Since Banksy emerged as a street artist in the early 2000s, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Bristol-based painter has been his identity. Over the years, various people have been linked to the moniker, among them Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett, a comic book illustrator who also co-created Tank Girl, and Massive Attack co-founder Robert Del Naja, based on the fact that both hail from Bristol and Del Naja also dabbled in graffiti.
Now, an unearthed BBC recording from 2003 appears to confirm that Banksy is indeed a Robert, just not Del Naja.
In an interview between the up-and-coming street artist and former BBC arts correspondent Nigel Wrench, ahead of Banksy’s Turf War show in East London in the summer of 2003, Wrench asked if he could use Banksy’s real name in the interview, citing that The Independent had already used it. Wrench then asks if his name is “Robert Banks,” and the artist replies, “It’s Robbie.”
An edited version of the recording had recently been used as part of the BBC podcast series The Banksy Story, which was released in July. Wrench, after listening to the podcast series, was inspired to revisit the full original recording and discovered the pivotal information about the artist that was never used.
In the newly surfaced interview a young Banksy also speaks about whether graffiti should be considered vandalism. “If it’s done properly it is illegal! But I got a good reaction I think off most people from my work. You know, I’ve even had policemen in the past say they kind of like things about it, but… I just think it’s my right to go out and paint it,” he says.
“And it is equally somebody else’s right to go out and paint over it if they don’t like it, you know? It doesn’t actually take very long with a bucket of white paint to paint over things. I think it’s better if you treat the city like a big playground, you know? It’s there to mess about in, you know?”