Join The Future Redux

Join The Future was our first-ever book published in November 2019 and has since sold thousands. Earlier this year we noticed stock was running low again and knowing author Matt Anniss wanted to revise it we asked him to prepare a new edition.

It isn’t out until January 2023 but pre-order it by November 21  and you’ll get your name printed in the book. Note that the new version is exclusive to the Velocity Press shop for the time being. Here Matt explains how why he wanted to revisit it and what to expect.

Three years have now passed since I stood in Velocity Press HQ, opening the first boxes of the publisher’s debut title – my alternative history of British dance music in the acid house and rave era, Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music. The ‘unboxing’ is one of the great rituals of the publishing industry and as an author, there’s no greater feeling than getting your hands on a book for the first time, especially one that you’ve worked tirelessly on for well over half a decade.

The publication of Join The Future was of course a massive moment for Velocity Press, and as the first author to sign on with the company I can honestly say I’m delighted with how it has grown since then. Velocity Press has published a string of brilliant books and has really showcased the depth and variety of stories within electronic music and club culture.

Yet the publication of Join The Future was an even bigger moment for me. I can honestly say that it changed my life. It has gone some way to change accepted narratives – which was always my aim – and opened up media outlets to the idea of publishing alternative histories, or in-depth pieces about scenes that have long been ignored. It has allowed me the opportunity to do further research, talk to audiences, write liner notes for a wide variety of reissues, retrospectives and compilations, and put out a collection of my own, 2020’s Join The Future: UK Bleep & Bass 1988-91 on JD Twitch’s Cease & Desist label.

Three years ago, I was worried about how the book might be received. I’d worked very hard on it and thought that my central arguments were sound, but I worried that challenging accepted narratives would lead to a backlash. That backlash never came; instead, the book was widely praised by critics and members of the public and became part of a wider trend to document different aspects of British dance music history and argue against some of the accepted historical ‘truths’ that have long been misleading at best.

Yet like any author, I was always aware of the faults in Join The Future – chapters that were in my eyes weak, or places I could have strengthened the arguments underpinning the narrative. I continued interviewing original bleep & bass producers in the years following the book’s publication and, through other connected projects, was also able to speak to some DJs and artists who had not taken part during the initial research process.

This is why I have returned to Join The Future and prepared a revised, updated and expanded edition. Errors have been corrected, certain chapters have been expanded, analysis has been added and further footnotes have been included to include even more information and citations. There’s also now an additional ‘Afterword’ chapter that reflects on the story, my journey as a researcher, and changing perspectives around UK dance music history.

Personally, I’m more aware of these issues than ever, in part because the work I did on Join The Future inspired my decision to embark on a part-time research degree. Sometime down the line I hope to be the holder of a PhD for my research into under-documented aspects of UK dance music history during the rave era. As part of that research, I’ve thought a lot about UK dance music historiography, the impact certain narratives have made on what we understand, and how we can “do history” better in future.

The new ‘afterword’ chapter in Join The Future reflects this, offering a manifesto of sorts for how we should research and write dance music history going forward. We owe it to those whose actions enabled musical change, like many of those featured in the book, to get their stories out there. It’s these frequently marginalised voices we should locate and listen to, not those whose perceived role as ‘pioneers’ has been constructed by repeating the same media-made myths that were established three decades ago.

I don’t have all the answers and some will rightly point out that Join The Future is far from perfect. This is true because no social, cultural or musical history can ever tell the full story. But with this edition of Join The Future, I’ve tried to make the story I tell – one of previously overlooked musical pioneers and a largely ignored musical movement – as accurate, detailed and persuasive as it can be. It’s more of an extended mix rather than a total rework, but like the greatest stretched-out disco mixes, I’d argue it’s far more satisfying and engrossing than the original.

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