“Alex Winter and I would have two-bass jams when we made Bill & Ted – I won’t say there wasn’t any weed involved…” Keanu Reeves recalls his Wyld bass duels with his excellent co-star

Actors Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves on set of the Orion Pictures movie "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" circa 1989.
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

With the return of his long-dormant alt-rock outfit Dogstar last year, Hollywood legend Keanu Reeves reminded the world that he’s more than just one of the most famous action heroes on the planet; he’s a bass player, too.

In a world-exclusive interview, Bass Player sat down with the John Wick actor to talk everything bass: what drew him to the instrument in the first place, the evolution of his rig and his all-star jams.

One highlight of our conversation centered around (of course) Bill & Ted. But while its stars – played by Alex Winter and Reeves, respectively – are known for their hair-metal guitar antics onscreen with Wyld Stallyns, off-camera the pair played bass. And they played it together – inspired by each others’ licks and, er, other things…

“Alex and I would have bass jams,” Reeves laughs. “It would be like two-bass jams. And that was wacky, good fun.

“Someone would start a central riff, and the other person would move around whatever that riff was… At the time, I won’t say that there wasn’t any weed involved!”

Naturally, the duo needed to distinguish from each other tonally during their low-end wigouts. And Reeves had just the thing.

“And then I might throw in maybe some distortion,” he recalls. “Once in a while when I played by myself, I would put the old distortion pedal through it.

“The jam space at my house in the ’90s had a Marshall amp, and sometimes I played the bass through the Marshall head and played with the distortion there, which I thought was cool.”

Sadly, he also revealed that making William ‘Bill’ S. Preston Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan bass players in the movies was never on the cards – although the series’ own bass hero, Death, would later showcase his own low-end skills in 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

One of a number of Hollywood actors who are also bass players, Reeves recently partnered with Fender for a short film called Don’t Quit Your Day Dream, during which he described the purchase of his first bass as “like a bass drug deal”. That video has now received almost two-million views in two months.

Stay tuned to Guitar World for the full interview with Keanu Reeves, where he explains why he doesn’t consider himself worthy of a Fender signature model, what he really learned from his bass lesson with Flea, and reveals the answer to the age-old question: what bass would Neo play?

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.