“I had like a bass drug deal”: Keanu Reeves recalls buying his first-ever bass guitar… from a stranger in the parking lot of a Guitar Center

Keanu Reeves
(Image credit: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images for ABA)

Fans of Keanu Reeves will know that he’s not just a Hollywood legend – he’s also a bass guitar enthusiast and fully fledged member of the recently revived alt-rock trio, Dogstar.

Much like his fellow actors Jason Mamoa, Ryan Gosling and Johnny Depp (and, indeed, all the other Hollywood stars who play the bass) the Matrix icon has a passion for all-things-bass, and can be regularly seen picking up his Fender Precision Bass.

As such, Fender has teamed up John Wick himself for the latest episode of its Daydream YouTube series, which sees Reeves chart his musical journey from an aspiring bassist to Dogstar member.

During the conversation, Reeves (who channeled his passion for bass in Bill & Ted Face the Music) goes all the way to when he bought his first-ever four-string – a guitar that he purchased following a trip to Guitar Center in Hollywood.

Now, at first glance, it seems like a pretty standard transaction for a first-time buyer, but the tale isn’t quite so straightforward. Why? Well, Reeves didn’t buy it in Guitar Center – he got his instrument through a “bass drug deal” in the parking lot.

“I was asked what was my first bass,” Reeves says in the video. “I’ve been trying to remember, but I think it was like 1986. I went to the Hollywood Guitar Center with the daydream of getting a bass guitar.

“I ended up… I don't recall, but there was a guy there who was selling a bass. He was with a friend,” he goes on. “Not at the store, it was like a parking lot sale. I had, like, a bass drug deal.”

When it was put to Reeves that he could have literally gone into Guitar Center to choose from a whole rack of basses, he replied that he did, but none he played made a strong enough impression on him.

“I did,” he said when asked about going inside the store, “but it spoke to me. I played it, it felt good in the hand, and I was just like, ‘Okay!’”

In an interview earlier this year with Allison Hagendorf, Reeves revealed it was a white Ibanez that he bought, and as he explains to Fender, his bass journey picked up pace from that point on.

“I think I bought, like, the next week, a music theory bass [book],” he continues. “But the thing was that I didn’t have anyone to play with.”

As for how he went about shaping his bass career, Reeves admits he “didn’t learn a lot of songs” – something that he now regrets.

“I didn’t listen to a song and try and figure it out. Kids, I regret that. If 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.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.