Guitar icon Peter Frampton, 55, spoke from his Indian Hill home this week about his latest project with the Cincinnati Pops and local composer/conductor Steve Reineke.
Janelle Gelfand: Why at this point in your career is it time to do something symphonic, and how did the project come about?
Peter Frampton: It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. When I was involved with an "Evening Out on the Town" with Paavo (Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony music director) and myself [in 2002] – [listen]ers won an evening with us – I got to spend some time with him, and he asked me at that time if I would ever think about doing a complete guitar piece with orchestra. I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. But this is sort of like a stepping-stone to that, the way I see it, in as much as we’ll be able to do my show, augmented by the orchestra. Paavo sort of inspired me to get this going.
JG: Are you a classically trained guitarist?
PF: I did study about four years of classical guitar, because when my parents realized all hope was lost, when I was about 12, they said it looks like this is getting very serious! We think you ought to -- you will go to Spanish guitar lessons! So I did.
JG: Has anyone else inspired you for this new piece that you’re writing, such as other rockers, like Paul McCartney, who have done similar things?
PF: I obviously think about them, but I’m trying not to do anything like anybody else has done. So as far as style and stuff like that, you know, Steve Reineke and myself are going to be writing a piece for the orchestra, on top of my own songs for the act. So I’m very much looking forward to doing that in May, and having it ready for the show in June.
JG: What are you recording right now?
PF: It’s all sort of intermingled, because this is the first totally instrumental, no vocals at all, CD I’ve ever done. Being as I started off as a guitar player, and basically just wanted to be the guy playing behind the singer – things change, but (laughs) I still enjoy that position, going out with David Bowie, playing with Ringo and the Allstars. So I enjoy being just the guitar player in the band. And that’s because that’s my main love, playing guitar.
Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, I love writing, but I’ll always play guitar – for me.
JG: So this is a purely instrumental album?
PF: Yes, it’s going to be on A&M Records. I’m back for the first time since about ‘82 or ‘83. I’ve been with other labels since A&M.
JG: Is your album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" still the all-time best-selling live album?
PF: Yes, it is. There are certain people that will say that Garth Brooks has sold more. But that’s because he released a 2, 3 or 4-CD package, and they counted them 2, 3 or 4 times. We only counted ours once. So 17 million – but if you want to be technical about it, we sold (34 million).
I still maintain that we are the biggest. We’re trying to get it reclassified as two.
JG: Is the album all new material?
PF: Yes it is. There’s one cover, of (Seattle band) Soundgarden’s "Black Hole Sun." ("Black Hole Sun" was on Soundgarden’s 1994 album "Superunknown.")
JG: How long have you been performing?
PF: Professionally since I was 16.
JG: That’s quite a legacy.
PF: Yes, I mean, I was semi-pro before that. I actually began playing onstage when I was 8.
JG: Why would you want to appear with a symphony orchestra?
PF: It’s every musician’s dream to stand up there in front of an orchestra one day. There’s nothing more awe-inspiring.
I have played with an orchestra – with the British Rock Symphony, which was put on in Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, which was all different people, and myself, Alice Cooper – and we went all over the place with an orchestra. But this wasn’t an orchestra that plays together all the time – these were people just put together to make this orchestra.
So it was sort of like a tease. It was very good, but I knew it wasn’t the real thing. It wasn’t like the Cincinnati Symphony or the Boston Symphony – two of the greatest orchestras in the world.
JG: Could this orchestra show lead to a symphonic DVD?
PF: That’s what we’re hoping for. Also, this is just the first show with the symphony. Steve Reineke is going to come with me and in the fall, we’re looking at doing 12 to 15 symphonies around the country. And we’ll do the same show.
JG: So you’re taking it on the road?
PF: Taking it on the road with Steve and different symphonies. It’s amazing.
JG: Do you think this where the orchestra industry is headed?
PF: I think that’s because the baby boomers want to be comfortable when they get entertained these days, they want to go to amphitheatres and they want to go to theaters. They want a nice comfy seat!
JG: This is an interesting career direction for you. Do you hope to continue in the symphony orchestra vein?
PF: Well it’s just another thing that I can do. Maybe every other year I do some symphony dates. It just adds another wonderful outlet for the music.
JG: Do you have plans with Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony next?
PF: Well, not yet, but he said, you should write a 25-minute piece (he imitates the Estonian accent) and you come, we work together and we will play this together. I says, you’re kidding me! And it scared me to death! But I am definitely going to rise to the occasion. I just can’t say when that will be.
JG: So the idea really originated with Paavo?
PF: I had been thinking about it before that, because James Taylor and other people had done some nice things with orchestras. I had seen some of them, and I thought they were wonderful. Then when I actually touched the flesh of the great maestro – it was very interesting to talk with him, put it that way. Hey, music – it’s all about learning, every day. And I’m never close-minded to anything so, it was just another avenue to go down.
I’m not saying I’m going to write a piece of classical music, or ever will concentrate on just that, but it just gives me something else to work towards. If there’s no challenges left, then there’s no creativity. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, obviously. Otherwise you get bored, and then it becomes bland. So this is just something to be blunt, kick up your (behind) – musically, for me.
JG: They’ll have to find a new Grammy category.
PF: There you go.
posted by Janelle Gelfand @ 12:03 PM