Steely Dan was famous for not touring when the iconoclastic jazz-rock outfit recorded the bulk of its music in the mid- to late-'70s.
The band, best known for songs such as "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," sat out the next decade, before co-founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker revived the group in the early '90s.
Since then, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have released just two albums, but have toured regularly.
"The venues and the menus and the hotels and everything has gotten better," says Fagen, who will perform 8 p.m. Friday, July 19, at Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City. "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."
For their summer tour, Fagen and Becker held court during a conference call, discussing everything from whether they might record again to their working relationship to why they don't tweet.
Q: Is there any new material in the works?
Becker: 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. It's just a smell now. Next thing is then you taste it, then you start to feel it.
Fagen: We do have some songs that I'm just remembering now. We have some songs that are really good ones that we only half finished back in like 1984. Put it this way, any other band in the world would have long ago finished or mixed or whatever these old things that were lying around (were) ... but we just don't play it like that.
Q: Can you two still surprise each other after working together for so long?
Fagen: When you can't remember what happened this morning, you're always surprised.
Becker: That's right. I make new friends every day. I can hide my own Easter eggs.
Fagen: Also, because you find when you get older that there's not many people who understand your references anymore, so that we're the only audience we have pretty much for our cultural references and so on. Like no one remembers the TV themes we remember anymore because they're just too old.
Becker: If you say (the name of short story) "Fondly Fahrenheit" to somebody, they're not going to know what you're talking about.
Fagen: Or if you hum the theme song for (TV series) "Hawaiian Eye," you're not going to get a good house on that.
Q: How do you feel about social media –– do you tweet as Steely Dan?
Fagen: No, I've never had a Twitter account. So, it must be a fake. I don't have a Facebook or a Twitter. In fact, now I don't even have a (personal) website. I used to, but I canceled it because it took too much time.
Q: Walter, are you engaged online at all?
Becker: No, of course not. I thought Twitter was a joke until about 12 weeks ago, and really I thought it was like a gag or something, and then I find out that it's not. I thought it was like the National Lampoon or The Onion or whatever.
Q: Can you write on the road –– have any songs come out of sound check, for example?
Fagen: I have a really hard time writing on the road. Usually writing is done with Walter or not, it's when I'm really at home and have very little to do. You need to be in a kind of stasis I think to do that.
Becker: That's right. There's too much stimulus in any strange environment.
Fagen: Or else you're just sleeping.
Q: What do you think of the new high-resolution, digital audio formats that are emerging?
Fagen: The thing about those things is it's too bad they don't have any good music anymore to play on all those new formats. Maybe they should have a moratorium on inventing new formats until someone has done some good music. When they invent a format that sounds as good as a nice clean piece of vinyl played on a good turntable, then someone should let us know.
Becker: Yes, and then we'll add all the clicks and pops to our record.
How Steely Dan became Kanye's 'Champion'
When hip-hop star Kanye West, below, asked Steely Dan for permission to sample its version of "Kid Charlemagne" on his 2007 track "Champion," the group turned him down.
"We usually say yes, but we didn't like the general curve of the way that one sounded," says Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen.
However, West kept pleading his case.
"He sent us a handwritten letter, which was so heartfelt that we finally gave in and acceded to his request," Fagen says.
Adds co-founder Walter Becker: "He basically said that this was a song that meant a lot to him. It was written about his father and his feelings for his father and ..."
Fagen interjects: "I didn't get that at all from the music ..."
"No, I've had occasion to wonder since then whether that's the same Kanye West," Walter says.
"Maybe it was a prank," Fagen says.