“But the question was always really, why would you not do it?”
“I started painting graffiti in the classic New York style of big letters and characters but I was never very good at it. I always used to get things too close together or too far apart and it used to take me ages.
“So I had to come up with a way of making it quicker, otherwise I was gonna get nicked.”
“I mean they’re very efficient, stencils. You get to put something up in very little time and it’s hard to mess it up.
“When I moved to London I just carried on painting. I never saw that there was anything bad in it.
“You live in the city and all the time there are signs telling you what to do and billboards trying to sell you something.
“And I always felt that it was all right to answer back a little bit, I suppose. That the city shouldn’t just be a one-way conversation “I didn’t see why you’d settle for just walls. So I started vandalising statues and that led to vandalising parks. It just kept going really.
One of the most memorable moments in Banksy’s career was when he sabotaged the launch of Paris Hilton’s music album.
He managed to replace 500 copies with his own CD in September 2006. On the cover he superimposed a picture of a dog’s head over Paris’s and added a sticker that said it included tracks Why Am I Famous?, What Have I Done? and What Am I For?
For the first time he explains how he pulled it off. “I’d been talking to the DJ Danger Mouse about trying to vandalise some pop act or hijack somebody who was in the charts.
“And then suddenly we found out that Paris Hilton was going to make a record. And we had like three weeks to
turn it around before the CD was in the shops.
“It was an idea that was just waiting for Paris Hilton to happen. I messed around with the visuals then Danger Mouse sort of turned the album into this one long track where she just repeats herself over and over again.
“We packaged it up, we put it in the cases and then me and two other guys split up and went across the country reverse shoplifting.
“We put out 500 of ‘em, which I think probably turned out to be a fair percentage of what she actually sold. I mean, what can they do you for? Littering? Maybe? I guess?”
He says: “I guess I fancied going somewhere a little bit warmer. So we ended up in Los Angeles and, yer know, it’s this really glamorous town that also has this dirty side to it.
“But… above anything else it’s the easiest place in the world to rent an elephant.” Today Banksy’s works can fetch £1million, with Brad Pitt famously picking up a piece at a London auction with a phone bid in 2007.
Banksy says: “When the paintings suddenly started going for, like, really big money it definitely weirded me out, and I kind of went away to the middle of nowhere and I stopped making any more paintings. But… er… the whole time the auction houses were just selling paintings that I’d done years before and sold for not much money. Or paintings that I traded for a haircut or, yer know, an ounce of weed and they were going for like 50 grand.
“But I can’t help feeling it was a bit easier when all I had to compete against was a dustbin down an alley rather than, you know, a Gainsborough or something.”
Despite success beyond his wildest dreams, Bansky remains endearingly modest about his work.
“Graffiti’s always been a temporary art form. You make your mark and then they scrub it off. I mean, most of it is just designed to look good from a moving vehicle. Not necessarily in the history books.