On April 26 and 27, Cincinnati Ballet premiers three pieces choreographed to the live music of that noted long-hair composer, Peter Frampton. We talked with the rocker about his relationship to The Dance, his beloved Gibson, and the city he loves and recently left: Frampton bought a home in Indian Hill 11 years ago, after marrying a local girl. On his way to a new home in Nashville, Frampton comes alive.
Are you a ballet fan? I’m a fan of all types of dance. Always have been.
How did you decide to work with Cincinnati Ballet? The genesis of the whole thing was—the Ballet came to me when I first moved to Cincy, and asked if they could use some of my recorded music to choreograph a piece for one of their programs. I was honored. I was on tour when they performed it, and never saw the program. But finally I got to see a DVD of it, and it just blew me away how great it was.
Victoria Morgan [artistic director and CEO at Cincinnati Ballet] suggested, “We could use your music for a whole evening.” “That’s great,” I said, “go ahead!” I told her to use whatever record she wanted. “No,” she said, “we want you onstage to play live with the ballet.” I said “Fantastic!” I wanted to write some stuff with dance in mind. This will be the first time anybody will hear much of it.
Who will be more appalled: bitchin’ Peter Frampton fans or snooty ballet aficionados? Probably the latter. I don’t know! I would expect there will be those who will poo poo the whole idea. But I’m always up for something different and a little scary.
Are you nervous? Yes. It’s just—different. We cannot mess up and I cannot improvise any longer than on the recording the dancers are rehearsing to or else there’ll be a train wreck on stage. It’s got to be to-the-second. Exactly the same amount of bars, same tempo, every time.
You now market the voice-scrambling talk box you pioneered. Do you ever talk with it around the house, order a pizza through it? No, but I used one in my studio. I use it as a doorstop on the studio door. It was one of the first ones we made.
The black 1954 Gibson Les Paul that you played on Frampton Comes Alive was long presumed incinerated in a Venezuelan plane crash in 1980. Last year it turned up in Curaçao, and you got it back. Are you bringing it to the Cincinnati Ballet? Yes I will. It’s such a crazy, wonderful story. The longer I’ve had it back, it’s funny, the more I play it. There are certain guitars I use for different songs, each guitar has its specific sound. Now that I’m working with this one again, I find that it’s working its way back into the new stuff. It’s got a sweet tone, and the hairs on my arms are standing up as I’m talking about it.
Is it hard to leave the studio you built for yourself? I was up there the other day packing up some other stuff, personal stuff, and I see the studio there and that’s the main thing, for me. I started asking myself why do I want to leave this? It’s the thing I always wanted to build, and then I did.
So why move to Nashville? Unfortunately, I am now divorced so I am a single lad. I love Cincinnati, I have lots of family and friends up there. But Nashville is a music city, and I get to play more down there. It’s purely a musical move for me.
Anything you want to say to Cincinnati? I’m just four hours down the road. I have my Cincinnati chili clock in my studio. I love my all-time favorite, Graeter’s black raspberry chocolate chip. With chocolate sauce. Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, that’s me.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue.
Illustration by Pablo