As Joe Davis is keen to point out "the boarders are the show and were just the soundtrack". Spooks alongside Run DMC and Mark B & Blade are providing the soundtrack for Totally Board at Castlefield Arena. World class athletes from the world of Snowboarding and Skate Boarding are the main events at what is become an essential date in anyone's calender. We caught up with Joe Davis and Ming-Xia to get the low-down on the Spooks vibe and to find out where hip-hop can go after the events of September 11th.
Q: There's a sense of mystery about Spooks. You like to keep your background and your past to yourself.
Joe D: Its funny because some people think that we planned it that way. We just don't talk about geographic locations because were all from different places and lifestyles. People when they know where your from tend to have an idea of how you'll sound before they even heard you so we just pretty much put the music first - anything after that is up to you!!!
Q: But to people to know where you're going surely they have to know where you've come from?
Joe D: We come from hip-hop!!! Its just a freeform expression of music with attitude - thats what we do!!! Were influenced as hip-hoppers are by all types of music. We all have different musical taste's within the group and you'd be surprised what spooks are into musically.
Q: Who was it that got you into music or more specifically hip-hop?
Joe D: My neighbourhood. Its how I grew up. On the streets, DJ's coming out with a set. That's how I was introduced to it, Joe Davis, Booker T was introduced the same well. Ming-Xia has a very different introduction....
Ming X: ...of course hip-hop has always been around, just growing up and listening to it in your neighbourhood. I grew up on rock though and it wasn't until high school and Wu Tang that I was converted into hip-hop mania. After that my eyes were open.
Q: You seemingly came from nowhere and suddenly "Things I've Seen" was everywhere.Were you surprised about your success in the UK?
Joe D: It was seemingly overnight but we planned everything. We heard about the Uk and how hard they are on music...what they expect and everything...and we were like well we have something for them. It might look that it happenned over night but it took a long time.
Ming X: There is a lot under the surface that people just don't see. It really took a long time and it was a lot of hard work on everybody's part.
Q: You actually started way back in 1994. How has your sound developed over the years?
Joe D: It has evolved and we feel it's evolved for the better. We've learnt things, absorbed things and were reapplying them all the time.
Ming X: Originally Spooks was about 11 members and it got fizzled down to 6. Our music changed of course over the years. We had a lot of bad experiences and got burnt by a lot of people and you grow and learn from it.
Q: There's quite a strange situation in the UK where American hip-hop artists are accepted like family but our own home-grown talent can't break through. Any idea why?
Joe D: Well we've gotta work on that because people hold so much against you cos' of your address. Just do your best and be truthfull to what your doing. I think the time will come for someone from a region you haven't heard shine...that person is probably on there way, all they gotta do it change there address.
Q: You've had the two singles out now. I wouldn't say that they represented the album. I mean, the albums a hell of a lot darker
Joe D: There's different moods on the album and that's how we were feeling at the time. No two songs are alike although the single's might suggest that. We like to say the album is like a light darkness or a black flash - yer know some people hear a song and are like "this is so dark" and other people will hear the same track and think its really light. Its up to the listener. You write a poem and you don't explain it - that's how we leave it.
Q: Lyrically you're different from a lot of the other hip-hop acts around.
Ming X: There's so many topics you can talk about and we like to touch on certain things and take a slightly different approach than I guess the average hip-hop act would. There's only so much you say about certain topics before it gets to the point about should you say it all.
Q: I think with Spooks you can take them on two levels - simply as a good pop tune or take it deeper. No disrespect to his past but I don't think you can say that about Dr Dre in the year 2001.
Joe D: You can take it deeper. Dr Dre is respected in all circles of hip-hop from the underground to the crossover and even through to pop because of his accomplishments. So even if his songs are pop songs you can look at it another way - it could be social commentary too. Just look at where he comes from, NWA, need I say anything else!!! When they first came out you stood back and you look at it now and it really is social commentary.
Even now Dre is more comfortable and relaxed now and his songs may be about fun and partying but once in a while he'll remind us that you can't fuck with him!!!
Q: There's been a lot of talk about hip-hop having to change since the events of September 11th. On one hand you've got people saying you can't make another gangster rap record and on the other hand you've got Dre recording a song called "Kill Bin Laden". Which way do you think hip-hop's going to go?
Joe D: You're going to hear a lot of different sides of people's opinions musically. Some people are going to make a lot of freedom songs and stay strong, other people are going to have songs saying "fuck Bin Laden" and you may even hear a song about "Lets look at ourselves".
This incident didn't just happen out of the blue. It may be in retaliation for all that we've done and you need to know more. Music is probably going to show you a lot of view points about where we are in cureent events. Spooks and other bands like Spooks have been giving you viewpoints about whats going on before that event.
Maybe people who have waken up now and going to start thinking about what they say. As far as whats going on - we've already been rhyming about what going on so its not going to be anew thing to talk about the happennings around the world. We may have a song or two about the recent events because we really want to represent hip-hop properley.
Q: Bringing it back to today. Were here at the Nokia Totally Board event in Manchester - Snowboarders / Skaters - they've always been intertwined with hip-hop. Why do you think they sit so perfectly side by side?
Joe D: Its a good marriage. Its freeflowing, a lot of attitude and a lot of energy and thats what they need. I mean the boarders are the show today and were just providing the soundtrack.
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