In HMV, also known as His Master’s Voice or Rocket Dog, Banksy appropriates the iconic logo of the British popular music and entertainment firm of the same name that was created in the 1920s. The company logo derives from a painting by the Liverpudlian artist Francis Barraud that depicts a dog, called Nipper, listening intently to a cylinder phonograph. Much like the original logo, Banksy’s print depicts a seated dog in profile, facing a late 19th century gramophone. However, with his usual irony Banksy reinvents the image, portraying the anthropomorphic dog casually aiming a shoulder-mounted bazooka rocket directly into the horn of the gramophone. The monochromatic composition is formally rendered in Banksy’s signature stencil style, but with the exclusive, inverse use of a black background with contrasting white detail in the foreground.
HMV was first tagged on the streets of Banksy’s hometown, Bristol. Then in 2003, the artist spray painted the HMV dog motif on the walls of the courtyard of the Cargo nightclub in London, this time with a colourful background consisting of undefined yellow and orange forms. Cargo can be found on Rivington Street in the middle of Shoreditch, an area that many consider to be the thriving heart of Street Art in the UK capital. The renowned venue is built inside an old railway tunnel with brick walls laden with colourful graffiti.
Its little and cosy courtyard is an absolute gem for street art lovers as there are great pieces to be seen from internationally renowned artists like C215, Broken Fingaz collective and Ozmo. Acclaimed as a local masterpiece, Banksy's piece of art has been protected by perspex for about 15 years now and crowds still gather to see what makes the Cargo's pride.
The very first glance at this art piece conveys a stark sense of humour. But as with all works from Banksy, there is room for many interpretations. One can easily see that the artist targets the music industry and perhaps on a larger scope any mass-production company. As the dog is clearly ready to open fire on what symbolises the music company, this may represent Banksy’s desire to take down music stores like HMV and similar entities especially targeting the mass-production and marketing of mainstream culture. But he may also be commenting on the losing battle of music retailers in the digital era. On a deeper level, this art piece shows a contrast between youth and old age. The gramophone evokes the elderly times and conservatism. Banksy's intention to include an archaic item in his composition can be regarded as a critique of the old as the dog is determined to destroy it so as to leave room for the new. The armed dog, akin to a RPG character, embodies youth and thus its victory on conservatism.
Banksy's HMV dog appeared on paintings of various sizes in the early 2000s and was later released in 50cm x 35cm print format in 2003. It was released as an edition of 600 unsigned prints and only 150 signed HMV prints.