Adventures in Black-Rock with Jimi Hazel of 24-7 Spyz: part 5

Jimi Hazel lead guitarist of the eclectic rock band 24-7 Spyz

By Oscar Jordan

Jordan: Why did she try to kill it?

Hazel: In certain circles Sylvia Rhone is known as the black widow of black-rock. I believe she doesn’t believe in it. You can’t not be hip. To be hip you gotta play hip. So you gotta claim you know everything. “Oh yeah, we got one of them too!” Family Stand was a great case in point. She had Family Stand with the first record and had the urban hip ghetto heaven. But she decided for the next record to go deeper and get into who they really wanted to be. Moon In Scorpio was an amazing record. They did nothing for that record because they couldn’t sell it to black radio. “Oh no! We can’t sell that rock stuff to these people. This will straighten them jeri-curls out!”

Jordan: To play devil’s advocate, can you see it from the suit’s point of view? They’re trying to sell black-rock to R&B or hip-hop stations. The formats are pretty strict.

Hazel: Yes and no. In the case of that record I can understand the suit’s point of view because you had success in a market that won’t be open to what you’re about to give them. I use Spyz as a great one. Here’s the difference. If we sell 300,000 copies of our debut record on an independent label and we sell just under 400,000 copies of our second record on an independent label, how is it that we come over to a major label who can’t even do a tenth of that?

Jordan: There’s something wrong there.

Hazel: Yeah. In other words the box was created, the vehicle was already up, running and already had gas in it. You chose to crash it instead of driving it. When we did Strength in Numbers I really wanted to up the ante because we got a new singer, a new drummer and I really wanted to write some songs that I didn’t really feel I could have written with my original band. I really set out to make a real solid piece of work. I wanted to make the record I’d always wanted to make. When we finally did it, everybody was just blown away. It was funny because Rollingstone had never reviewed any of our prior records but they reviewed Strength in Numbers. We were like, “Wow.” All of a sudden all the critics are going ga-ga over this record, but the record company is acting like, “We don’t know, we don’t hear, we don’t see.” You had singles, you had whatever you needed.

Here’s another great case in point. Geffen Records had signed White Zombie. That album had pretty much already stiffed. It was done. Here comes Beavis and Butt-Head. (Laughing) Picks up “Thunder Kiss ‘65.” Starts playing it. The record company was smart enough to go, “Wow that episode with that song keeps getting played every couple of weeks. That’s free advertisement to a whole bunch of record buying people. Let’s put that record back out.” That record became the hump that got that band over. Beavis and Butt-Head started playing “Stuntman.” Mike Judge was a Spyz fan, which we found out later on. He dug the band. The episode with “Stuntman” on it started running almost every other day for months on end. The record company didn’t do nothing.

We shot a Budweiser commercial. That commercial ran for almost six months. I got emails from people going, “Dude, I saw the commercial! I bought the record!” Used because they couldn’t find it new! (Laughing) All these opportunities for the record company to turn what you got into something, and they chose not to. At the end of the day they turned around and blamed us for it and then dropped the band. Once again I blame Sylvia Rhone whole-heartedly. I’ll put my hand on it and state that.

Jordan: How does a person like that explain things to you?

Hazel: They don’t. They send their minions to explain it. All of a sudden they don’t take your calls. All of a sudden they don’t appear at meetings anymore.

Jordan: So the bottom line is that they can’t market you?

Hazel: No. At the end of the day their bottom line was she wanted to kill the band.

Jordan: Why did she want to kill the band?

Hazel: I think it was more personal than anything else. Our first drummer was something like a godson to her. I really can’t put my finger on it. Anybody and everybody who had any sort of rock project signed to Eastwest or Electra at that point when she was running it had problems. If you were white you didn’t have a problem. As a matter of fact she tried to take credit for Metallica’s success. (Laughing) Motley Crue?! Yeah we did it! It was almost like the Adolph Ceaser character in A Soldier’s Story. Black bands got signed but they didn’t get signed to do good things. They got signed to kill the niggers. White bands got signed because they do what white bands always do. They’ll sell a lot of rock records to rock lovin’ white folk.

Jordan: It’s an easier sell.

Hazel: Yeah but the black mind at the top is running the show with a twisted mind. Your attempt is not to show the growth of black people as a diverse group of artists who do other things and are successful at it. Yours is to show that we fail over and over again. She did it with the Family Stand’s second record. She did it with The Eric Gales Band record. She did it with the Spyz record. The Spyz record was truly criminal because we had already sold more records than all those other bands combined. It just started really becoming the ultimate joke.

We made Strength in Numbers for $250,000 dollars. I said, “How am I going to spend $250,000?” (Laughing) What am I supposed to do? I kept hearing stories about how producers would go out and buy plants to put in the studios because they really wanted fresh air. They wanted oxygen from the plants. So they spent up the band’s money buying truckloads of plants. I wanted to work in certain studios. I wanted to work at Electric Lady, I wanted to work at Little Mountain up in Vancouver. I wanted to work with Terry Date as opposed to taking the money and just jerking it off and getting strippers to come in every night and having drug parties. We went and made really solid pieces of work. At the end of the day they pressed up 18,000 pieces allotted for promotional purposes and 16,000 pieces were sold in the week. That was the end.

By the time we get back to the 90’s we left a major, took a break and got with a European independent. The original band got back together for 1994 and made a record. That was a bad mistake and we became a three piece. When we became a three piece is when it all made sense. I have nothing against our former singers but I think I took everything personal. I kept watching people do things to me and I think I took in personally. If we become a three piece at least I don’t have to worry about stepping on somebody’s toes when I feel like stretching out as a player. If we want to get off into some extended jams and stuff, the singer’s not sitting there doing a Roger Daltrey just flipping the mike around.

To be continued…

Oscar Jordan is a staff writer at SMG. Oscar is a Los Angeles based actor, martial artist, songwriter, guitar teacher, music journalist and shootist. He’s appeared in a bunch of films, TV shows and commercials and gets the honor of asking guitar virtuosos smart aleck questions. Email:

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