Donald Fagen On Dukes of September's Hot New Tour

"The idea is to play music that we all liked when we were kids," says Fagen. "Each of us has pretty good taste in vintage R&B and soul music."

In the early '90s, when Steely Dan were on hiatus, Donald Fagen rounded up some session musician pals (including Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs) to form the New York Rock and Roll Soul Revue. The band gave intimate performances featuring classic R&B tunes (Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood," Etta James' "At Last") from the American songbook. Almost two decades later, Fagen has revived the group — this time calling it Dukes of September — for a tour, which started last week and wraps up October 2nd in Las Vegas. This year's setlist includes covers of the Grateful Dead and the Band, plus classic Motown and Stax-era tracks. Rolling Stone caught up with Fagen on a tour stop in Washington D.C. to discuss performing with Levon Helm, plans for the next Steely Dan record, and the "ludicrous" names he suggested instead of Dukes of September.

What's taken so long to revive this band?Why did you decide to rename it the Dukes of September?
What were some of the other names you kicked around?Theme from Sea Hunt: Rhythm RevueSea HuntOn the first few dates, you've been doing a pretty kick-ass version of the Grateful Dead's "Shake Down Street." Why'd you decide to cover that?
What did you learn playing with Levon?It's interesting that you're covering "Shakedown Street" with Dukes of September because that's the Dead's funkiest song, which makes sense coming from your work with Steely Dan.Like what?Your live show includes a grab bag of tunes by the O'Jays, Little Anthony and the Imperials plus cuts from the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan catalog. How'd you figure out the setlist?
Is there a unifying theme to the songs you selected?The show also features a cover of the O'Jays' "Love Train." Why'd you choose that one?Any plans to continue touring with the Dukes after these dates?What's Walter Becker doing during your time on the road?
Have you been working on a new Steely Dan record?Then what is it?