Deb: You are one of the most masterful and celebrated guitarists, singers and songwriters in rock history who built a solo career. After leaving Humble Pie, did you have any idea what you were capable of on your own or how long it would last?
Peter: I started as a session guitarist playing for others so I had that to fall back on. My only thought was to pay the mortgage. I was lucky the way things turned out. I never thought of not being successful. I went out on my own with no safety net. Obviously I can play guitar but would have to do all of the singing as well and that was something new to me, being the frontman of the whole show. It was daunting but I pulled it off.
Deb: In 2000, you were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for your autobiography Do You Feel Like I Do? What made you write it at that point in your life?
Peter: When I got my diagnosis for IBM [the muscle disease], maybe it was time to slow down the touring and begin to write. It was like writing a song but not necessarily enjoyable.
Deb: You won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album, Fingerprints, in 2007. You were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2014. It’s the 47th anniversary of your fifth solo album, Frampton Comes Alive!, which still remains the top-selling live album, totaling 20 million copies worldwide. Plus, in 2018 you received the Les Paul Innovation Award. Tell me about your friendship with Les Paul, who invented the solid-body electric guitar.
Peter: When I was around 10 years old, my dad would play Les Paul albums and I thought he was God. I then met him and thought he was the nicest guy and did so much for music in general. He invented multitrack recording [allowing for separate recording of multiple sound sources], which we have all benefited from. He also invented close-miking [placing the microphone close to the source to capture more direct sound] so it meant better sound. The list goes on with Les.
Deb: So out of all the musicians you have worked with – Ringo Starr, David Bowie, Sir George Harrison and B.B. King – whom did you enjoy working with most?
Peter: Working with each one was so phenomenal. Playing with Sir George Harrison, it doesn’t get any better. But David and I sharing the same stage at the same time was wonderful.
Deb: You used something called a talkbox that makes great sound effects and I don’t know many artists who use these.
Peter: It was invented about the mid-’30s. I heard Stevie Wonder use a talkbox on Music of My Mind. I also heard it used on early radio stations in London. It sparked my interest, blew my mind and I had to get one.
Deb: What do you think you would be doing if it wasn’t for your music career?
Peter: I believe I would have been a recording engineer/producer or I would have been doing my first love, which is film. On holidays we would go to the south of England. My dad gave me a camera and I did all of the video. It was something I started enjoying around the same time I started playing guitar actually. The two were very important. I would have liked to try my hand at being a cinematographer.
Deb: You’ve had some explosive songs and probably have an extensive guitar collection. Do you want to elaborate on that?
Peter: I’m not a huge collector like some people I know who have 27 of the same guitar [laughs]. I basically like to have a pallet of colors as far as different-sounding guitars. Over the years, I have basically collected one or two of each style of guitar. I have one of just about every type of Les Paul, Gibson, Martin, Maton acoustics and of course others. I’m not one of those people who collects for the sake of collecting. They are all playing guitars and not something I would put in a glass case. All tools of my trade and I respect them dearly. I’ve taken my time collecting these and I bring them out when necessary for different sounds.
Deb: Tell me about your latest album, Frampton Forgets the Words.
Peter: It’s an instrumental record, all guitar! It was recorded before COVID. Right after the second tour with Steve Miller in 2018, I told the guys I’d been diagnosed and knew I’d had a progressive disease. I didn’t know how long I would be able to play so I said, “We are going to play as much guitar and record as much as we can in the shortest space of time.” We did two blues albums; one is Frampton Forgets the Words. Everything was covers because I didn’t have time to write. While we were doing all three projects, I started to get really inspired and began writing. Another record was started before COVID. I’m still writing it and it’s the first new material written by just me. There might be a couple of co-writes just because they are too good not to have on there. Basically, the theory behind making this next record to be released is to go back and write the way I used to. There’s something about when I write on my own that makes it more unique and that’s what I’m looking for.