Griffith, Philip (Alias Eye) (August 2002)

Keeping It Real: Alias Eye's Philip Griffiths

Alias Eye - Field Of NamesProgressive rock and its subgenres have acquired a widespread reputation of being intolerably archaic in comparison to other fields of modern music, with the conception that its components care to indulge solely in overly bombastic musical passages and fantasy-ridden lyrics that have nothing to do with the real world. Well, that's not what Alias Eye's Philip Griffiths would tell you (at least not exactly). The vocalist/songwriter will instead insist that his band is accessible while also playing it smart, that his lyrics have everything to do with the real world, and that luck is certainly on his and his colleagues' side. Of course, that's not really all he has to say, so read on...

Marcelo Silveyra: Let's begin with a fairly obvious question for those unfamiliar with the band and the type of concepts you exploit: where does the name Alias Eye come from and what kind of educational background has made you play around with that type of concepts and words on play?

Philip Griffiths: Well, it's a play on words that focuses on society's difficulty in making us accept ready-made concepts of individuality. An alias is a name that you choose for yourself, it was not given to you at birth. The "eye" in Alias Eye reads as "I," self. Alias Eye comments on our need to create a personal sense of self that lies outside the slots offered by western culture. I studied cultural studies and feel very strongly about the need to present yourself in the constructed media society we live in.

MS: Back in the beginning of Alias Eye, you were a cover of band of what was mostly sixties and early seventies material, a la Free, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, etc. With a number of musicians trying to re-exploit that type of music, why did you move over to progressive rock when you finally decided to write your own material?

PG: You just get sick of playing covers after a while and want to start exploring your creative potential. We just felt like writing songs that we ourselves would like to hear. We're not a progressive rock band, we prefer the term art rock: Progressive rock has maneuvered itself into a dead-end street; it has lost its progressive edge and become more retro than anything else. We want to write songs, not constructed entities that display how fast and complicated we can play ... that's all been done before and is just not our cup of tea. We experiment with different styles of music such as Latin, blues, funk, metal, etc., but we are always careful not to lose sight of the song itself.

MS: Part of the formation process of Alias Eye came when you met keyboardist Vytas Lemke at a university course in which, as part of a presentation, he mentioned that he played the keyboards. Talk about luck! And while success and realization do come with hard work, luck is also at play. Would you say lady luck is on Alias Eye's side?

PG: I believe so. The album has been received tremendously well all over the world and we are getting lots of e-mails from people saying how much they enjoy our music. That would never have happened if a number of chance events hadn't taken place: meeting Vytas, finding a good studio and producer who understood what we were aiming for, a good label that enjoys our music, and being able to play our music live. We feel blessed in that sense.

Alias Eye - Beyond The MirrorMS: In between your demo Beyond The Mirror and your debut album Field Of Names the band wrote even more material, which meant that by the time you got to record the latter you had 2 CDs worth of material! How did you decide which songs were to stay on the album and which weren't? Is the remaining material to be used in future Alias Eye records?

PG: We have a couple of songs up our sleeves that will definitely make it onto the next album. Field Of Names has quite a dark feel to it and the songs didn't quite fit. It looks like the next album could be a little "happier" in the vein of Jellyfish and later Beatles. You need an album to stand as a concept. Certain songs destroy that seal ... There's a time and place for everything.

MS: In order to record Field Of Names, you spent a total of five months in the studio, which is certainly a lot of time. A lot of progressive rock bands out there can't afford that luxury, so how exactly did you manage to dedicate five entire months to recording your debut? What do you guys do apart from music?

PG: My father used to be a professional musician and still has many contacts that helped us find a good studio and a producer willing to join in the creative process. It was fun to spend such a long time in the studio but you have to finish sometime! We have a lawyer, and cultural critic, a teacher, a manager, and a carpenter in our band ... a mixed bunch!

MS: The lyrics on your album deal considerably with modern man and the confusion and cycles that he is subject to. How important was it for you to exploit more realistic subjects as opposed to fantasy-laden ones? What are the themes that intrigue you the most and that you truly want to explore?

PG: I hate fantasy lyrics. I'm concerned with lyrics than concern human situations in a given context; I feel that there is more merit in that.

MS: Many people have already used the term "neo-prog" in order to define your music. Veteran bands that are considered to be part of this category, such as IQ and Pallas, refuse to have anything to do with the term and consider it an insult to their music. What is your personal reaction when you hear or read Alias Eye being described as neo-prog?

PG: (laughs) We're definitely not neo-prog. We love borrowing from diverse genres, but neo-prog (in my view) involves synthie solos and unnecessary bombast. We prefer "real" instruments to synth sounds. We tried our best to "keep it real."

MS: As is known to most Alias Eye fans who own your debut album, your father (Martin Griffiths) was once part of the British symphonic rock group Beggar's Opera; a band that formed part of the seventies progressive rock movement. Furthermore, he sings on one of the tracks of Field Of Names, which I take it must have been a nice father-son moment to have. How was it like to grow up with a father who was once in a progressive rock band? Were you constantly hearing stories about adventures on the road and drinking contests with bandmates? And how did that rub off on you?

PG: Not at all, in fact. We are totally boring that way: no excessive drinking, no women (other than our girlfriends ... but we do share those (just joking!)). We try to concentrate on the music ... that's our only drug!

MS: With the worldwide presence of the Internet, bands now have the chance to reach wider audiences and let their fans know more about them and their activities without the need for expensive publicity and the like. However, this has also meant that a lot of poor-quality bands have jumped on the Internet as well and have saturated the channels of exposure somewhat. How does this all affect the future of Alias Eye and your continued efforts to reach bigger audiences?

PG: We used the Internet excessively to promote our demo CD and got our contract with DVS Records that way. Having released our debut CD, it is time to move out of the virtual and into the real world. We've taken that step and the album has received great reviews in print mags, too. Let's hope we can go on tour soon!

[In October 2012 Griffith left Alias Eye -ed.]

Beyond The Mirror (ep) (2000)
Field Of Names (2001)
A Different Point Of You (2003/2004)
In Focus (2007)
In-Between (2012)

Added: August 16th 2002
Interviewer: Marcelo Silveyra

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Language: english

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