Talking “Treme” with Davis Rogan
Posted on June 15, 2014
“To be a fly on the wall for that fucking thing”
If you’re going to interview Davis Rogan at a small table outside Three Muses on Frenchmen Street between his sets expect interruptions.
There was one guy, who I’m not really sure what he wanted. I think it was money. But Rogan explained to him what he was earning for his gig and the man was off. A few fans walked by with a “great job” (to Rogan, not me) or “love you/love your music.” Another passerby asked Rogan where Adolfo’s was (above the Apple Barrel, also featured in Treme). “Alex Chilton and I used to eat at Adolfo’s often,” Rogan says.
Then legendary cornetist Jack Fine walks by. Rogan asks him to sit in on his next set. And he did.
One of the lead characters on HBO’s Treme, which had its final season in December, was based on Rogan. Steve Zahn played Davis McAlary, a radio DJ and band member/leader – like Rogan.
Rogan also served as a consultant on Treme and was a writer on one of the episodes. He also appeared in several episodes as a member of McAlary’s band, DJ Davis and the Brassy Knoll.
According to nola.com Treme creator David (The Wire) Simon came to know Rogan through his music and became so close that Rogan taught piano to Simon’s son.
At the end of May The Dodgy took a trip to New Orleans. I decided to look up Davis Rogan and requested an interview. After his first set, during which I enjoyed fish tacos and several pints of NOLA Rebirth Pale Ale, we took our spots outside.
How did it feel to have a lead character on Treme based on you and for you to be an integral part of the show?
What an amazing thing to have somebody pick you – an aspiring piano player and songwriter – to have somebody pick you and it becomes this. (David Simon) decides you’re going to be one of the characters on one of his shows – that’s a major life changer, of course. Best of all is David handled it very sensitively. Because there came a point in time where the character of Davis was going to be an ass. An untalented ass. And I had to role with it.
Favorite memories from the show?
Getting to meet and spend a little time with Elvis Costello on the set was amazing. Then when Simon told me he sent Elvis some of my new material, man, it don’t get better for an aspiring songwriter.
Also the chance to work with David Mills on the script (season 1 episode 7). He was a great guy and that was a great opportunity.
There was a lot of “where do you place me” and “how do I best serve the unit.” and season one I wore all the hats. Then we reached season two and it kind of became, “I will be the guy where every time you see Davis write a song, that’s me.” I became the songwriter for the character Davis.
If I consider…the weirdest fact of all is if I consider Galactic and Kermit Ruffins my peers and Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint my idols, out of all my peers and idols I got the most songs on the show.
During a break in filming of one episode Rogan recants the scene in an upstairs room at The Blue Nile. It involved him, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr. and someone else.
We’re talking about the history of cocaine abuse in New Orleans in the 80s. Holy Fucking…to be a fly on the wall for that fucking thing.
Davis Rogan B-sides
“Before David Simon gave a shit about me Alex Chilton did. Gotta love Alex. I miss him too.”
Rogan says Simon had in mind five seasons for Treme. It lasted three and a half. It would have ended with the Saints winning the Super Bowl (which was mentioned in a sort of “flash forward” in the final episode).
I met Rogan’s wife, who is beautiful and very cool. Well done Davis Rogan!
I had to leave before Rogan finished his final set. But I came back when it was over and saw his drummer sitting outside Three Muses. I asked him if Davis was inside. He says, “Yea, and tell him to pay me my fucking money.” I felt like I was in an episode of Treme. Those who know the show will understand. Truly awesome.
Check out this article on cornetist Jack Fine. I actually had Mr. Fine take my iPhone and snap a pic of Rogan and me.
Before Rogan’s set started a few of us were talking outside. A funny bald guy was there. Someone said something to him and he said he was in Treme. And shit…I know him. It was actor James DuMont, just hanging out. He played Capt. Richard LaFouchette on the show and had several scenes with Melissa Leo’s character.
For more on Davis Rogan, and if you’re in New Orleans, find out where he’s playing at DavisRogan.com.