Once heralded as the "Face of 1968", Peter Frampton has come a long way since his days with the Herd. During his tenure with Humble Pie, Peter established his credibility as a guitarist, and became (along with Chris Spedding and Alan Parker) one of Britain's top session guitar players. Peter currently is making his mark on the world via his career as a solo artist, with several albums on the A&M label — his latest, in fact, rests in an enviable position in the American charts. We spoke to Peter about his new band, his various interests, and the making of his latest album, Frampton. Since leaving Humble Pie, you've been a solo artist, a group member, and now a solo artist again. What prompted these changes?
There wasn't really a change. Only the identity of the group members is different. Frampton's Camel got confused with Peter Bardens' Camel in England, so now it's The Peter Frampton Band.
Who are the band members now?
We have Bob Mayo, who used to be in a group called Doc Halliday with Frank Carillo, who played on Wind Of Change
. Bob doubles on keyboards and guitar. I just bumped into him at the right time and it worked out really nicely. It's great to have someone that can play keyboards as well as they can play guitar. I love a two-guitar line-up. It makes the sound closer to the record... definitely more 'up'.
Then there's Stanley Sheldon on bass, coming from Steve Stills' band, and 'The Rock' (John Siomos) on drums. It's a completely American band.
Most guitarists who leave a band for a solo career lean towards heavy, guitar-oriented material, while your work is more melodic. Why?
I think onstage, people come to see me play guitar. But on record, nothing is more boring to me than three-minute guitar solos and things like that, although I think there's more guitar on the new album than any of the others. People like to listen to the voice. My songs are a vehicle for my guitar, but the guitar is there to compliment the voice.
Do you write on electric or acoustic guitar?
Both... more on acoustic, and it's sort of fifty-fifty between guitar and piano.
The piano has become more important to me, especially on Frampton
. 'Fanfare', 'Day's Dawning' , and 'Nassau' were all written on piano. I find it easier to write on piano because I'm much more limited and I write much more simply. That's always the secret — the simpler the better.
Is it true that you write about three times as many songs as you actually release?
I've got loads of cassettes that are filled with anything from five second ideas to three minute ideas. After I've collected a couple of cassettes over the weeks, what I'll do is play them through and pick out the things that still interest me. Of course, some songs I'll just sit down and write, but for others I depend on the cassettes.
How far back in time do the cassettes go?
They go right back to the period before I left Humble Pie. But I tend to move on even though I go back and listen to them.
Do you usually write the music and the lyrics at the same time?
It happens lots of ways except I never write the lyrics first. I can't work that way. Sometimes it goes from me writing the lyrics at the same time, to actually recording a backing track with just the melody and then writing the words afterwards.
How does it feet to produce your own records?
Having always been very involved with the technical side, I love it. I worked very closely with Chris Kimsey, the engineer. I don't like studios. Things just don't sound like they should in a studio. Drums, to me, don't sound like drums in the dead studio environment — you can hear all the rattles and buzzes. Drums sound best in a big room like at the Clearwell Castle with ceilings thirty feet high. You see, if they don't sound good before you mike them up, they're not going to sound good afterwards. I feel that's where a lot of producers make a mistake.
Have you done any live recording thus far?
The next album is going to be a live one.
Will the band stay the same for the next one?
I love this band, I'm really happy with it. It's funky and I've always loved the American feel. John Siomos is my favourite drummer, and to be in a band with your favourites is always a thrill.