Anyone who knows their Sub Pop history will know that the iconic Seattle label’s beginnings lay in the cassette tapes that founder Bruce Pavitt used to distribute with his early 1980s zine Subterranean Pop. What you might not know, however, is that the whole cassette zine idea was inspired by an earlier publication from the other side of the Pacific. Founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1980, Fast Forward may well have been the world’s first cassette zine, publishing 13 issues between 1980 and 1982. The tapes were dedicated to showcasing the work of independent musicians who’d otherwise struggle to get their music heard outside their home city, let alone outside Australia, along with interviews and features on a fascinating array of international artists (everyone from Mark E. Smith to Liquid Liquid). The concept was a great success, securing international distribution via Rough Trade, and Fast Forward was selling thousands of copies by the time it folded due to editorial differences between its founders in 1982.
In the years since, copies of the tapes have become important cultural documents, which is why it’s great to see that all 13 have now appeared in their entirety online. You can hear them on the website of Australian indie label Spill, and we highly recommend having a listen. Also make sure to visit Mess + Noise, where there are fascinating interviews with Fast Forward founder Bruce Milne, along with audio engineer Greg Wadley, who transferred the tapes to digital format.