Join The Future tour recap

To celebrate the release of Join The Future, author Matt Anniss and Velocity Press owner Colin Steven went on the road in November for a series of dates around the UK and even Canada. The format was simple: discuss how the book came about, bleep’s legacy and analyse key tracks to help demonstrate aspects of the sound, style and story. This was followed by questions from the audience and some DJ sets from our friends.

We kicked things off at Partisan Collective in Manchester in early November, where DJs Tukatz and Babs and Order joined the dots between British bass music past and present following our first “in conversation” talk and question and answer session. The following day we headed over the Pennines to Rough Trade Nottingham, where several people who helped shape the story Matt tells in the book – including legendary local DJ and Krush member Cass-Roc and Ozone Recordings’ Pat Scott – were in the audience and contributed to a lively post-talk discussion about the role the Midlands played in the rise of house, techno and bleep in the UK in the late 80s and early 90s.

A couple of days later we flew out to Calgary in Canada, where the Alberta Electronic Music Conference (AEMCON) hosted our first (and so far only) overseas launch event. Colin and Matt took part in a number of events at the conference itself, which we’d recommend attending when they return for 2020 next November, before hosting a launch talk at the city’s incredible Central Library – a futuristic building that’s part of a wider redevelopment of Calgary’s East Village neighbourhood. We’d like to put on record our thanks to AEMCON, and in particular Isis Graham and Andrew Williams, for getting us over to their fine city to talk about Join The Future.

We fired up the virtual tour bus again last week to visit Rye Wax in Peckham, where a large and enthusiastic crowd attending our most in-depth “in conversation” session yet. It was particularly rewarding to see the level of interest in a story that deliberately questions the London-centric narrative that has dominated the way British dance music history has been documented over the last 30 years. You can listen to the recording of this talk below. There were some tricky questions afterwards, plus brilliant DJ sets from West Norwood Cassette Library and Brian Not Brian. The enthusiasm of Rye Wax’s staff to what we were doing was particularly good to see – we sold just as many copies to those who work in the record shop, bar and event space than we did regular punters!

The most significant and emotional launch events were naturally those that took place in Yorkshire. On Friday 29 November we headed to Hagglers Corner in Sheffield for an event organised by Richard Hardcastle, Danny J Wootton and the rest of the Strobe Life crew. While we were unable to do the talk thanks to a double booking by the venue (we were competing with a noisy and drunken Christmas market), the party that followed was brilliant.

CP Smith from Central Processing Unit kicked things off with a killer set that joined the dots between bleep and electro, before Matt Anniss stepped up and threw on some largely lesser-known bass-heavy cuts and Yorkshire-made jams. Rich (as Solid State) took things on further before local legend Winston Hazel finished the night with a stellar set (he rarely fails to nail it, as Sheffielders know all too well).

The most exciting thing about the Sheffield event was the fact that a number of the original producers profiled in Join The Future were in attendance. Amazingly, it was the first time that Winston and his Forgemasters co-founders Rob Gordon and Sean Maher had all been in the same room for almost 20 years, while Zye Hill and Glyn Andrews of Tuff Little Unit – who made the record that the book is named after – were also present. That meant a lot to Matt and helped to make the event feel more like a celebration of Sheffield’s musical heritage and often overlooked role in defining the sound of UK dance music.

It was then a short drive up the M1 to Leeds, where we set up shop at Outlaws Yacht Club for the final event – for now, at least, as we plan on doing more in the spring of 2020 – on the tour. This was arguably the most vibrant of all the dates. It was a pleasure to be able to shed some light on West Yorkshire’s role in the story during our compact “in conversation” session, something that was rapturously received by the crowd. This was important to us as Leeds and Bradford have previously got little credit for creating the bleep and bass blueprint.

Once again, many original scene stalwarts were present, with Edzy of Unique 3 – who made the first bleep record – and Martin Williams of LFO and Bassic Records delivering great DJ sets (as did T-Break, who kicked things off brilliantly after the talk). Williams’ old friend and studio collaborators Homer Harriott and Tomas Stewart were also present, alongside friends from the time and people who played in the blues such as Christian Cawood. It was a brilliant celebration of West Yorkshire’s part in the story. Incidentally, the talk and all of the DJ sets were recorded by local online station Sable Radio, so look out for them appearing online soon.