Tracey Singleton, better known as Spacey T, is a post-Hendrix guitar wizard with an eclectic soul and chops to match. In the 1980s, he and his group, Sound Barrier, held the distinction of being the first all-African-American metal band to sign with a major label. He has also cast his spell in several ground-breaking bands. A composer, music educator, session cat, and unsung trailblazer in the music industry… Meet Spacey T.
You’ve worked with many key figures in the world of black rock, including HR of Bad Brains and Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic.
Eddie Hazel was my best friend. He took me under his wing when I moved to Los Angeles. I always wanted to play with Funkadelic, and I loved Eddie Hazel. I knew all his music. When I moved here in ’78, I had a friend named Raymond who called and said, “You’ll never guess who I’m playing with.” Eddie snatched the phone and said, “You better bring your butt down here to the studio!”
They were at SIR studios, on Sunset. As soon as I walked in, they said, “You’re in the band.” We hit it off as soon as I walked into the room. He was playing with Bonnie Pointer of The Pointer Sisters, so I ended up playing with her. I played on her second album, which featured Sly Stone and Freddy Stone. So, I got to meet all my heroes.
I was preparing myself to be a journeyman, which meant playing any style of music. I got that from listening to people like Tommy Bolin and Pat Thrall. I wanted to be like that, even though I was deep into the funk. I loved jazz-rock. I was into everything including R&B. The first guitar music I heard was Wes Montgomery. When it came time to play my own music I blended all that together.
I just re-joined Human Right, which is HR’s band I used to play with in the early ’90s. We just got back together and it’s going to be dynamite.
Were you ever asked to pick one style?
Yes, especially with Sound Barrier, because we could have been like 24-7 Spyz and all those other bands. We didn’t want to be put into the R&B section of the record store. We took those elements out so we could be considered metal.
When I joined Fishbone, the record company said we had to pick one style of music. But you had bands like 311 and No Doubt doing whatever they wanted. They had no problems marketing them. That’s when I started seeing a racial problem in music because they let white bands do whatever they felt like doing. When a black band tried to do it, they said, “You can’t do it all.” The record company still didn’t know how to market us.
Fishbone was going through a rough period and I helped cheer them up. It helped to have somebody come in who knew all their material and make things run smoothly. With all they were going through, if the music wasn’t together, it would have been a lot worse. They looked forward to going onstage knowing that I had it covered. Musically, we had a ball. I had to learn 42 songs in two days. I wrote “Demon In Here” and “Last Dayz, Critical Times” for Live At The Temple Bar and More.
You were also in Mother’s Finest.
I was in a band called Gangland. It was progressive thrash metal. I was doing a bunch of Black Rock Coalition shows, trying to get a star on the Walk Of Fame for Jimi Hendrix. Mother’s Finest was there and saw me. The next day, they called and said, “How would you like to join Mother’s Finest?” I was like, “Wow!”
What led you to eight-string guitars?
Just trying to grow. I was into Meshuggah and kept hearing that extended range. It blew me away. Playing Eddie Hazel’s music on an eight-string is incredible. I play Jimi Hendrix music on an eight-string with Dug Pinnick; we’re working on a Hendrix tribute record.
You’re also playing in a guitar-and-drum duo called Praise The Dead.
The Praise The Dead material has a heavier side called The Heavy. The next set of music is called The Deep, which is classic rock. It’s Thin Lizzy meets Jimi Hendrix in Janis Joplin’s backyard. The third project is called The Light, which is acoustic. Being a Gemini, I gotta keep moving. I’ve got to be on the cutting edge of technology when I’m playing. You don’t drop anything. You keep it all, and add it to your vocabulary.
This article originally appeared in VG October 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.