On the open-source road: Interview with Melbourne’s Bankai

Melbourne electro artist Bankai’s music comes on like a cartoon freight train, chaotically careening around sharp corners and constantly threatening to derail itself. Between the stuttering, glitch-laden rhythms, video-game samples and vocals that are the aural equivalent of a Tex Avery cartoon, the man behind the evocatively titled Teen Slut Pimp Strut EP doesn’t seem destined for crossover success.

What Bankai lacks in broad appeal, though, he makes up for in fierce fan loyalty. It has only been a year since the musician, born Will Dayble, tossed aside his punk rock gear in favour of the knob-twiddling world of electronic music, and yet, on Friday, February 19, he kicked off his first Canadian tour with a show in Victoria, which will soon be followed by gigs from Kelowna to Toronto.

“The whole touring thing in Australia doesn’t seem as much of an epic thing as it does in Canada,” Dayble says. “There’s a lot more space between cities here. We’ve got a drought, but we don’t have giant slabs of ice in the middle of the country like you guys do, which is crazy.”

Dayble’s first Canadian venture — and his first official tour outside Melbourne as an electro artist — isn’t your average tour, either. In a fitting move for a musician who releases everything from his music to its individual components on a creative commons licence, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to use it as they see fit, Dayble’s first international tour is entirely crowd-sourced.

When an enthusiastic group of Vancouverites discovered the musician through music website thesixtyone.com, they insisted that the Australian make his way north of the equator. Rather than waiting for him to earn enough money gigging around Melbourne — a slim prospect, given that Dayble insists he’s “just yet another local that nobody gives a crap about” Down Under — they opened it up to the Internet, splitting the cost of the flight and the rest of the tour between anyone willing to throw in a few bucks, and dividing any theoretical profits based on how much people put in.

Now that the scheme has become a reality, Dayble can hardly contain his enthusiasm. Speaking over a spotty cellphone connection as his newfound friends and roadies load up the tour van, he insists that the money is the least of what his fans have contributed.

“To be honest, [the money] is almost not as important as the people here in Vancouver, who have physically done things like driving us around in a van or going and buying T-shirts from thrift stores so that we can print on them,” he says. “The money is the thing that started it off, but the real amazing thing is people helping on the ground here — people all over, from the west to east, all doing stuff. It’s kind of freaky.”

Given the rarity of turning a profit on your first international tour, Dayble’s devout likely aren’t in it for the money. So what makes music fans from as far-flung as California and New York drop everything to help out an Aussie “nobody”?

“It’s fun, I guess,” Dayble hazards. “We’ve been out drinking in Vancouver during the Olympics, and it’s great fun. I think it’s an excuse to get involved in something and be excited.”

If anything, the tour illustrates what Dayble describes as a move from the do-it-yourself culture of punk rock to a more inclusive “do-it-ourselves” ethos brought about by Internet communities. After all, Dayble could never have made it happen without the group at thesixtyone.com.

“‘Ourselves’ at the moment is the six other dudes in the car that I’m with right now that are from all over America and Canada,” he explains. “The whole DIY thing is really from the whole punk ethic, but particularly with the Internet, stuff gets done really, really quick, I guess because you have just that much manpower. Everybody does just a little bit, and you become a communist.”

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