Interview: Steve Moore, the 'Drummer At The Wrong Gig' on YouTube fame

This time two years ago, most people hadn't heard of Rick K And The Allnighters ('America's most exciting show band'), much less their flamboyant drummer, Steve Moore. But in the late spring of 2010, a YouTube clip of the group performing a cover of ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man became a viral sensation - all because of Moore's dazzling showmanship behind the kit.

The video, dubbed This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig, has now racked up close to 16 million YouTube views, ensuring that the world - the drumming world, at least - will never be the same. Things have changed radically for Moore, too: He's been championed by superstar players like Mike Portnoy, he's endorsing companies and products galore, his handle 'The Mad Drummer' is trademarked, and he's even heeded the call of Hollywood, appearing on an episode of the US version of The Office.

YouTube fame is still a relatively new phenomenon, however, so we decided to check in with Moore to discuss how he's handling the various ins, outs and what-have-yous of viral celebritydom. As it turns out, quite well, indeed.

When the whole 'Drummer At The Wrong Gig' thing happened, it must have blown your mind.

"Oh, absolutely! [laughs] When it actually happened for real, of course. I should explain: The original video was called 'Rick K And The Allnighters At The Park' or something. A fan shot it and put it on YouTube, and there it sat there for two years. It got some hits, a few thousand, but nothing huge.

"Then, one day, when I was getting ready to go on a three-week tour with the band, I started to get some e-mails from name drummers. One was from John 'Bermuda' Schwartz, who's the drummer for 'Weird Al.' He was like, 'Hey man, I just saw your video. It was awesome!' That was nice, but I didn't put two and two together.

"Then, when I was literally sitting in the tour bus - we had just done an 18-hour drive - I got something like 2,000 e-mails. Somebody got hold of the video and sent it around, and it took off. It didn't hurt that Mike Portnoy Tweeted about me and put me on his Facebook. He's got a lot of fans, so people started taking notice. I think his involvement really drove the whole thing, and it gave me credibility, too.

You and Mike have since become good friends.

"That's right, we have. And let me tell you, what an awesome guy! He's a brilliant musician, of course, but I'm stunned at how many fans he has. Drummers don't usually get recognized, but when walks around the mall, people come up to him: 'Hey, you're Mike Portnoy!' He's something - ridiculously famous but totally respected. He's definitely one of my idols."

The style that you developed to play with Rick K And The Allnighters - that's you doing a showbiz thing, right?

"Sure. We're a fun, theatrical cover band; we make it like a variety show. The flashy drumming goes with all of that. Before I joined up with Rick K, I was in real heavy bands, very much in the style of Dream Theater, Pantera, Slayer, Testament - that kind of thing.

"I've always been something of a showman; I like to give people something to watch, a little flair. Then, when I joined Rick K And The Allnighters, the whole approach just grew. Plus, you have to understand, I went from playing Anthrax-y kinds of songs to things like Runaround Sue and Your Mama Don't Dance. Doing the showboating thing was something I started to entertain myself as well as the people."

Moore with one of his idols, and now good friend, Mike Portnoy.

Did the band ever, at any time, ask you to tone it done?

"No. Never. Not one time. I give Rick a lot of credit, too. Most singers would be like, 'Hey, it's my band. Stop showing me up.' But that's never been an issue with Rick. In fact, he's always tried to highlight me. He's been my biggest supporter.

"And the band is doing better than ever. We do about 200 shows a year, and everything's been going great. The video certainly helped gain us exposure; lots of people know our name now because of it. So, all in all, it's been a total blessing."

When the video hit, did you get offers from other acts?

"I did get a few calls, yes. Nothing was a good fit, if you will. What I do it a bit…uh, different [laughs], so for me to jump on stage with Dwight Yoakum or Clint Black, it just wouldn't work. Not that they're not marvelous artists, because they are. But I'd have to play in a situation that was more unique. For me to play with Testament or Rob Zombie, that makes sense. Alice Cooper would make sense. An act would have to want to feature me and show off what I do. I don't think Alan Jackson would want to do that, you know?"

The video resulted in your getting a call from Hollywood. You appeared in an episode of The Office.

"Yes, I did. Man, what a blast! [laughs] I got an e-mail from the producers of the show, asking if I'd want to make an appearance, do a cameo and all. Of course, I said yes! [laughs] They flew me out to Hollywood, and in one day we taped the segment. It was over pretty fast - you fly out, do your thing and fly back. Not a lot of time to think.

"In the show, there's a character named Kevin Malone [played by Brian Baumgartner], and we get into a drum battle. It was really fun to do. I'm doing my moves, and he's basically trying to keep up with me. Everybody on the show was incredible, and they treated me beautifully."

Have things changed for you on an equipment level?

"Oh, yeah! [laughs] I'm pretty much set right now. I endorse Ludwig drums, but then I endorsed them prior to the video. Same with Pro-Mark sticks - I endorsed them beforehand. I now endorse Evans drum heads, and the company has been great to me. I've tried all of their heads, but I always go back to the coated G2s.

"I also endorse Audix Microphones - that one happened just this year. And then Mike Portnoy was kind enough to hook me up with [artist relations rep] Chris Stankee at Sabian, so of course I'm a Sabian endorser, as well."

Musically, what else is happening with you right now?

"The biggest thing is, I'm developing a Mad Drummer Show, and I'm going to use Rick, the singer from Rick K. It's going to be something of a Martin & Lewis vibe, very Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett…ritzy, big band…"

Kind of a Rat Pack scene?

"Very much so, only elegant - and then I come out and I wreck the whole thing. [laughs] So that's it in 30 seconds. Envision Keith Moon backing up Tony Bennett, and that's what you got. It's going to be really funny, and it'll be a nice change, as well. I've never played with a big band before.

"I've also been working with Jeff Martin from Racer X and Rev Jones, the bassist for Michael Schenker and Leslie West. We're hoping to get a project up. I'm trying to kind of do what Mike Portnoy does. He's got a lot of things out there, and that's what I'd like to do."

Before your YouTube fame, you were still a successful working drummer. What kind of advice would you have for players out there as far as making a living from music?

"The number one thing, as far as I'm concerned, is networking. You've got to get yourself out there. I can't stress that enough. That said, you've still got to be a decent player. You can be friends with everybody in the world, but if you suck, you're not going to keep a job. You have to be good at your craft.

"So it all goes hand in hand. People like to play with their friends; they like to play with people who they can get along with. If you're a cool person, people will recommend you for gigs. If you're hard to deal with, they won't.

"Again, network. Get yourself out there. Have business cards printed up. Have a website, Facebook, do anything you can. I'm not saying prostitute yourself, but at the end of the day, you could be the greatest drummer going, but if nobody knows you… well, nobody's going to know you!"

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.