned another one of his favourite bands when discussing 1986’s crime drama, River’s Edge, the soundtrack of which featured thrash, punk and reggae. The band in question is Fugazi forebearer, Minor Threat. 

Of the film, he opined: “It’s a beautiful script, and there was some great acting in it. And the cinematography of Fred Elms, and the direction. It was just special. The script was so insightful and subtle. The despair of American youth! During that time (1987) in L.A., punk rock was pretty hard-core – Black Flag, Minor Threat.”

No wonder Keanu Reeves is everyone’s favourite actor. His music taste is simply stellar. One can only imagine sitting down for a nice cold beer, discussing every facet of music at length with him. Brilliant.

Find a perfect playlist of Keanu Reeves favourite bands below.

Keanu Reeves’ favourite bands of all time:

  • Fugazi
  • The Ramones
  • Exploited
  • Discharge
  • Elvis Costello
  • The Clash
  • Violent Femmes
  • Joy Division
  • Minor Threat
  • Bad Brains