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By Joe Hoppe
IT-PLAY'S lyrics are poetic. That's
because before they're songs they're
poems, and the poems are written by a
Hopwood award winning poet.
Victor Cruz writes the poems and
plays bass for It-Play. He won two
Hopwoods, University award for out-
standing writing, in 1981, one for a 33-
poem collection entitled "No Sky."
Dave Zinn turns the poems into
songs, sings them, and plays lead
guitar for the band.
It-Play's lyricsdeal with confusion,
irritation, things that aren't nice. "In-
serting Something Backwards," the
first of Cruz' poems made into an It-
Play song, is about a conversation
going nowhere, two people sitting on a
couch, talking, until the conversation
deteriorates into mere noise.
"Negative Zone" is about being stuck in
that place. "Necessary Light" is about
not having enough of it.
"Our music has come from learning
how to deal with the pain that arises in
everyday life," said Zinn. "Sometimes
it's on the level of an irritation,
sometimes sometimes it's onthe level of
an extreme panic or frustration." It-
Play's lyrics are "an expression of
learning how to deal with face change
as they continue to occur; as things fall
apart in your life, as your body betrays
Both of It-Play's members have
reason to know about pain and
irritation. Cruz has been collecting
Workmen's compensation since
August, when he injured his back
during his job at a typesetter's. It hurts
for him to sit down for more than half
an hour and he constantly had to
change position and get up and walk
around during the interview.
Zinn works the midnight shift at a
home for abused children in Detroit.
Much of It-Play's music is developed
during the early morning hours at the
But It-Play's lyrics have taken a
more positive turn, lately, says Zinn.
Now the band has a couple of songs
about "why it's worth it to be alive."
Zinn says: "It's wonderful to be
alive." Cruz says: "Sometimes."
It-Play's music throbs and drones. It
is low-key and blended well between
lead and bass. Nothing screams. Joy
Division and The Talking Heads in-
fluence It-Play. Vocally, and
sometimes in stage presence, Zinn is
almost too Byrne-like.
"It took a long time to find something
that we thought was ours," says Zinn of
their musical style. The actual songs
are all originals. "We work with two
ends of the spectrum. One end has Joy
Division dealing with all the darkness,
and the other has the Talking Heads
getting brighter and brighter and
brighter as they go on." It-Play finds all
of their inspiration between the two.
One of It-Play's most striking and ob-
vious characteristics is that they have a
Dr. Rhythm drum box for a drummer.
They're the only rock band in Ann Ar-
bor that uses a machine instead of a
human as keeper of the beat. Cruz
makes -up for the lack of air-filling
cymbals and true booming bass by
playing his bass guitar quite per-
cussively; sometimes it works very
The band gets a lot of jokes about Dr.
Rhythm, and they've had quite a few
problems in previous shows. Elec-
tronics aren't very forgiving if you bog
down or lose the rhythm. One of the
things the drum box does do for the
band is to make all of the attention
focus on the guitars, or more importan-
tly in It-Play'scase; the lyrics.
"There's a specific advantage to
working with a rhythm box," says Zinn.
"You can put a part on it, and it will
continue to play it. There's something
hypnotic about that."
"And there's plenty of disadvantages
to working with Dr. Rhythm too," says
Cruz. "When a transition comes in a
song, The Doctor is still keeping the
same line, so you don't get the same
sense of swell and change."
It-Play had just returned from Lan-
sing where they auditioned a drummer
from Lansing-based Trainable, a new-
wavey type group, when this interview
was conducted. There's a fairly decent
chance that he'll join the group. If he
does, Zinn and Cruz would like to use a
varied drum format; sometimes
human, sometimes machine,
sometimes both. It-Play's music will
still be very interesting in any case.
The tonality of It-Play's music has
come from a worldview Cruz and Zinn
adopted in their "aesthete" stage, a
period when Zinn had given up his
guitar-playing of some sixteen years
and Cruz was teaching him to write
poetry. (Later Zinn returned the favor
by teaching Cruz how to play the bass.)
One of the views the duo adopted was
that "you have to cope with your im-
permanence, any minute your life could
be snuffed out, your health could be
ruined." Their solution was to become
more focused on the present. "Most
people live their lives like they're going
to live forever," says Zinn. "It's a com-
The name of the band can be related
to a number of things. "You'll have to
use your imagination," says Cruz. "The
question is, what does 'it' signify?"
says Zinn. "The easy explanation is
that you have a drummer that's a box,
and it has batteries in it, and it's not
male or female." A person would be
foolish to take the easy explanation
where It-Play is concerned. "It" could
also be "the imagination, inspiration,
the source where material comes
from," adds Zinn. And going off on that
tangent: "Sometimes when you're
playing it's like the music's playing
you. There's something greater than
your individual involvement in it.
That's a really important experience
for a musician, I think," explains Zinn.
"It's part of what keeps you pursuing it
long before and long after there's any
kind of acclaim or recognition or
Cruz: "And there's no money at all."
Getting acclaim and recognition and
money have been problems for It-Play
in Ann Arbor. One of their biggest
problems is drummers. Dr. Rhythm
doesn't look like he's going anywhere,
but Cruz and Zinn have been through
two drummers before this machine.
The first was with the first band the two
played in, Life Unit, which started in
the summer of '81. Life Unit played
longer, more-ionventional songs full of
solos. That band's drummer left over a
conflict of directions. Baal was the next
band's monicker. Songs were shor-
tened, solos eliminated, and the drum-
mer left for Philadelphia to be with his
Baal became It-Play when Zinn and
Cruz went on stage without a drummer
for their segment of a live compilation
album of local bands, Cruisin Ann Ar-
bor, at Joe's Star Lounge on September
It-Play has gained a somewhat avant-
garde reputation in Ann Arbor. The
drum box, the Joy Division/Talking
Heads influence, and intelligent lyrics
have probably caused a lot of it.
But It-Play members don't consider
themselves any further out than other
Ann Arbor bands.
"We don't feel we're avant-garde-
you just need to follow your heart,"
says Zinn. "If what you end up doing is
really,really strange then that's what
EVERYTHING IN THE LIVELY ARTS
.A Publcation of The !Michigan Dail,,
you have to do. If it's kind of a little
strange, or if there's enough familiarity
or if it seems to quote other forms of
music, then that's what you need to
Going along with the feeling of "you
do what you have to," It-Play doesn't
look for calculated people-pleasing
songs either. "Chances are if it pleases
you it should please a lot of people,"
says Zinn. -
Sometimes if it pleases them it
doesn't please others, though. "People
who see bands like Destroy All Mon-
sters or Cult Heroes just aren't in-
terested in being illuminated; in being
enlightened," says Zinn. "I think
there's a kind of illumination that
comes from dancing your brains out as
hard as you can to loud music, but I
think with some bands the experience
becomes one from the neck down. We
want the experience to be from here
down," says Zinn, holding his hand
about a foot above his head. "Or at least
from the head down."
It-Play prefers an audience having an
introspective good time to an audience
having a general rock and roll attitude
of "party down let's have a good time
let's fantasize about love and girlfrien-
ds" good time.
"I think you can have a good time and
be really introspective too," says Zinn.
"There's humor in problems-every-
one's got it out of perspective-it's
going to get worse tomorrow," he says
with a laugh.
No one knows about It-Play's future.
Both Zinn and Cruz agree that Ann Ar-
bor is musically stagnant, there being
no place for new bands to be
They hope to hook up with a new
drummer. He's going to help them with
some demo tapes, which they'll send
out to various recording companies.
Maybe something good will come out of
Cruisin Ann Arbor.
They'd like to leave, but they
probably won't until Cruz finishes his
degree in English=-he's on his last
semester. If they do leave it'll probably
be for Manhattan or Hoboken, N.J.,
which is across from Manhattan, places
where "things are happening" and it's
By Janice Mabie
THE NEXT time you are strolling
through Nickels Arcade take a
few minutes to notice the establishmen-
ts on the second level. Although rather
obscured from view, there are many of
them worth stepping into. There is one
which is particularly worth a visit this
month: The DeGraaf-Forsythe Gallery.
The gallery is now exhibiting the work
of a contemporary, talented artist: Jon
Carsman has achieved a surprising
amount of notoriety considering the
fact that he is only 39 years old. His
works are displayed in corporations
and museums all over the country in-
cluding such esteemed institutions as
The Metropolitan Museum in New
York, The San Franciso Museum of
Art, and The Detroit Institute of Art.
Carsman's work can be categorized
on the realist side of the ab-
stract/realist dichotomy which has
been apparent in American art during
the 20th century. His style, although
refreshingly individualistic, shows
similarities to a realist painter who
worked in the first half of the 20th cen-
tury, Edward Hopper. Both artists use
broad, flat, areas of color, and are con-
cerned very much with light and
shadow. Also, both artists seem to
strive for a calm ambiance in their
Yet, Carsman's work seems to be a
quieter ari more personal art. When
asked in a phone interview last week to
comment about the character of his
paintings, he countered, "If I could say
something about them, I'd be a writer."
So, he is a man who expresses his calm
nature through his brush. He said that
his work "becomes very personal,"
that he wants people to feel as he felt at
the particular moment in which he saw
In order to convey such distinctive
feelings, Carsman feels it best to take
slides of an image, then blow up the
slides he likes, and paint in his studio
from the slide rather than on location.
He dislikes painting at the actual site,
"because the light changes . 4 the
thing I see is not the same fifteen
When looking at Carsman's lan-
dscapes, the viewer feels as if he is
alone, seeing a rather personal and
serene scene. There are no people in his
landscapes, yet they are personalized
by their subject matter.
Selections from two of Carsman's
most of the hou
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6 Weekend/November 19, 1982