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MUSIC EYE & I : First Person Ocular : The Brooklyn band opening Ice-T's show is like Mister Rogers appearing with Andrew Dice Clay.

March 26, 1992|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ice-T refused to be interviewed. He was killed in the movie "New Jack City," so that could explain why. Everyone seemed to die in that movie, which would certainly preclude all interviews.

On the other hand, New York's Eye & I, opening for Ice-T on his current tour, was only too happy to talk. Eye & I, whose debut album has just been released, plays jazzy rock with steamy vocals by DK Dyson. Melvin Gibbs is on bass, Gary Poulson plays guitar, Richie Harrison is on drums and percussion, and J. Logic handles the turntables. Unlike Ice-T, Eye & I doesn't use the F-word, not even once--which is like Mister Rogers opening for Andrew Dice Clay or Barry Manilow opening for Fear.

Reached in Dallas after a mere three days of the tour, Dyson and Gibbs already had some stories to tell.

So how's the tour going?

Dyson: This experience with Ice-T is extremely eye-opening. We were told that there would be crowds that would be body-slamming, and that they would come on stage and stab me. I'm all about peace and love, so I went inside myself and decided whatever happens, happens. When we start, the crowd starts bobbing up and down--they are really the most loving, hard-looking folks I've ever seen. I mean these people look hard .

Gibbs: We're from the East. It's different back there. These brothers in the other bands are from Compton, and they're hard all the time. In Brooklyn, we have a soft side sometimes.

Ice-T uses a lot of profanity. Eye & I doesn't. On the face of it, this seems to be a very odd bill.

Gibbs: Check it out. There are many aspects to our presentation, so we just show other sides of ourselves that are more aggressive, different kinds of material. Ice-T has been really great to us, giving us a chance to rise or fall on our own merits.

So this is, obviously, all very different from the New York scene?

Gibbs: There's a lot more cross-pollination in New York than in, say, L.A. because of the Caribbean influences, which gives a whole 'nother vibe to the music. We're on sort of a jazzy head right now.

DK, how did you learn to sing like that?

Dyson: I've been doing this for a whole bunch of lifetimes. I'm just trying to stay up with Melvin. He's a really good producer. To hit that one note, that's a challenge.

How would you describe Eye & I's music?

Gibbs: I hate that question.

Me, too. But if you're a rock critic, you have to ask. It's in the fine print.

Gibbs: It's just a musical description of who we are and our experiences as black Americans. Our purpose is to create a space and a direction we should go. Neo-conservatives and neo-nationalists both miss the issue. Everything we do relates to the black people of America. We are oppressed, but we can create a space where we can deal from equality and freedom.

Dyson: I call the band the Holy Funksters of Rock.

What's the best and worst thing about being in Eye & I?

Dyson: Well, I'll deal with the bad first. We have such a diverse pack of guys in the band. It covers so much ground, and because of our own diversity, we are expected to look, talk and play a certain way. That really gets to me. If you can just be free to create without being "black" or "rock," that would be great. The best thing, right now, is seeing how all these people are dressing up. It's like Halloween with their tattoos and nose rings. It's great.

Why is a Black Rock Coalition necessary?

Gibbs: It's necessary because of the way the music business is structured in this country by the perceptions of what black people should be doing. Look at the charts. There's a black chart and a pop chart and all that. This leads to specialization, which we're trying to combat. Vernon Reid got the idea for the Black Music Coalition by seeing our band. It's positive because black people have their own say instead of being ghettoized into certain categories.

* WHERE AND WHEN

Ice-T, Body Count, Eye & I play Sunday night at 8 at the Anaconda Theater, 935 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, 685-3112, $17.50.

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