Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music is a critically acclaimed book by journalist and author Matt Anniss, originally published in 2019. Named by Rolling Stone UK as one of the best books on British music culture, It is available to purchase now direct from the publisher, Velocity Press. It can also be found in book shops and selected record stores worldwide. An updated and expanded second edition of the book, featuring a new afterword chapter, additional analysis and updated chapters, was published in early 2023.
You can find extended excerpts from Join the Future online now at The Quietus and Resident Advisor.
Synopsis (expanded and updated edition)
Matt Anniss’s critically acclaimed history of UK dance music in the acid house era returns in updated and expanded form. Named by Rolling Stone UK as one of the best books on British music culture, Join The Future puts forward a persuasive new argument about the origins of UK club culture’s long-running love affair with bass.
Since the dawn of the 1990s, Britain’s dancefloors have moved to a string of styles built around skeletal rhythms and heavy sub-bass, including breakbeat hardcore, jungle, drum & bass, dubstep, UK garage, grime and bassline. Yet another previously overlooked sound predated them all: bleep and bass, or bleep techno, the first distinctly British form of electronic dance music.
A mixture of social, cultural, musical and oral history based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews, Join The Future tells the previously hidden history of ‘bleep’ for the first time. It brings forth the untold stories of bleep’s pioneers and those who came in their wake, moving from mid-80s electro all-dayers and reggae soundsystem clashes in the North and Midlands, to the birth of breakbeat hardcore and jungle in London and the South East in the early ’90s.
Along the way, you’ll find first-hand accounts of key clubs and raves, biographies of forgotten and overlooked production pioneers, stories of bleep outposts in Canada and the United States, and the inside story of the early years of one of electronic music’s most iconic labels, Warp Records.
Now expanded to include more interviews, analysis and a brand-new afterword, Join The Future is one of the most revealing and significant books on dance music in years.
Includes a personal foreword by Optimo Music’s JD Twitch, an exhaustive index, hundreds of footnotes and an extensive chapter-by-chapter recommended listening list (the Bleepography), featuring details of scores of essential, rare and previously overlooked records.
Reviews and Quotes
“Britain is an electronic music heavyweight – this is the place that invented jungle, dubstep, speed garage – and here, dance music journalist Matt Anniss traces the origins of all of this back to bleep techno, which began in Yorkshire in the 1980s. Anniss researched this book for five years in order to claim the untold story of Britain’s dance music revolution for the unique time and place that generated it.”
Lauren O’Neill, in ‘the Best Non-Fiction Books on British Music Culture’, Rolling Stone UK, February 2021 (read the article online here)
“[The] story is not just a hyper-well-constructed suite of highlights told in great detail that makes dance nerds swoon (which I am): it is above all a more than convincing proposal for an alternative history of British house and techno.”
Musique Journal, France, November 2020 (read the review – in French – here)
“There is an important rationale to the book, as Anniss argues for re-assessing the historical understanding of this scene within the wider complex chronology of dance music. He has a point here, and he sets out to demolish myths, redress historical versions, timeframes and figures, and re-situate the northern origins of bleep… The pace is urgent, intense and breathless, with dot-to-dot detail of dance spaces, club names, tracks and dance moves. Anniss takes an occasional moment to stop and sample the air, such as on Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield (64) or at Park Hill flats for a brutalist memoir to accompany the concluding paragraphs. Anniss forgoes an index for a pure chronographical time-line that carries the book through, mimicking the urgency of a dub-plate record – a desire to get the thing out there as soon as it is produced.”
Ian Trowell in Dance Cult (13 (1), December 2021, P156-158)
“Join The Future brings to the surface a hidden cultural history and a scene that has reverberated around the world. A wonderful mix of cultural commentary, incisive interviews and archival research, Anniss offers a carefully crafted ode to music that defined the late ’80s and early ’90s.”
Lanre Bakare, author of We Were There (The Bodley Head, 2024), formerly culture writer at The Guardian
“This is a fantastic reorganisation of the established dance music story, putting Yorkshire – and the dancers – back into the heart of things.”
Emma Warren, author of Dance Your Way Home (2023), Make Some Space: Tuning Into Total Refreshment Centre (2019) and Document Your Culture (2020)
“In this meticulous and energetic study, Matt Anniss explores how Britain’s first major contribution to modern dance music – Bleep techno – established a transmutative musical dynsasty that still reigns three decades on… The author excels in microscopic detail, whether recounting the fractious early years of Sheffield’s Warp Records or discussing the over-arching significance of A Guy Called Gerald’s groundbreaking ‘Voodoo Ray’ (including the unlikely role a folk singer and comedian, Mike Harding, played in its creation).”
Stephen Worthy, Mojo magazine, March 2020 (4 stars out of 5)
‘In Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music, [Matt] Anniss argues for the cultural significance of the short-lived style known as Bleep. He unearths the stories of its originators cast aside by the canon, emphasising that due credit must be given… Much of the story told by Anniss takes place in Chapeltown, where soundsystems continue to line the streets for Leeds Carnival each year. Its 1981 riots, which Anniss describes as down to racist policing, bear an uncomfortable resemblance to 2011. Promoter Tony Hannan is quotes as saying black kids would hang out at the Merrion Centre in the ’80s while white kids would hang out at Boar Lane, and the two groups would often clash in Leeds city centre. Given that the first of those is now a shopping centre/office hybird that struggles to fill its capacity while the second is home to more upmarket shops, bars and restaurants, the economic echoes of segregation still linger. According to Anniss, the Bleep sound (that would essentially create Warp Records could only begin because of intercity cross-pollination between Bradford and Leeds, and because of multicultural developments such as certain white people being let into black spaces like Blues parties –house gatherings featuring drink, dance and a soundsystem.”
Tayyab Amin, The Wire, April 2020
“Categorizing culture is never as simple as starting with one person, in one place, but Matt Anniss creates a fairly immaculate argument that all British bass music can actually be tracked to Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield in the late ‘80s… Aside from featuring great interviews, quotes, and an academically balanced but not overly professorial tone, Join The Future connects all the dots for us subcultural trainspotters.”
Kirsty Allison, DJ Magazine, March 2020
“The deftly curated words of the author Matt Anniss act as a time capsule for anyone who witnessed this incredible movement, enabling them to relive those top life-changing moments they still love today, whilst also educating the curious seeker of how it all really came together. This book is a ‘must-have resource’ for any dance music enthusiast, on how the early UK sound developed, in an era that can only be described as the greatest music revolution in history.”
Mike Mannix, Iconic Underground magazine (full review available here)
“Everyone should buy this book.”
“This was a vital creative era in British electronic music that deserved deeper exploration, so Matt Anniss’ history of ‘bleep and bass’, which sets the sound in the socio-political environment of its time, is a significant addition to the literature of dance culture.”
Matthew Collin, author of ‘Altered State’ and ‘Rave On’
“You wouldn’t have had hardcore had it not been for bleep. If you took bleep out of the equation, British dance music would be completely different.”
Mark Archer, Altern8
“Bleep provided the building blocks of the UK sound that followed – the emotions, the edge, the darkness and the sub-bass. Later generations have taken these elements and done something new, but the fundamentals are still there.”
“Since bleep, there’s always been a heavy bassline thing coming from Sheffield and Leeds. Look at what’s come later, with bassline, the Niche sound and Toddla T. From one generation to the next, it’s always been about bass.”