- by Greg Wadley
Bruce Milne and Andrew Maine's Fast Forward cassette magazine documented the post-punk scene of the early 80s. The tapes interspersed interviews with music and were packaged with printed artwork in a soft case and distributed through record shops. In that pre-internet era Fast Forward helped spread sounds and ideas among music communities. Archived it offers a valuable resource for people interested in post-punk. The tapes and pictures were recently digitized by Steve (read his story below) and posted on Brisbane music blog That Striped Sunlight Sound. With Bruce's permission I placed them here in a more conventional web format to help the archive find a wider audience.
about Fast Forward
- by David Nichols
If anything reflects the ebullience of the 'underground' in this era it is Fast Forward, a bi-monthly magazine on audio cassette edited by Bruce Milne and Andrew Maine alongside designer Michael Trudgeon. Fast Forward ran to13 issues between November 1980 and October 1982,[i] one of those innovations that was almost too simply brilliant for anyone to believe it hadn't been done before - and there was discussion at the time about a forerunner, Bill Furlong's Audio Arts.[ii] Maine and Milne were RRR presenters who had access to material via radio and Milne's Au Go Go/Missing Link connections, as well as the mere fact they were known about town. They had planned a magazine with a flexidisc, until they heard that EMI's standard procedure for unsold pre-recorded cassettes was to bulk erase them and sell them on. The early Fast Forwards had new labels stuck over reused pre-recorded cassettes, and the temporary or makeshift nature of them was part of the appeal. Milne told Rolling Stone's Andrea Jones in 1981 that 'I don't see the music we put down on those tapes as being a permanent document like a record. We hope that people will hear the tape and then go out and see the bands.'[iii]
For a few weeks in the early 1980s the world saw a cassette magazine explosion - the British pop magazine Mix, and the Pacific north west's Sub Pop which alternated cassette and print editions, for instance, and which later became the famous record label. Meanwhile, in the Pacific south east, Maine and Milne were producing what was effectively a purchasable radio show (not a 'compilation album' as some have termed it;[iv] interviews and other spoken word material were integral to the content) in packaging which began with a simple one-piece 'cover' in a plastic bag to a silkscreened wallet with various leaflets and booklets in its various pockets. Trudgeon explained that normally a 'cassette is usually a small, miserably packaged object that has no intrinsic qualities.'[v] The most ambitious Fast Forward was probably the double-issue; two ninety-minute cassettes and extra print material. The music on the various Fast Forwards was largely of its time and more often than not, marvelous; no doubt many casual purchasers around the world were first exposed to live music from the Laughing Clowns, the Go-Betweens' demos for Send me a lullabye, Rowland Howard's 'Shivers' as performed by The Young Charlatans, Pel Mel's 'No Word from China' recorded as a 'demo' and launching the Newcastle group on a two-album near-mainstream career and much more via this miraculous, modern periodical. As Jon Stratton has demonstrated, Fast Forward was not - unlike, for instance, Mark Dodgson's Big Back Yard show, distributed to non-profit radio around the world in the late 80s - based on a notion of 'Australian music to the world'. It was not exclusively local, and would feature music from anywhere, the prime criteria being the editors' taste, and the proviso that it had not (yet) been released on vinyl. Maine and Milne ultimately fell out: Maine alone went on to relaunch Fast Forward as the disastrous, trendy Crowd, a magazine-with-cassette which became print-only with its second issue and disappeared after the third.
- Paul McHenry and Chris Spencer The Australian Various Artist on Cassette 1978-96 Golden Square, Moonlight 1996 pp.19-23
- Tyrone Flex, 'C-30, C-60, C-90 Go! Go!! Go!!!' RR Vol 4 No. 11/12 1981 p. 8
- Andrea Jones, "Fast Forward" fills the gap between magazine and LP' ARS #340 p. 18
- Philip Hayward Music at the Borders p. 26
- Tyrone Flex, 'C-30, C-60, C-90 Go! Go!! Go!!!' RR Vol 4 No. 11/12 1981 p. 8
- 'News' Vox Muzpaper November 1981 p. 3
How the tapes were digitized
- by Steve
In the early 80's I was living in Hobart and was largely isolated from what was happening in Australian independent music. While there was a small but enthusiastic Hobart band scene, there was only one import record store where you could get this stuff, and that's where a good portion of my meagre salary went. Whenever I made it to Melbourne or Sydney I'd go mad in the import record shops buying as much as I could afford, or as much as I could carry with me on the flight home.
Some friends and I had a show on a local community FM station (first weekly, and later nightly) that was the only on-air outlet for "alternative" music in Hobart in those pre-JJJ times. For information on overseas bands we relied largely on "NME", but of course that wasn't much help with the Australian independent music scene. For that, for a time, we had Fast Forward.
While it lasted my subscription to Bruce Milne's and Andrew Maine's cassette magazine was an important lifeline to the Australian independent music scene from the relative isolation of Hobart. It provided me with a point of access and reference to the music of Australian independent bands, very few of which I would get to see live.
So when I decided to undertake the process of transferring my vinyl and tape across to the digital age a few years ago, the Fast Forward cassettes were always going to be an important part of this. I was therefore rather horrified when the time came to find that all of them had issues and that some were completely unplayable. A bit of research via Google revealed the likely culprit to be "sticky-shed syndrome", a problem that plagued many commercial tapes produced from about 1975 to 1984. The solution, apparently, was to "bake" the tapes. When it worked, this baking process could restore tapes to near new condition, but like the rise to genius of Charlie Gordon in the story "Flowers for Algernon" the improvement would be short-lived and they would over a matter of weeks revert to their original state, or worse.
Feeling that I had nothing to lose I decided to bake my Fast Forward cassettes. Despite not having access to the commercial-standard equipment recommended for the purpose, and rather than sending them to a commercial service that did, I recklessly left one of the cassettes on the hearth of our wood heater overnight (it was winter). To my surprise, and despite the labels having fallen off in the night, it left me with a perfectly playable cassette. Over a period of weeks I repeated the process with the remaining cassettes, in each case reviving them long enough for me to transfer the contents. While my rough and ready heat treatment was largely successful I did miscalculate badly with one (the wood fire went out during the night) and ended up with the cassette grinding to a halt and tape solidly wrapped around the transport of my deck. I managed to salvage it only after cutting the tape, extricating it from the deck then rebaking and splicing it. But in the end, more by good luck than good management I ended up with digital copies of the Fast Forward cassettes.
The music, text and graphic art on this Fast Forward website is available for you to download for personal use. The copyright attached to these files inherits from that which was applied to the material when it was originally published. This can be seen in the artwork for each issue. All material on Fast Forward is copyright by the artists concerned and by the editors of Fast Forward. It may not be used for commercial purposes without permission from the copyright owners.