Since they've been away Spooks have chilled out. "S.I.O.S.O.S" was a dark exploration through conspiracy theories and cryptic messages. Now the guys are just as keen to party as to rant political agendas and streams of social conscious lyrics. Here for a short trip to the UK, Designer Magazine caught up with the laid back Booka T and Ming Xia to get the low-down on where they've been for the past 2 years.

Q: It's been so long since you were last in the UK, in fact I think the Snow boarding event in Manchester where me met last time must have been one of the last shows over here. What have you been up to all this time?
Ming Xia
: The thing was when we weren't in the UK we were doing shows in Europe. We didn't really do as many shows in the US as we did here, but when we did there would be a few spot shows here and there. But we've been recording mainly. Self producing and self learning how to engineer and all that stuff. And this record took so long because of that and we switched labels so that contributed to our absence for a while.

Booka T: Since we made the first album we've been all throughout Europe and after alot of our shows we end up going to the club and having some fun. It was just another experience that we had to add onto the Spooks repertoire. We've tried to get all the flavours out.

Q: Was it a case of getting the freedom back in Spooks and restricting yourself from the labels demands?
Ming Xia: Over in the States were on Koch and before we were on Artemis. I think with Koch they understand us a little bit more and our label mates are KRS-1 and Big Gibb. When we were on Artemis it just seemed like we were the only type of group on the label, which kind of hindered us because people who were at that label didn't know how to market us successfully.

Our label gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do, which I understand is not very common. Usually you have an A&R guiding you and telling you how the sound should be, but we've always been self-sufficient and in our own mold. A statement people always used to use on the first album was that we do things our way and were just back to give people more of the Spooks mission!!!

Booka T: We always demand freedom even when they're not giving us that. We always make it happen some kind of way.

Q: The new album "Faster Than You Know" is similar to the debut in the sense there are light and dark shades. It's not just a one dimensional hip hop which is so prevalent today. Would you agree?
Ming Xia: I think with this album we'll hit a broader spectrum of people. And we brought in some other people on this project like Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, a track with the Beat Miners and Dave Wes as the producer (he did alot of De La material). It's a fresh different approach but we still maintain what made us so different in the first place. This time the line-up is a little but different because Water Water's no long with us, he's doing a solo project, but there's no love lost.

Now the show is more cohesive, the albums more cohesive and there's different messages in different songs. We have songs you can dance to, songs to chill out to and songs you really have to pay attention to. It's been too long since we've been away to we've got to hit them hard!!!

Booka T: Things changed even in our home lifes and we wanted to party a bit. Let people know that side of us as well. That we can do a song like "Wild" or "I'm On It" where you can still dance and have fun, but it still has that Spooks spark on it rather than straight ahead shake yer ass thang. It's weird that this album is a bit lighter but it still has messages throughout. Maybe we've just found a more fun way to get em out. On "S.I.O.S.O.S" I thought it was perhaps a little bit too abstract and too dark, but on this one you can definitely relate to what's going on.

Q: It seems to be a recurring theme with hip-hop acts that we speak to. The bigger hip hop gets the less innovation is an issue. What's your take on it?
Booka T: My answer to it's pretty much the same as before. The state of it is pretty cool with hip-hop, it's just that damn mainstream rap music that's stagnant right now. There's new groups out in the States now like Lil' Brother,The Life Savers and a new kat called Kaos which i'm feeling the vibe but they're not really being brought to the light.

It's still live and strong and it's kind of fun when you go out and discover something on your own. You rush round and make a lot of people hit to it which is kind of selfish on my part as I'm sure he wants everyone to know that he already exists.

"Faster Than You Know" is out Sept 22nd on Koch
Spooks headline the Stoke Love Music Hate Racism event on Sept 7th
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