At the rallies, the sound doesn't even register until later. It's industrial in the basest sense of the word, piston-on-hammer-on-cable-on-iron: an ocean liner's steam-age engine room, a Panzer division lurching forward, a set of clamps clanking off an ICBM. No wonder Big Black sang about slaughterhouses—gun a drum machine into the red and that's all you can think of. He still remembers the look of doom on the faces of those Manhattan Beach high school kids as the garage door slid down, he says. He smiles—per Conrad (Joseph, not John), as if at some quiet joke.
"What Fast Forward does is within the singular moment," he says. "If people try and investigate, they can only investigate within the context of Forward Youth—after the moment. Any outside criticism? Doesn't matter."
But Forward Youth?
"I can't talk about anything to do with Forward Youth," he says. "We can focus on the strict political side, but we can't do anything personal because there is no personal. We can't talk about personal taste in music...or genetics."
So why do you do it?
"It's my job—I'm out there to collect bodies."
But why—skepticism shelved for a second—try to anchor a fifth-column movement to five minutes of funny clothes and rotten over-beat rhythm track?
"It's a spectacle. We realized we wanted people who are attracted to a spectacle. They're the bravest members of society."
"Whatever brings in the fish," he shrugs. "Some need earthworms, some need those little jelly sparklers, some need—what are those spinning things called?"
Lures, we say. He nods.
This is probably all bullshit. But it doesn't matter. The question isn't Does he mean it? The question is Does he need to believe it? Because there are and always have been lightning strikes in art and music when the gimme-danger rhetoric finally ignites into action, when circumstance whips back on itself, when the situation sinks its fangs into the Situationist: the murder during the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" at Altamont in '68, the rapes during Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" at Woodstock '99, the litany of torture-suicides since ever. There is a real and vicious black-eyed animal way down in the pit at the bottom of rock & roll, and the more you try to invoke it, the less safe—and the more exciting—you become.
And so it doesn't matter if Fast Forward or the Forward Youth or their secretive crypto-politik is for real or not, in their own minds or otherwise. Circumstance and situations have piled up behind them for years and years and they could become real, if not under this name, then another.
And if any of this intrigues you, you desperate spectacle junkie, you are already a member of Forward Youth. You have been waiting for this moment. You probably didn't even know it—then again, in a way, you probably did.
And the spectacle itself? The riot cops and soldiers and hoods and nightsticks (and that Star of David on the back of the first LP—this is what Boyd Rice used to call jamming the circuits) and pseudo-para-crypto quotations about power and authority and death? It's not ideology, it's simple violence: a pointed hood to slash the eye and WHITE-POWER to spike the ear, a savagely animal complement to sum the totality of a savagely animal performance—because fascism and authoritarianism are the vocabulary of the human as animal, the individual (Forward Youth values the individual highly, he tells us) as alpha wolf.
Fast Forward doesn't advocate, he only illustrates. A true artist. He mentions In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, a book by an author with the unlikely, Dickensian name of Michela Wrong. He has certainly read Heart of Darkness. The costumes and the lights and the drumbeats and the rallies and the overamped screaming usually get wild fearful grins, angry confusion and nervous laughter from kids who want to be in on the joke. We do not think to ask if he ever worries that one day he'll provoke something else, if he hasn't already. Because, you know, it's probably all bullshit anyway. It's just the underground music world, he says. The theater he works in. His exact words.
"There is no opposition," he says. "There are no allies. There's no specific philosophy we can align ourselves with."
We stop before assigning a question mark to that one. We are thinking of something on Fast Forward's first album that suddenly makes a lot of sense. The A-side label on the LP is U.S. Gen. George S. Patton; the B-side is Adolf Hitler, both with the Fast Forward logo (the same as on your tape deck) triangled over their eyes. The dead wax around the label asks the question we never did: "What side are you on?"
It's the most coherent, clear and potent statement we will ever get from Fast Forward. And it's obviously a trick question. That's no choice there at all.
Fast Forward performs with Year Future, Nubbchuck, Days End at Koo's, 540 E. Broadway, Long Beach. Koos.org. Sat., 8 p.m. $6. All Ages.