Rewind: Davis, The Once and Future DJ (Independent)

Davis Rogan hits REWIND to talk about his 2005 release The Once and Future DJ, which caught the attention of TV producers David Simon and Eric Overmyer and, in part, helped launch the HBO series Treme.

“We recorded at Tim Stambaugh’s Word Of Mouth Studios. I had started concentrating on a band where I sat down at the piano, and it was a little bit more about the words and not necessarily this big, sprawling funk band.

It was produced by me because the band, Chris Davis on drums, Rob Wagner on saxophone, Peter Harris on bass and me on keys, had been playing at Bacchanal two or three years, so we had all the material down. The song ‘My God’ was written on the fly in the studio, but we’d been performing most of these tunes for a long time and all we had to do was go in and track it.

We had Chris Davis for three days, which meant three days to do the rhythm tracks. Eric Lindell had him on the road a lot, but there was something about the immediacy of having Chris for two or three days where it was one of those old-fashioned ‘we got what we got and we’re gonna have to roll with it.’ We didn’t have the luxury to rethink it. What Chris put down was what Chris put down, because ‘Gosh darn it, we’re gonna put this record out!’

We did five or six days of me doing vocals and keys. We recorded in the summer of 2005. I’m remembering because hurricanes are labeled A through Z, and Hurricane Cathy or Catherine… or something was happening. That was the one I wrote the song ‘Hurricane’ about, not the K hurricane we all know.

When we brought in Cheeky Blakk it was one of those ‘sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.’ That was a big-fat-blunt-and-a-bottle-of-whiskey-fueled thing that worked. I don’t recommend it… but sometimes it makes for some amazing stuff. You gotta remember, 2003 was when WWOZ said, ‘if you play any more of that rap junk we’re gonna fire you!’ and I did a special about rap music so they fired me.

Cheeky Blakk coming out to do something for love was really because it was the general perception in the bounce community that I had taken a bullet for them. Now maybe it was like I had them shoot a bullet at me because I felt like I wanted a bullet, but I felt like I had to put it on the line for bounce artists. When Cheeky came in, it was as simple as putting the track on both our headphones, that whole thing where we’re rapping back and forth. I’m like ‘Gee, Cheeky, you kind of intimidate me, I don’t know what to say’—it came from the heart. That was a moment of pure studio fire and magic, those Cheeky-isms.

In 2005, Bruce Bennett, my friend from Reed College with a Ph.D. in music, got a job at Tulane, and it was nice that after over a decade our friendship struck right back up. He agreed to mix and master the record because Bruce also worked on a program you might have heard of called ProTools, yeah.

It was the digital wonder of modern technology. We spent the month of August at my house. Jenny Bagert did the photography, which I think is really awesome.

Cut to August 28: I’m in Liuzza’s By The Track having a celebratory bowl of gumbo for finishing the record. There’s baseball on one TV, weather on the other. I went to the post office on Loyola with the master disc and put it in the hands of the U.S. Government to mail my record to Disc Makers. Then it’s Sunday and the guy who was doing the artwork called to say he didn’t have time to get the art in the mailbox. I flee, and what happens next is there are armed guards keeping me from entering my city, so I don’t even know the fate of the Loyola post office.

Now cut back to the wonders of modern technology. Bruce had this thing called ‘a hard drive’—it was about the size of a small shoe box and it held ‘200 gigs of memory.’ He put the hard drive in his Corolla when he fled with his wife and kids. We’re obviously all in a state at that point. I called Disc Makers and was able to say, ‘Can we please call this extended [sic] circumstances and can you please print my thing?’ Bruce was able to make another master disc, and we were able to get it printed.

I got 1,000 copies delivered to a friend in Baton Rouge, and I was living in New York, so I had some sent up for my release party at Mickey’s Blue Room on September 18. John Swenson came to my release party and I gave him a CD. We had dinner at my friends the Balabans and he pulled me aside for an interview.

That review and that interview changed everything for me.”