A word of advice: card-carrying "punk rockers" stop reading!  If shining your chainwallet, bleaching your hair, and digesting the latest musical dung corporate labels are shelling out takes precedent over original thought, you don't need to go here.  However, if concepts of true punk (DIY records, booking your own life, and following your own genetic imperative) appeal to you, then proceed to the tale of the sadly forgotten NY pop-punk groundbreakers, The Fast.

   According to Louis Bova, bassplayer on The Fast's 1980 debut LP, punk was not created overnight, and there is an often overlooked "gray era" between the glam movement of the early to mid seventies, and punk's sociological upheaval.  The Fast started as early as '72, fronted by Fast mastermind Miki Zone, and his brother Armand (Mandy to his buddies) Zone.  Early rare cuts sound influenced by Bowie, and The Who, but the roughness of unbridled teen-angst give the songs a flavor more appropriately described as maximum rock and roll.  Early gigs were played in lofts, and rented spaces, in a scene inhabited by NY Dolls, and Wayne/Jayne County.

        Armand, a most gifted singer, fronted The Fast until late '75, when youngest brother Paul Zone was appointed frontman, and Mandy moved to keyboards, and interstellar backing vocals.   Paul's less trained, adenoidal vocal delivery (at times recalling influences Alice Cooper, and Brian Eno) combined with his rock star looks made him perfect as Miki Zone's foil during the NY punk vanguard.
Paul recalls Dee Dee Ramone approaching an already established The Fast, about the formation of his new band!  The Ramones played one of their first gigs, opening for The Fast, and remain in contact with Paul to this day.

   The '76-77 era Fast was visually stunning, in the tradition of the NY scene, where according to John Holmstrom, everyone was an individual.  This tradition carried over to bands like Minneapolis' The Replacements, where you could have guys looking like Rod Stewart, Peter Perrett of The Only Ones, and your local gas station attendant, all on one stage!  Paul Zone had long hair reminiscent of Kiss' Paul Stanley, yet Miki sported spiked hair, and Armand was decked out in goth attire, sporting a strangely Nazi looking  armband, with his initials on it!  Like the Stooges, Dead Boys and Sid Vicious, Mandy was no fascist, and was merely morbidly fascinated  by German aesthetics.

   The first sign of potential success occurred when The Fast came under the wing of seminal NY punk venue Max's Kansas City.  The classic Max's 1976 compilation CD (available right now on amazon.com if you hurry!) contained 2 Fast classics Wow Pow Bash Crash, and Boys Will Be Boys (preceding similar sentiments conveyed by David Bowie in his classic tune Boys Keep Swingin').
However, during the mass "punk" major label signings of 76-78, The Fast were unfortunately tied to RAM records, Max's label.  In order for The Fast to have been signed, Max's entire roster of artists needed to get signed too, and as a result, they were overlooked.

   The Fast's determination to succeed is admirable, and they plugged along in the seventies with excessive touring, releasing singles, including a seemingly J.G. Ballard inspired song Cars Crash, with backing vocals by Jayne County.

   During the close of the seventies, it almost seemed the name The Fast was becoming a burden.  It seemed that they didn't mesh with certain factions of punk's intelligentsia, and a rapidly solidifying philosophy.  According to Punk magazine, and current High Times editor John Holmstrom, The Fast could be perceived as "teenybopper wannabes" though they were "certainly respected by everyone."  It must be noted here that the Sex Pistols also never hid a desire to succeed, but on Mr. Holmstrom's behalf, he doesn't like them either!  John does state that strangely enough, The Ramones "thought of themselves as a teenybopper/bubblegum band."  Despite the fact that one could choose to view The Fast as sharing the same principles as punk icons The Ramones, the stigma remained.  As a result, the band changed their name briefly to Miki Zone Zoo, though they still had to go by The Fast to get certain bookings.

   In '79, a major break came, when Miki and the boys were playing at The Rat in Boston as The Fast, and were spotted by Ric Ocasek (of The Cars, and producer of Bad Brains, Bad Religion, etc.)  Ric, perhaps searching to hone his "bare bones" production sound, brought the band to Electric Ladyland Studios, for sessions that would result in The Fast's debut LP, For Sale (released on the Zone's DIY label Recca).

   Combining 6 Ric tracks, with their previously released singles, For Sale is an impressive document of the band's evolution.  Earlier cuts like Kids Just Wanna Dance, and Boys Will Be Boys seem to presage the tradition of punk-pop, that can be exemplified by The Damned, The Dickies, on to the modern day punk-pop era of Green Day.  Fans of L.A. punk band X would be happy with Sizzler, which mixes cool rockabilly with punk feel.  My favorite cut, It's Like Love, is a power pop gem that combines masterful lead vocals by Paul (that recall Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets), with Armand's soaring backing vocals (recalling Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons of all things!)  The Fast shared a penchant for classic "real" rock and roll with The Ramones.  The LP was mainly sold at shows, and on consignment at record stores.

   Despite friends in high places (like Blondie, who thank Paul on the liner notes to Plastic Letters) the big break never came, but The Fast (now merely called Fast) kept plugging along, making them, according to Trouser Press guru Ira Robbins, "early examples of the DIY bootstrapping ethic."

   Things get bizarre around this point, and on their second, and swan-song LP, Leather Boys From The Asphalt Jungle, The Fast became forerunners of two musical movements, "queer-core" and Goth.  During previous work, The Fast toyed with bisexual issues, but so did the whole glam movement, including straight bands like Mott The Hoople and Sweet.  Fast were now giving a more direct representation of the gay leather underworld that was inhabited by the increasingly drug addicted Zone brothers. Videos filmed during this era show the band in black, and Paul in head to toe black leather.  The whole band wears futuristic wraparound shades that also cover the nose  (any old timers out there remember Incognito advertisements in Creem magazine, selling these "phantom" glasses, that were also worn by DEVO circa '79?)  The whole aesthetic recalls later incarnations of The Damned, and a certain Mr. Reznor (but unlike Trent, these goth godfathers seem to be having a good time in their videos!)

        By this point, Ian North, of NY's power pop band Milk 'N" Cookies had joined, and according to Paul, "has no memory" of doing the videos!  I guess if you remember the Max's/CBGB golden years, your weren't really there!

        Toward the end, Fast were once called "a male Plasmatics" in the press.  Pictures show Miki wearing crazy whiteface makeup, and Paul sporting a Wendy O Williams looking mohawk, furry pants and vest (ala Captain Sensible), and a big snake wrapped around him!

   On a serious note, the drugged out tales of yesteryear often take on mythological proportion, but the reality of the matter, is that around this point, Paul suffered heart problems, and is lucky to be counted among NY rock's survivors.  As a result, Paul's antics began to tone down, swinging from the rafters at a show didn't have the same appeal sober, and another metamorphosis began.

   Line-up problems were another issue.  At one point in Fast's tumultuous line up changes, Tommy Victor of mega-metal group Prong was a member!

   Though the name Fast clung up until about 84, Paul and Miki finally said goodbye to drummers and began creating music inspired by new wave synth bands like Soft Cell.  They finally went all the way with their vision, and became the electronic duo Man 2 Man, with the aid of electro-funk godfather Man Parrish.

   Like Martin Scorcese's modern myths Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, success tends  to follow tragedy.  On December 31st 1986, Miki Zone died from a combination of AIDS, and cocaine abuse.  The 60's British Invasion was the earliest influence of the Zone Brothers, and Paul had to play The Top Of The Pops without his brother.  However, Paul feels the Zone brothers finally achieved their dream, although "Miki couldn't be there in the flesh."  The Man 2 Man single "Male Stripper" hit #4 on the UK charts, and remains to this day, a must for any electronica DJ.

        Paul spent his money wisely, and bought property in NY, that pays his bills in LA.  Paul continued with Man 2 Man into the early ninties, but an Italian label has recently sought some new material, so the saga may continue.

   Paul still continues to produce music, and has recently worked with Angela Bowie, as well as NY friends Dee Dee Ramone, Lydia Lunch, The Cramps, and Jayne County.  Due to recent interest in The Fast, A Best Of The Fast compilation was released in 2000 by Bullseye Records, and yet another Fast comp is forthcoming from Munster Records sometime in 2002 .

Most of his article by New Wave Nolan originally appeared in Maximum Rock and Roll #201/Feb. 2000
Updated Dec. 2001