A conversation with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker is like trying to pin down a buzzing fly using only your pinky.
No easy task. Sardonic, sarcastic and bemused, the jazzy rock pair have been making mincemeat out of interviewers with the same verbal flair with which they laced into cryptic classics like Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Kid Charlemagne and Deacon Blues in the ’70s.
The two diss Twitter (they don’t Tweet) and wayward politicians (New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s Tweets and surname inspires jabs). Given these guys’ snark, these topics could serve as fodder for music on a new album if the two ever get around to making a proper follow-up to 2003’s overlooked Everything Must Go.
“It’s in the air. It really is. We’re just picking it up here and starting the tour, but I can almost, well, I can smell it,” Becker says of new tunes in the pipeline.
Fagen, 65, and Becker, 63, have a new tour to shill — Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day Tour. As such, the duo conducted a conference call with game music scribes, including The Miami Herald, to promote a tour that hits Boca Raton’s Mizner Park Amphitheatre on Thursday.
In addition to teasing the idea of a new album, “It’s just a smell now, next thing is then you taste it, then you start to feel it,” Becker says, the two dither on how the tour derived its puzzling Pancake Day Tour handle. Fans will recall this jazz-loving duo once titled an album Pretzel Logic.
Expect the same twisted logic as they make no attempt to unravel the mystery of that title.
Becker: “I’m not in the mood anymore.”
Fagen: “Paxil is kind of an antiquated drug by now, isn’t it?”
Becker: “It probably is.”
Fagen: “What’s that got to do with our tour?”
Becker: “Maybe lithium would be more appropriate.”
Fagen: “In truth, we put up Mood Swings; that was the easy part, and then we were reminiscing about the old television show, Route 66, and we remembered how in those days they used to name TV episodes using every eccentric titles like, Who’s Afraid of the Muffin Man, things like that. So, we decided we were going to have a subtitle for our Mood Swings tour.”
Steely Dan has put out just two studio albums since the duo initially put the act on hiatus after 1980’s showroom-pristine Gaucho. The 2000 effort, Two Against Nature, scored Steely Dan an Album of the Year Grammy over the then-favored Eminem. But Becker and Fagen have toured together often since reconnecting professionally in the mid-’90s. Credit a saner touring environment today.
“The venues and the menus and the hotels and everything has gotten better,” Fagen said. “So, now it’s much more fun to play. I’m glad that we turned into a big-time touring band later in life. It’s almost like we planned it out that way.”
— HOWARD COHEN
Steely Dan perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, Boca Raton. The concert is sold out but tickets, $68.50-$149, are sometimes released as show approaches. Information: www.ticketmaster.com. Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.