What Side Are You On?

Fast Forward To Death

I looked around, and I don't know why, but I assure you that never, never before, did this land, this river, this jungle, the very arch of this blazing sky, appear to me so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness.

Joseph Conrad

This is probably all bullshit. But this is what we were told. This guy is in a band—is the band, since he's apparently the only member—called Fast Forward. He dresses up in peaked Klan-kleagle-sort-of robes—except they're yellow or black, not white—and he delivers $25-per-minute shock performances to wormy little coils of hipster kids like he's rolling a flash grenade into a hostage situation: as soon as the drum machine gets the go, he's shoving through bodies like Ruby after Oswald, shrieking "WHITE POWER!" or somethhing similarly abrasive as he claws over backs and shoulders to get up in the rafters, running out into the street before anyone can put a mark on him. Longest set: Eight minutes, at Chain Reaction. Shortest: maybe 20 or 30 seconds, in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he demolished an auditorium full of folding metal chairs.

He has two albums of conventionally abrasive robo no-wave that's like the Screamers mechanizing one level closer to Big Black, but he never plays live anything he has ever recorded. In Manhattan Beach, he trapped about a dozen high school kids in a blacked-out garage, fireworks and degraded lo-fi drumbeats driving everyone to the concrete floor. Then he smashed a watermelon on their barbecue grill and fled into the street.

This is probably all bullshit. But this is what happpened. We met on the Queen Mary—he didn't like an interview on U.S. soil, maybe? It was a full moon; he arrived alone. A description, in case someone needs to find this man for questioning: short, stocky, face flat and impassive, dark hair swept up like he'd just pulled off a helmet. Wearing all black. No distinguishing characteristics. Dump a body like this and you'd frustrate the cops for days. When he checked his watch—which he did often—he'd snap his wrist out of his jacket sleeve with military quickness. This would be the "most authorized" interview Fast Forward had ever done, he told us.

He would not give us an ideology, an agenda or a philosophy. In fact, for the entire interview, he denied that he had ever appeared in the Fast Forward hood at all—insisted that he was merely a representative of a larger organization, for which the Fast Forward performances (presumably by other operatives) were simply recruiting rallies. This organization is called Forward Youth, a morass of Mai-Soixante-Huit crypto-politik that realistically amounts to nothing but a Los Angeles P.O. box, some supposed literature we never see, a "next man back" he identifies as "John Conrad," and an endless mess of fog.

We asked for his name. He gave us a reading list: Eldridge Cleaver, George Lincoln Rockwell, Mark Twain, Ragnar Benson, Andrew McDonald, Desmond Morris. We asked for something else. He thought for a moment, then said his favorite food—he said "dish"—was catfish. It was the only thing we'd written down that didn't come with a question mark after it.

"Talking to you right now is something I personally didn't want to do," he said. "It's not paranoia. Not paranoia."

Is something going to happen to you, we asked?

"Forward Youth will ensure nothing happens to me," he said.

Is something going to happen to . . . us?

He didn't answer. But that was the answer. Every Fast Forward show we'd ever seen—two, but that's probably more than most of you—left us hurt. At the first, a Forward Youth whipped something into our gut and we crumpled backward, panting against the wall, thinking DON'T-GO-DOWN-DON'T-GO-DOWN-DON'T-GO-DOWN. Got a bruise or two at the next show, knocked into little boys and girls like only one of us was getting on the last chopper out of Saigon, and got a photo, too: a shot from a gun camera, Fast Forward's hood like a shark's fin cutting through the crowd and, front and center, a studded-fist salute. There are not many photos of Fast Forward. There are no extant interviews that we could find. There was video footage, until Forward Youth (he tells us) had it quashed.

So there are only the albums and the performances that have nothing to do with the albums. The album we heard—the first, on Vermiform/King of the Monsters—is strangely listenable, at least for something by a band that has hit us in the stomach. It's mean drum-machine shut-in punk put through a wormhole of distortion, alternated—yes, every other track—with muffled ambient rhythm breaks like something pulled off an informant's snitch wire. If you didn't know better, it would really fool you. He explains that the albums are supposed to be the second step—in what he calls "indoctrination"—after the live performances, which he tells us to refer to as "rallies." We erred by listening to the albums first. This is part of our problem.

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