PETER FRAMPTON SAID THAT HE FELT “validated” as a musician after his
Fingerprints album won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album
in 2007—a sentiment that some might find surprising. After all, Frampton
had achieved fame with Herd at 16, co-founded Humble Pie with Steve Marriott
two years later (recording five albums, including the legendary
Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore), recorded with luminaries such as Bill
Wyman and George Harrison, and released the astronomically successful
Frampton Comes Alive! in 1976. But Frampton had come to feel that after
appearing shirtless on the cover of Rolling Stone, and as Billy Shears in the
ill-fated film Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, attention had been
diverted away from his abilities as a serious guitarist and songwriter.
Reinvigorated by his Grammy win, Frampton
chose to follow Fingerprints with the hard-rocking
Thank You Mr. Churchill [NewDoor/UMe], a
highly personal album replete with strong songwriting,
imaginative riffs and solos, and some of
his best guitar tones ever. “I wanted to reintroduce
my singing voice on this one and do
something completely different than Fingerprints,
even though I did maintain a connection by
including two instrumentals,” explains Frampton.
“That said, I never really sit down to write
anything in a specific direction. Whether I’m writing
alone or with others, what happens just
happens, and then at some point in the process
I get a sense of what an album is going to be as
There are lots of outstanding tones on the new record,
particularly huge crunch and distortion sounds. Did you
have a basic setup or did it vary from song to song?
It varied, but I got most of the sounds—especially
the lead sounds—with one of two Marshall
amps. I used a ’70s Marshall that was modified by
Jose Arredondo, the guy who modified Eddie Van
Halen’s amps, and a 1962 JTM-45, which I called
“the million-dollar Marshall” when I bought it, and
now its worth even more [laughs]. I often just played
straight through the amps, though sometimes I
boosted the gain with either my Klon Centaur or
Fulltone OCD pedals. I experimented with lots of
different pedals this time.
What are a few examples?
I had never used a DigiTech Whammy before—I’m a late bloomer—and I love that pedal. I also
really like the stuttering sound that Tom Morello
gets by flicking the pickup selector switch on
his guitar, and I used a Gig-FX Chopper to get
a similar effect on “Asleep at the Wheel.”
Is that the Whammy on the solo on “Solution”?
No, that’s actually a Foxx Tone Machine. I
have a couple of the real old ones, but that was
a new one they gave me because they know
that I’m a Foxx Tone guy. There’s nothing like
that effect. I did use the Whammy to add a high
octave to the solo tone on “I Want It Back,”
however, though it doesn’t stick out as much
as with the Foxx. It added great top without
being too treble-y, and a bit more ferociousness.
I was going for sounds that were a little
more angular, ugly, and ferocious on this album.
“Suite Liberté” begins with a sort of Hank
Marvin by way of Jeff Beck sound and feel. Was
Well, the Hank Marvin part was very
intentional, because having played with him
on Fingerprints and with the Shadows, I had
tried his Strat—or rather I was allowed to
play it [laughs]—and I found out how to go
about getting one. I started playing as a kid
because of Hank, and I’ve always wanted a
guitar just like his. Mark Kendrick at the
Fender Custom Shop in California made me
a Hank Marvin model, and then Mark
Pressling in the Fender Custom Shop in
England, who tailors guitars to Hank’s specifications,
worked on the neck. There’s also
the VML Easy-Mute tremolo unit made in
England by Ian St. John-White, on which the
bar is at a 90-degree angle so that you can
mute the strings and hold the bar at the same
time, which I guess is something that Hank
wanted. Then, on the same day that the guitar
arrived, I also got the Alesis Echoes From
the Past effects unit, which has echo presets
named after Shadows songs. I plugged the
guitar and the Alesis into a ’59 Fender Deluxe
and spontaneously recorded what became
the intro to “Suite Liberté”—so it was
absolutely inspired by Hank Marvin. And
when you’re playing a Strat you obviously
think of Jeff, as well, and the combination
of those two is pretty powerful stuff.
You transition out of that section using a fat,
bluesy tone. What’s happening there?
That’s my Gibson 1960 Les Paul reissue
aged by Tom Murphy. I plugged it straight into
the JTM-45 and went for a Blues Breakers with
Eric Clapton sort of tone. I came pretty close,
except that I added a little more room ambience
to get that everybody-playing-aroundone-
microphone old-school blues sound.
There’s a sort of manic, maniacal acoustic
groove thing happening on “Restraint.” Was that
played in an altered tuning?
The first and sixth strings were tuned
down to D, which enabled me to play mostly
normal fingerings while at the same time
creating an ominous dissonance that lent
itself to the theme of the song, namely the
greedy pigs on Wall Street.
The huge tones you got on Performance Rockin’
the Fillmore came from plugging a Les Paul into
a Marshall though, right?
That was it. The only trick I used was
that I would plug into the high-gain input [input 1] of the second channel—the bassier
one—and then patch the other input from
that channel to the high-gain input of the
first, or more trebly channel. I’d just bring
in a little of the brighter tone by turning that
channel up to about one quarter, while
adjusting the tone controls for the second
channel. I believe that’s the opposite of how
most people did it.
Speaking of Humble Pie, what was the most
significant thing you took away from your years
playing with Steve Marriott?
The riff! Steve was the riffmeister. He
taught me a lot about how you attack a note
or a chord—he was very precise—and also
about how long to hold each note or chord
and the space that you leave in between
them. Those things are as important as the
notes and chords themselves. Steve was also
a really good orchestrator of big guitar riffs. I
would write big riffs, too, based on what he
had taught me, and then we would combine
them into these enormous arrangements.
And although Steve was very blues oriented,
he also had a great melodic sense. Like on
the track “Black Dog,” where he came up
with a really beautiful melody that I just harmonized
with. He was a much broader
musician and writer and singer than I think
he even knew himself.
You also worked with George Harrison. In what
ways did his guitar playing influence what you do?
I definitely stole a couple of tunings from
him [laughs]. He used to have acoustic guitars
all over his house that were tuned in
various ways and I’d pick them up and say,
“What the hell is this?” and then get out my
cigarette pack and write down the tuning. I
hadn’t really experimented with alternative
tunings before that, and he definitely pushed
me in that direction. And obviously his slide
playing influenced me. The lead riff on
“Something’s Happening” is sort of Harrisonesque.
Do you remember any of those tunings you
wrote on cigarette packs?
The tuning that I remember the most is one
that I used myself on “Wind of Change.” The
low E and Astrings drop down to D, the fourth
string remains unchanged, the third string goes
up to A, the second string up to D, and the first
string up to F# , so there’s a D triad on top and
three Ds on the bottom. It’s a very strange tuning,
but oh my God, it sounds huge.
Django Reinhardt was a big influence on you
early on, and you recorded a gypsy jazz-style tune
with John Jorgenson on your last album. How would
you say your interest in Django is reflected in your
The piece I recorded with John, “Memories
of Our Fathers,” is clearly in that style,
but I think the way that Django used diminished
runs, for example, is something that
is visited on the current album as well as
when I play live. Listening to Django all the
time has also influenced the way that I
attack notes, which is a hugely important
part of the sound. And Django was an
incredibly melodic player who could obviously
play a string of notes from one end
of the fretboard to the other in a half second,
but also knock you out just by playing
a single note across six chord changes. In
other words, he didn’t play fast all the time
just because he could.