Steve Moore: Interview with the drummer at the wrong gig
The video of a shiny-jacketed cover band playing ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" at an outdoor pavilion in Texas was posted over two years ago, another tchotchke gathering dust on YouTube's virtual shelf.
But on June 2nd, sports site Deadspin received a link and re-posted it under the headline: "Cover-Band Drummer Is Far Too Intense For A Cover Band Drummer."
Then it hit Digg. Before long, the video was everywhere.
The newly-minted star is Steve Moore, a West Virginia drummer who has been playing with Rick K. & The Allnighters for more than 10 years. We spoke to The Mad Drummer about his history in music, the life of a touring show band, and what it's like to go viral.
Well thanks again for talking to me. Have you given any other interviews?
I've done four. And I apologize to you, but unfortunately I'm running on very little sleep, I have been for the past four or five days now. I've done two of them that I know and they're on my website. And another one I just did with Monthly Drums.
You're from West Virginia, right?
Yes. We're not there very much since we're usually out on the road about 200 days a year, but we like to sleep there once in a while.
How long have you been running a schedule like that?
Well I've been with Rick for about 10 years. And it's been the way it is now for probably about 6 years I would say, as far as having this schedule.
How's that, being on the road so much, for so long?
The most difficult thing is traveling. It's not performing. It's really nothing for us to play a show, tear everything down, jump in the bus and drive sometimes 22 hours, then show up at a hotel, maybe sleep an hour, grab a shower and do a soundcheck and play the show then do it again. You don't get the opportunity to stop and sight-see, look at a bridge, or whatever, or stop and have dinner, you just see months of interstate.
It's not a vacation...
Exactly, right. Because so frequently you hear people say "Oh I'd love to do what you do, I just love to travel," you know? They just don't understand it's not vacation; it's just...it's interstate. We're not stopping to see the sights. Now, once in a while Rick will schedule something, I mean like sometimes we go to the beach and go out on the ocean, see the Grand Canyon, you know, things like this. It's really seldom. You know our schedule is just so tight. It's just go go go.
What was the music scene like where you grew up?
Absolutely not existent. Completely not existent. The only thing to do where I actually was raised, um, the very best gig you could probably get would be playing the Moose Club. I mean, that was it. When I got a little older, around 16, 17, 19, a few clubs started popping up here and there, but you could count 'em all on one hand. I mean if you wanted to play any place even halfway decent I had to drive at least four hours to make that happen, either north south east wherever, but there was nothing. Most of the bands I was with, before I got with Rick, sometimes I would have to drive 5/6 hours just to rehearsal. But again you know I've just done it for so many years you just get used to that.
And you said you started playing in bands when you were 16 or 17, or playing out rather?
Uh no, I actually started playing drums when I was about 6, and then I was pretty much playing about every weekend I would say by the time I was 14. But again, it was just, you know, your Moose Clubs, VFWs, things that like that, nothing to brag about at all. Just like we all did when you get your start.
And what was the first "proper" band you were in?
Well it's actually funny because whenever I first started off, you know when I was really young, I did the typical cover thing like most people did, but by the time I was 17 I would say most of the bands I was in were pretty much original bands. I mean almost every band I was in actually until I joined Rick they all played original music.
What kind of music?
Most of it was really really progressive, really really heavy stuff. Some punk-style stuff, but most of the stuff would've been in the vein of like, Joe Satriani, Dream Theater, Rush, just your typical progressive metal
Some pretty sprawling 80's metal stuff.
Very much, yessir. Some of it was pretty similar to stuff like Metallica, Slayer, Pantera...you know, that kind of thing. You know just like I said, on the heavier side.
And when did you start practicing all the moves?
Where it really took on a new life, if you will, the bands I was in before Rick were very fast bands, if you know what I mean by that. A lot of notes, a lot of playing going on. You know, that was what's appropriate for the music, it was progressive metal. And then whenever Rick hired me, when I first came into his organization, the songs...they weren't that. There was a lot of space in the songs. So as a result I was almost confused because I had never really done that. I had always just played a lot of notes, but as a result of having a lot of space in between each note, I basically started filling that space with the stick twirls, and a lot of the antics that people comment over. And that's where most of that came from, was just having so much in the songs.
I mean exactly, there's a huge difference between - I mean visually now, not the obvious sound difference - but there's a huge difference visually between what you're able to do on a song like "Mony Mony' versus a song like "Tom Sawyer" from Rush. You're just not gonna do that stuff you just...you can't. There's just...there's too much drumming going on. Where a song like "Mony Mony" or a more straight-ahead kind of piece, again, there's space to breathe. So it allows you the opportunity to throw your sticks in the air, ham it up a bit.
And again, that's where a lot of that came from. It tickles us more than anything else. It's fun. It's not really to show off, it's just fun. I mean we enjoy what we do.
I think that's why the video has gotten so much attention, is the disconnect...with metal you'd expect people to go after it, whereas...
Right, and I've heard a lot of people say that, and I can see that. It's a bit unorthodox, if you will. And all of us are really really grateful for that.
I didn't get a chance to look over your new website, but I did see the previous one. You've got shirts and DVDs and--
We do, usually the website has all that stuff available. But to be honest with you, this past week has been just so insane, and I've actually sold so much product, and since we're out on the road for three weeks it's really made it difficult to keep up with that. I mean I simply wasn't--I'm happy about it - but I actually, two weeks ago I wasn't prepared to sell 1,000 DVDs in one day. I just wasn't prepared to do that. So as a result I've had to pull it off line, just to kinda get some of the emails answered, get caught up a bit, and as soon as things get a little more level we'll open it back up again. I just didn't wanna sell too much, and have people have to wait three weeks to get their DVD, it didn't seem fair, so I'd actually rather pull it down for a week or so, regroup, get everything ordered that we have to have, that way if it gets back online if we end up selling 15,000 shirts it's not a problem. Previously I pretty much handled everything myself. Fortunately as a result of the video going viral, I've had several people from Hollywood, Florida, all over the country, people are getting in touch with me wanting to handle merchandise. So all of that's being talked about right now. Obviously it's all new, you don't want to sign something and give someone something for the next five years. That's really where so much of the problem comes in. Everything has gotten smashed so quickly that there's just really no time to answer so many emails, talk to different companies, research them, find out a bit about them, that whole avenue.
You don't wanna sign with a leech.
Exactly, and we all know there's a million of 'em out there.
Going viral has affected a lot of different people in different ways. There's a guy from Minnesota, Tay Zonday--Chocolate Rain--he ended up getting gigs at First Avenue. I was wondering what you think of this phenomenon, considering you're a part of it now.
It's really ironic the way things have panned out. Up until literally a few months ago, I used to stress over everything. I wanted to handle everything, I wanted to know everything. I would go as hard and fast as I could, twenty-four seven. Just trying to work work work. Then about two months ago, I got to reading different books, talking to different friends, and I realized I couldn't control everything, that I had to just let certain things happen. It may sound silly, but I had to just, just relax. That doesn't mean you stop working, but I had to stop stressing over it. All you can do it the best you can do, and if something's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. Just allow it to happen, don't make it happen. And I think I've been trying to make things happen my entire life. So I finally just adopted a new way of thinking where I was going to allow things to happen. And a few months later the thing went viral. It may sound a bit silly to you, but as a result of that I'm not really putting much thought into it, I'm just kind of letting things unfold the way they unfold. I'm not trying to "seize the opportunity" and go at it like a bull. I'm just trying to enjoy it. It's taken 30 years for this to happen. I 'm just enjoying that fact that so many people are getting a kick out of it.
Far from silly, it seems serendipitous, when you finally kind of "let go" you've got millions of people watching you for the first time.
That's the part that's just so ironic about this whole thing is again, the video has been online for almost two years! And I've said this many times, up until literally a week ago, it only had like 5,000 hits. And it may have had 10 or 12 comments; I mean that's it. And then for just no reason at all it totally goes viral, and I had nothing to do with it. I know we played on it, but as far as that movement or phenomenon that happened, I did not make that happen. It just happened. It's really had an affect on my perception, as far as trying to force feed things. It's really really had an effect on it. In a wonderful way, obviously. In a wonderful way.
One thing that stuck out to me, usually with these bursts, these sort of internet phenomenons, usually a lot of people are sort of derisive, or sarcastic, but in your case it seems people have been genuinely supportive, and just think it's pretty awesome. What's that like to get that kind of sudden outpouring of support?
If you were to ask me why do I think that happened, or why that's happening, I'd have to answer because it's genuine. It's simply genuine. I'm not trying to impress anybody by doing what I'm doing, I certainly don't think that I'm a Mike Portnoy or, a lot of people have compared me to Keith Moon...there's no comparison. There is no comparison. Keith Moon was a legend, period. And I'm not trying to become that, I'm not necessarily doing that to make people compare me to that. I'm just having a blast! The things that I do onstage, I mean I practice, I certainly practice, but the things that happen on stage, they basically happen on their own. I don't really force that. I don't make that happen. I don't go out onstage and say "oh god, here's the part where I gotta throw a stick in the air." I think people see it and they know I'm not trying to fool anybody, I'm not trying to act like I'm having fun to get rich or something. I'm having the time of my life when I'm playing my drums. And I think it's just because people feel that, they sense it, and they know it's real. And they get a genuine tickle out of it. And I'm the same way. Everybody is.
As ridiculous as this may sound, if a drummer was to comment on my playing and say something along the lines of "this particular fill was very tight fill" or "this particular beat was a very technical beat" or complimented my playing in some way & was nice and professional about it, versus some sixty-five year-old guy happens to see it and just says "that funnier 'n hell I've laughed all day"? That means more than me. I'm not trying to impress drummers, you know, I wish I could. I mean I wish I was Mike Portnoy, I wish I was Stuart Copeland, I wish I was Steve Gadd, and I'm just not that guy. I'm not this technical incredible guru. I'm just a guy playing drums and having a blast. If people just enjoy that, that actually means more to me than getting props from some technical guy.
Probably the most successful would've been a band called Triple X. They were based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Another band I was with and did some different things with was called "Dofka". And that was very much a guitar-orieneted band, like a Joe Satriani or Yngwie. That guy was a great guitar player.
Do you have any recordings of those?
I don't. It's so funny, some people been trynna dig some of that stuff up since there's an interest in it, but at the time you'll have thousands and thousands of recordings of yourself then you go ten years later and you have nothing left. I honestly have nothing left! I don't know if any of it is still in print or not I don't know.
That's kind of ironic that after being in so many bands, recording albums that did exist at one time, that a semi-fleeting Youtube video would get people to reengage with that. Were the bands good?
Oh yeah they were incredible.
I wasn't trying to be rude, I have a lot of friends who are musicians that will freely admit they were in shitty bands, you know?
They were actually incredible. It was just um, the original circuit is really really difficult. When you're goin' out and you're actually trying to provide a living for yourself playing strictly original music...it can be done, but again it's really really challenging to do that. And that was really the issue...
It just didn't go where we wanted it to. And we tried it for a couple years and it just didn't seem to..."well okay." And everybody just kinda does something else, and you hook up with another bands, and you try and you try, and you put out some stuff, and people like it, and it just gets to a certain point where it just kinda hangs there and doesn't go any further, and again, you just go on and on and on.
And that was what led you to Rick?
The way I came aboard, his previous drummer had retired and Rick knew me through a personal friend and called and asked if I'd be interested in coming aboard, and of course at first I asked him what kind of material he played and he told, and at first I was a bit skittish of it, not that it was bad, it was just very...different. Because again I was playing with a lot f thrash metal bands and it was just different. When I came aboard it actually took several months to learn how to play it. So a lot of the things that you see, there was a learning curve there. Just like with anything. You're doing something new. So it took a while to feel it out and go well okay what works and doesn't work, too much not enough, and everyone was real patient with me when I first joined because it was a bit of a culture shock. They knew I was coming from speed metal bands, they knew it was gonna take a while to calm that down.
Or not calm it down.
Yeah as it turns out to be. [laughs]
Was music your prior profession before you joined the Allnighters?
Oh yeah, I've never had a "job job" like I don't know, working at Lowe's. If I was to go put an applications in for Lowe's, I would have nothing to put under "Previous Employer." This is all I've ever done.
That's incredible. Very few people actually do that.
Very few, and I never take that for granted. I'm very fortunate.
Where do you get so much energy for your drum moves?
I consume chocolate like it's goin' out of style. About an hour or so before we play, I throw down candy like crazy and I just drink Pepsi by the bucketful. So I am probably massively addicted to caffeine and sugar.
What's your favorite brand of chocolate?
Probably Reese's cups. I throw 'em down by the bagful. You know it's funny, I've actually gotten such a reputation for that kind of thing, we're really really fortunate that no matter what town we're in there always one or two really really nice people and they'll come up and say 'hey' and they'll have a bag of goodies for me. This woman over here, some old guy over here, and they'll have a couple Reese's cups in it for me. It seems like a really teensy little thing, but that's really nice, that people actually know that about me, and actually go out of their to pick me up something before the show. That's really sweet that people do that.
Maybe they just wanna make sure they're gonna see a good show.
[laughs] That could be it.
So I suppose your plan is just one foot in front of the other.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And like you said as far as any other thing I'm just totally taking it as it comes, for once really just trying to enjoy it. Trying to really just enjoy the moment and the fact...the biggest thing for me is the fact that people get a kick out of it. That's important to me, the fact that people really enjoy it. I don't care whether someone is impressed with it, but did you enjoy it? I don't care if I impressed you, or if there was a drummer that you saw two days ago that was better than me--well of course you did! Everyone's better than me! That's not the point, did you get a kick out of it? Did it make you laugh? Did you enjoy it? That's the biggest thrill for me. You go to YouTube and it's just comment after comment after comment, people saying they were really having a bad day until someone sent them that link and they watched it, and they started laughin, and their day went better. How cool is that?
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