Bruce Milne, 2017.
Bruce Milne at 3RRR, 1978.
Clinton Walker at 3RRR, 1978.
Bruce Milne and Andrew Maine, Fast Forward, no. 6, 1981.
My name is Bruce Milne, and I've been involved in the local music scene I guess since the early '70s, but certainly since the mid-70s, when I started doing radio shows and writing and starting fanzines and organising gigs and things like that.
Over the years I've had record labels and magazines, and I was the licensee of the Tote for a while there, and record shops and all sorts of things. Anyway, I like music; I like being involved in music.Next up: What's your definition of a fanzine?
What's your definition of a fanzine?
The meaning of a fanzine is in its title. There's a fervour about a fanzine; it's on a bit of a mission. It's a magazine written by fans, and it often has that sort of very idiosyncratic nature about it. It's not trying to appeal to everyone – it's written by specific people for a specific audience.Next up: What music magazines did you read in the 1970s?
What music magazines did you read in the 1970s?
When I was growing up, there wasn't a lot of access to magazines. You could buy the overseas music magazines but they were always two or three months late. Locally, we had Go-Set, which was really important – I'd religiously buy that each week and go through every single word in it.
Then later on there was Juke and RAM, and Rolling Stone started off in Australia some time in the '70s as well. They were sort of the main written magazines that you relied on for information.Next up: What role did independent record shops play?
What role did independent record shops play?
Apart from written magazines, the way you found out about music and releases, a lot of it was record shops. They were almost community drop-in centres where you'd go to check the handbills on the wall for gigs and look at the blackboard for what records were coming out next week or next month and start saving up your pennies for them. So yes, I think it was probably record shops that fulfilled a function that was quite unique at the time.Next up: Tell us about your fanzine, Fast Forward.
Tell us about your fanzine, Fast Forward.
I wrote for student newspapers. I started a fanzine in '76 called Plastered Press and that became another fanzine called Pulp in '77. At the same time, community radio was taking off in Melbourne. So I was doing student radio earlier but then getting involved in early community radio. And all of this, just trying to document what was going on, to tell people about music that I was being exposed to, was my passion and Fast Forward really evolved out of all of that. And to put it into some perspective too, by the time Fast Forward came along, cassettes had come down in price tremendously. Plus, by then, virtually every car had a cassette player, which they didn't have in the early '70s. The Walkman came along, so people could walk down the street and listen to music on a cassette. So cassettes were so popular that if you look at records from that time, if you look at the back of your Culture Club records and things, and you'll see the little symbol of 'home taping is killing music', which was one of the most ridiculous things ever.
But I was doing Triple R shows, but the trouble is with doing a Triple R show, you'd do the show but if someone wasn't within range and didn't hear it, they didn't hear it. I was writing, by this stage, for major magazines as well as fanzines and things, but by this stage I'd spent a number of years writing about music and you definitely get to the point when you're writing about music that this is ridiculous, I'm trying to describe something and I've sort of run out of adjectives. Especially after you'd done it for a while, you just go, 'I don't know what to do here.' So it was the frustration where the radio shows were so of the moment, the written thing just didn't really describe music properly and I was also doing with Andrew Maine at Triple R a show called Demo Derby, where people would send in all their demo tapes and we'd put them together in a pre-recorded one-hour show, I think it was, or maybe it was a half-hour show. But these tapes would come as cassettes or they'd come as reel to reels, and they might be at seven and a half inches per second or 15 inches per second, that's technical talk, but what it meant was that I had to learn how to edit. And so Andrew and I would sit in the back room of Triple R, when it was in Cardigan Street, and sort of splicing tape and putting the show together, and so we developed technical skills on how to make things.
And one day we were just talking and we went – I think what also happened is that we found access to really cheap cassettes, they were ones that had been pre-recorded and then been wiped, so you could buy cassettes that were ex-record company ones, and they were all sort of varying lengths but you knew they were all about 20 minutes a side, and we thought, well, what if we tried to do a music magazine where you worked out what are the sound bits that you want to have on a cassette and that could be things like, obviously, music but it can be parts of talk, and it doesn't have to be someone talks and then you play a song and then someone talks – you can meld them together, you can move in and out. And what things need to be in a magazine format, so that's like photos, of course, and information, discographies, all that sort of stuff, and let's try and do a magazine that is a mixture of radio and print. Or, in fact, is actually something quite new.
And we were lucky that we had the graphic designer Michael Trudgeon, who went on to become quite a famous industrial designer, who worked on the packaging and the graphics of it as well, and developed the sort of plastic sleeve as the magazine grew. So that was the nature of Fast Forward. It was a cassette magazine. And very quickly after Fast Forward started, the cassette culture sort of built up around the world, so that it was quite an exciting time.Next up: How did you pull together the music for Fast Forward?
How did you pull together the music for Fast Forward?
So we started Fast Forward – and really it was a case of we had some demos, I had a little record label called Au Go Go but I was also working for the Missing Link record label, so I had the Go-Betweens and the Birthday Party and Laughing Clowns on that label, and I just had various live tapes and things, and we were just trying to put something together based around that.
But Fast Forward grew pretty quickly. It seemed to excite people around the world. So we developed this great network around the world of people who were contributing to it. And a lot of bands were very supportive. In fact, it was a lot easier than we thought to get artists interested and excited by it.
There were some issues with major record companies around the world, because it was a time of this paranoia about cassettes, so we did get blocked a bit when we got to the record company part. But we were lucky – groups like the Cure were on a label called Fiction, which was run by their manager and even though it was through a major label, they were just like, 'Wow, this is a great idea, we'd love to be on it.' The Cramps had left their label at that time and were putting out their own records, so we were getting bigger and bigger bands wanting to be on Fast Forward, which was a lot of fun.
But we had to learn a lot of copyright issues and we had to have forms. I don't own any of the music that's on any Fast Forward, that's completely with the original copyright owners.
It was an interesting time. It was certainly a fun time – the excitement about cassettes, but the fear about cassettes was so stupid!Next up: How influential was Fast Forward?
How influential was Fast Forward?
When Fast Forward started, certainly one of our secret plans of attack was to try and get people overseas to be aware of the emerging Australian underground, especially that underground that was starting to move overseas. So that was the Go-Betweens, and the Birthday Party, and the Laughing Clowns, and Hunters and Collectors, and the Scientists and all of that. And that was a very exciting time because these bands, they were going overseas and often to absolute poverty. I mean, I'd go and visit the Moodists or the Go-Betweens in London and the terrible conditions they were surviving in in squats and on no money – it all sounds very romantic now, but it was bloody hard for them at the time. But we were a small part of helping to expose people overseas to those artists.
And that started to flow back and there was a guy called Bruce Pavitt in Seattle, who contributed some tracks to Fast Forward. And then he started a cassette, it wasn't a cassette magazine, it was a cassette of bands that he liked that he started putting out and he called the first one Sub Pop 1 and Sub Pop 2, and that became a label, which is how Au Go Go and Waterfront sort of had that connection with Sub Pop. And that's why, in some ways, those Seattle artists often mention Australian music as being an influence, because we were exposing some of the Australian artists, the Scientists or whoever.
So cassettes and cassette magazines started popping up around the world. There was one out of New York called Bang that had started, and then even in England there was quite a commercial one called SFX that started up and had mainstream acts on it, so we were part of some sort of a 'movement' if you like.Next up: Tell us about Laila Marie Costa's set list fanzine, which is on display in the Self-made exhibition.
Tell us about Laila Marie Costa's set list fanzine, which is on display in the Self-made exhibition.
When I was licensee of the Tote, one of the people who worked there, mainly working on the door, was Laila Costa. She used to collect the set lists of the bands that played there, and I thought that was really fantastic. And she put them together in a fanzine, in fact I think two fanzines, because they are such a fabulous snapshot, they're exactly of a moment. They are a band backstage scribbling in their own version of a shorthand that they've worked out, what they're going to do on that night. Very few bands would turn up at the Tote with a computer printout of 'this is our set list, fellas, this is what we're going to do'. It really is borrowing a biro that doesn't work and then swapping that over for a marker pen that you borrowed from the person on the door, any bit of paper you can find.
And Laila used to collect those and then put them all together. And it is great going through, especially if it's a band you know because you know the names of the songs, but you've got to try and decipher their shorthand version of that song. I love looking through those fanzines.Next speaker: Marian Crawford