I was into ska and reggae in the late 60s with singles by the Pioneers, Prince Buster and the Abyssinians in the AMI Continental jukebox we had at home, alongside old rockers like Eddie Cochran (Summertime Blues), Little Richard (Slippin’ and Slidin’), Eurythmics (picture discs of Love Is A Stranger and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)). I had albums by Prince Buster, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear and more recent ones by T.O.K. and Capleton. And I had several albums of Trojan Records collections, but no Dub.
A few weeks ago ace record collector Raimund Flöck sent me a link to a Positive Thursday Podcast (https://www.mixcloud.com/Positive_Thursdays/positive-thursdays-episode-633-sound-system-dna-vibronics-leicester-19th-july-2018/) about the dub collective Vibronics, who’s de facto leader is Steve Gibbs, also known as Steve Vibronics—a moniker he uses as a DJ. Steve is based in Leicester, UK, where, apparently, there is a thriving Dub scene. In the podcast, Steve is interviewed about his career and how he came to form Vibronics. The podcast seems to be aimed at listeners in Poland as the first few minutes are in Polish. I can just make out ”Banksy” during these first minutes before Steve is interviewed, thankfully (at least for me), in English. 23:55 minutes into the interview the interviewer asks Steve:
”There is also a story behind your logo, the logo of Vibronics. Could you tell me from where it came, and who actually draw it?”
And over the following minute or so (23:55 to 25:00) Steve tells the story of how an artist named Robin designed the Vibronics logo. This ”Robin” Steve tells us was none other than Banksy years before he became famous. Steve tells it thus:
”… The logo, well the logo is an interesting story, because it’s made by a guy called Bansky, who’s an incredibly famous artist now. And he’s probably like the most famous kind of like street urban artist in Europe now. And he was a friend of my friend—and he was a great artist—this was years ago before he was famous, and he was a great artist then. And I said to my friend “Oh, do you think,” I knew him as Robin, that was his name then, “Do you think Robin would make me a logo ‘cos I’ve just started doing Vibronics”. And my friend said “Yeah, I’ll ask him, no problem.” So he made me this logo, painted this beautiful picture and I was completely amazed by it, really incredible, and I’ve used it ever since as a logo and then he became, years after that, this incredibly famous artist, so and now people are amazed that I’ve got this kind of Banksy logo which at the time, he was just a guy I knew in a kind of, you know, in a kind of hippy dub scene in Leicester, so…”
As far as I can find out, only two records have featured this logo on their covers. The first, from 1998, was a split LP on the Universal Egg label called ”Outernational Dub Convention Vol 1–Jah Free Greets Vibronics”, where Jah Free has six tracks on side 1 and Vibronics six tracks on side 2. The second, from 2015, is a double album called ”The Return of Vibronics” on the Scoops label. Both albums are reasonably easy to find on CD but very hard to find on vinyl.
Okay–so Steve Vibronics met an artist called Robin sometime in the mid to late 1990s. Steve probably knows that several of the names suggested for Banksy call him Robin. But it is something of a leap of faith to therefore assume that the artist Robin he met in Leicester really was the Robin who assumed the Banksy moniker. But then the information from Leicester ex-DJ Andy Billings that there was a DJ in Leicester in the 90s called Banksy might suggest that Banksy really was in Leicester and that, just possibly, he did design the logo. But what we really need is for the real designer of the logo to come forward and claim it.
I’ve added the two Vibronics albums to my collection and am tentatively adding them to my collection of Banksy record covers. I’ll take them out again if any other artist claims that they designed the logo.
I’m really grateful to Raimund Flöck for sending me the link to the Positive Thursdays podcast and to Andy Billings for the information about a Leicester DJ calling himself Banksy and to Guy Minnebach for reading an earlier version of this post and acting as Devil’s advocate.