Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Just what the hell is a Dogstar? Is it a dog that looks like a star, or a star that’s shaped like a dog? And while we’re on the subject, have you ever encountered 30 Odd Foot of Grunts? Frankly, even a couple of Grunt inches would qualify as an acceptable response.

As asinine as their names sound, the concept of a celebrity-led band is an even worse idea. Whether you’re Keanu Reeves, bassist for Dogstar, or Russell Crowe, the lead singer of 30 Odds, which, incidentally, is now called The Ordinary Fear of God (still a dumb name), time and time again, actors have proven that whenever they get on a stage, greet whatever city they’re playing in, and thereafter attempt to rock out, they’re making a big mistake. As philosopher Paul Stanley explained, you need to rock and roll all night long and party every day. Stanley made no mention of daytime thespian pursuits because rock is a commitment and roll is a full-time pursuit. If you want to be a credible, panty-worthy musician, you can’t then make the decision to star in horrific romantic comedies like A Good Year and The Lake House. This is almost as contradictory as being a vegetarian butcher.

Need proof that actors make bad rock stars? In 1995, Reeves and his two band mates Bret Domrose and Robert Mailhouse decided to not call themselves Small Fecal Matter (I kid you not) and began the recording of their first record as Dogstar. Not coincidentally, this is also the same year Keanu starred in A Walk In The Clouds, Chain Reaction, and Johnny Mnemonic, a trilogy of critically panned films (the latter even co-starred Dolph Lundgren). Definitively, this was the Reeve’s worst year of acting and not coincidentally, also the same year the future-Mr. Anderson decided to take his musical career seriously. Were both creative outlets partially diluted by the respective demands of the others? As Reeves would so eloquently say, Woah.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed close to a hundred musicians, maybe more. Just about every single one speaks of their recorded output with passion and determination, and while their product may not always match their ambition, it’s ambition nonetheless. “I’ve always wanted to be a musician,” most say in some clichéd variation. With this in mind, I can’t help but consider that the actor-to-musician transformation is just another vanity project like a worthless perfume, or a tacky clothing line. Did Jason Schwartzman, the ex-drummer of Phantom Planet, leave the band when he started getting too many acting roles? Did Juliette Lewis take The Licks more seriously when she started getting less? Or did Nicole profess her interest in releasing a record only after Paris, Lindsey, and Hillary had one too (this may not be the best example considering none of the aforementioned can really act)?

To reinforce the point, the inverse is also truthful. How memorable is Sting’s performance in Dune, Mark Kozelek’s passivity in Almost Famous, or Jon Bon Jovi’s forgettable contribution to Moonlight and Valentino?
Or for that matter, can you name one of Henry Rollins’ 10,324 cameo roles? Probably not. Why? Well, because musicians make bad actors. It’s a fact. Their job is to connect with an audience sincerely, to project with passion, to sweat all over the adoring fans with real perspiration, not water sprayed on by a prop assistant.
Musicians are proportionally successful to the seriousness of which they take their careers. We reward the ones that express themselves sincerely. Slipknot wears masks but they wear their god-awful masks genuinely. Chris Martin is as earnest as they come and yes, you may resent him for it, but Coldplay is still one of the biggest bands in the world. Paradoxically, the mass consumer always rejects irony and disingenuousness whenever the novelty wears off. The Darkness can tell us that their shtick was real but ultimately, they failed because their leopard-print unitards didn’t convince America. The same can be said for the Insane Clown Posse who, granted, was bold enough to put the word “clown” in their name, but also to their detriment, put the word “clown” in their name. Rock isn’t a joke, or a hobby. It’s not an opportunity for you to say, Now you have two reasons to be jealous of my inexplicable popularity. Rock is as real as the blood flowing through Bruce Dickinson’s veins.

But then how have rappers made the transition so smoothly? Have we not seen Eminem, Nelly, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg all make noteworthy appearances in movies in the last few years? Well, unlike rock, for the most part, hip-hop is all about acting. Rappers are required to create personas, back-stories, storylines, and feuds, like an ongoing rhyming soap opera where the participants wear real jewelry. Dennis Coles from Staten Island is Ghostface Killah, or Tony Stark, or Iron Man, but never all three at once. Marshall Matthers can be either Eminem or Slim Shady, depending on the day you find his cantankerous white self. Keith Matthew Thorton, or Kool Keith, has as many as 57 aliases, one different from the other, all perplexing. Hip-hop has always encouraged reinvention and acting—it’s part of the game (no, not the rapper). It’s inherent and integral to your success in the business. That, and getting shot a few times.

There’s been a rumor circulating around the media that the uber-pretentious Scarlett Johansson is recording an album of Tom Waits covers (a girl does two Woody Allen movies and she thinks she’s talented). I commend the Esquire-assigned Sexiest Woman Alive for her audacious decision on taking on an underrated musician with the worst singing voice in rock music ever. Most of her fellow actors have probably never, even heard of Waits. But is it a coincidence that 2006 was also the year of Black Dahlia and Scoop, two of the poorest reviewed movies of Johansson’s career?

I once had dinner with the publicist for 30 Seconds To Mars and she told me that in actuality, singer Jared Leto has always wanted to be a musician and acting was just his backdoor into a career of rock. In fact, Jordan Catalano has even put his acting career on hold for full commitment to 30 Seconds. In an interview, one journalist even asked him how he’s made the successful transition from being a very pretty actor to being a very pretty rock star, like it was a holy grail of some sort, an irresolvable conundrum. Leto answers, “Hard work, perseverance, determination, conviction, passion, and a belief in what we do and who we are.”
I rest my case.
But incidentally, 30 Seconds To Mars is still a way stupid band name.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Queen Latifa.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you went through that whole spiel just to tell us that you had lunch with jared leto's *publicist*?!

next time cut to the chase.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Arye said...

Um, dinner, silly. Not lunch. And it was Leto's publicist, not "publicist."

In fact, I have yet to meet his "publicist" but I can't wait to see those quotes in person.

And re: Latifah. Yeah. I thought about her but she's more in the hip-hop camp. Besides, you couldn't pay me to see Chicago.

10:15 AM  

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