Interview: Peter Frampton — "Not only is this one is the first vocal album I've done since Fingerprints, it’s also the first vocal album that I've written since I've been sober"
Tue, 18 May 2010 13:55:12
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Guitarist Peter Frampton – yes, that Peter Frampton of Frampton Comes Alive fame- isn't stuck in the era during which he achieved most of his fame. The singer/guitarist is moving forward into the digital age, as his song "Show Me the Way" is part of a new iPhone app called Six String, where purchasers can strum along to their favorite songs from real studio masters. You can pluck and change chords like a real guitarist. Frampton's classic lives alongside songs from Bon Jovi, Tom Petty and Fall Out Boy, among others, which demonstrates his ability to cross the generational divide and to force the past and present to collide.
ARTISTdirect.com's Amy Sciarretto enjoyed a phone chat with Frampton, who has a very cheeky, very British sense o' humor, about his purchasing his own iPhone app and his first album written while sober. Before we even began chatting, he totally put me at ease, saying, "Let me take a wild guess, you’re not Italian, are you? With a last name like that?" I let Mr. Frampton, who has remained on pop culture's radar with appearances on The Simpsons and The Family Guy, know that yes, he was right on in guessing my heritage before we engaged in a wonderfully delightful conversation.
His new album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, is not only his first since 2006 but it’s also his fourteenth album.
So you are a part of the iPhone's "Six String" app! How does it feel to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital generation?
I downloaded it and I was supposed to get it for free, but like an idiot, I pressed the wrong button and I paid for it. I guess I paid myself a royalty when I downloaded myself. [Roaring laugh] I played the game. But I am not good at those games at all. Solitaire is my game, but get this. At the end of the iPhone game, this voice comes on and says, "Maybe you should try drumming!"
What a classic case of touché!
How perfect is it that I could not get the guitar right to my own song?
While we're on the subject of video games, as a guitarist, what is your take on Guitar Hero?
I think a lot of kids know our music, from classic rock from the radio, and this is another outlet for people to get into Aerosmith, say, if, maybe never saw them live, you know?
Let's talk about your new album. This is the first vocal album you've done since Fingerprints…
Not only is this one is the first vocal album I've done since Fingerprints, it’s also the first vocal album that I've written since I've been sober. I am seven years sober. I am working on my eighth year. It's easier and more enjoyable to write now. Not that I was a habitual user or drinker, but I feel safer. I have started again and it's all behind me. It's not that it doesn't frighten me, but I enjoy being clearheaded, as I choke to death. [Coughs and laughs at the same time.]
How does being sober spark or effect your creativity?
I am enjoying the new me and the fact that creativity is coming easily. And I’m enjoying it. [Coughs some more] Hold on, let me give myself Heimlich maneuver. [Laughs]
If I maybe bold enough to ask, why did you decide to go sober?
It came about because once you make some mistakes…well, there were a couple of situations in my personal life badly affected by that and I woke up after the last situation that upset me about myself and I called my buddy in the program and off I went. I have not looked back since. I look forward. I don't forget where I've come from. I have the right perspective. I don't feel guilty. It's like having a new birthday and I don't lecture anyone. It was needed. I am very thankful that I didn't do it for anyone but me. I can't be good to anyone else until I am good to me. It was a good thing for me to do. It has been a wonderful seven years.
What was the direct effect of your sobriety on the music for this record?
I wrote about it on a couple songs. It's mentioned. One is "Black Ice," about how I slipped along the way and there was one person who stood by me, through thick and thin, but they had to wait around for me to get my act together. I've walked 12 steps across the floor. "I'm Due a You" is about after the rough day we've all had. At the end of the day, there is someone you're due. Due this person again, always been there for you.
Did you feel sobriety was something you had to do? Is it now an easy thing for you?
It's sort of something. I live in a world where people drink and drug and I don’t do, so I have to feel comfortable in the world and get used to not doing it anymore and charting a new course, starting afresh with people places and things. Now I have to live in a world where everyone lives and everyone does things that I don't do. My first year, I was not thrilled about people knowing it was me, what does it matter? I am the same as everyone else. One gentleman came up to me and didn't realize I was who I was, as a musician. But then he eventually said to me, "I was going to quit, have a drink or get high and not come to meetings, but I thought, 'If Peter Frampton is not humiliated by coming to these meetings, then why won't I do this, too?' People don't want to admit that they are fallible.
That story is like you indirectly saved someone!
You never know. I also pledged to go every day for a year.
So what's next for Peter Frampton?
With the new album, it's the second of a new batch where I feel that I've reinvented myself, put myself to the test, and challenged myself. The good thing about it is that both are so different but I feel good. The challenge is what do I do next and I am excited about and let it happen. It won't follow any trend, whatever it is I do.
And lastly, going of the iPhone apps advice, should you try drumming?
Should I drum on someone else's record? [Laughs]