Most fans of electronic music who were out of diapers at the time can pinpoint the moment they first heard Belgian act Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” It was hardly the dawn of electronic music — the Detroit techno guys had been at it since the mid-1980s, and there are artists and DJs who certainly predated that. But “Pump Up the Jam” was one of those iconic tunes that pushed the genre out of the underground clubs and into the mainstream.
It was 1989. D-Mob’s “We Call It Acieed” had dropped a year earlier, horrifying parents who hadn’t quite gotten used to hip-hop yet, with the same line repeated over and over. Black Box’s “Ride on Time” also landed in ’89, and C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” was only a year away. Clearly, the pop landscape had been altered forever.
Thirty years later, and the passing of time allows us to see things a little differently. Out of the glare of clubland glee and the relentless churn of the industry, we can assess music a little more objectively. Separating the wheat from the chaff, “Pump Up the Jam” is still a fucking banger. The beat is insistent, the melody simple but utterly effective, and the vocals are swinging and unimaginably cool.
The next several singles — “Get Up! (Before the Night Is Over),” “This Beat Is Technotronic,” and “Rockin’ Over the Beat” — were similarly excellent, if not quite as infectious. The group capitalized on this with a fifth single called “Megamix” that’s essentially a mix of their first four tunes. Under the euro-sounding alias “Hi Tek 3,” Technotronic also released “Spin That Wheel,” which just so happened to be on the soundtrack to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
What people might not be aware of is the fact that Technotronic have never split. Founding member Jo Bogaert is gone, but Daisy Dee, who left for a while, is back. The most recent new material — remixes excepted — was released in 2000, but the group continues to tour and perform around the world.
“We have a lot of new remixes because we are very realistic about the fact that everybody enjoys ‘Pump Up the Jam,’ ” Daisy Dee tells SF Weekly. “So we let a couple of high-profile DJs remix our song — and it almost sounds like a whole new song, so it’s OK.”
Dee is pragmatic about her approach to Technotronic 2019. She’s not expecting to win Grammys for fresh material; this is a nostalgia band, albeit a good one.
“Everybody’s always pulling us back to the old days because of this gigantic song, and you don’t get those kind of songs anymore,” she says. “I haven’t heard one in the last few years — something that when people play it, all the generations are still dancing to it. So I honestly must say that the only thing that really evolved within our band is the fact that we still know how to give the fans what they want, which is just to celebrate us, celebrate the songs, celebrate the movement towards the world, and we don’t stop doing that. It’s just who we are.”
Dee was out of the band for two decades before returning to the ranks this year. She puts that “break” down to having a kid and starting her own business. So not really a break at all.
“I’m also a television host and I have my own production company [Booya Music], so for quite some time I wanted to focus also on my son,” she says. “There were a lot of things going on in my life that I wanted to do. Traveling around wasn’t prioritized. Now my son is 16 and I still have the feeling I can rock it. People still want to see me so I’m out and about again.”
They do. And it’s that enduring adoration, fueled by utter nostalgia, that encouraged Dee’s return. Still, she admits that at the first of these gigs, which took place in Hungary, she was terrified.
“Oh my god, I was so nervous,” she says. “My manager was filming it, and I was like, ‘Oh no, I move like a potato.’ My partner was jumping around the stage because he had been doing it weekly. I was standing there, and I even forgot part of the lyrics at one moment. I was flabbergasted to see all of the generations, like I was never gone. It was great.”
Dee enjoys collaborating when possible. House DJ Sergey Kutsuev released a remix of “Pump Up the Jam” just this year, and Dee says that she can hear the influence of Technotronic all over contemporary EDM.
“I don’t even need to think twice,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how big the star is. I remember meeting J-Lo, and she was like, ‘Oh my God, Technotronic! I remember that song.’ There’s nobody in the world that doesn’t feel attracted to that little stupid thing that we did back then without thinking about it. It was so funny. You can hear it everywhere. The way electronic music has evolved, we definitely have a part in that. I’m gonna take the credit.”
San Francisco audiences will have a chance to see all of this when Technotronic performs at Mezzanine on Friday, July 26. Dee says that clubbers will get exactly the show that they are paying for.
“A very good time from the beginning until the end,” she says. “We give the people pure energy. We give them great music and they will not be disappointed. We’ve been traveling all over the world, and nobody has said, ‘Oh my God, that show was crap.’ Everybody loves it and enjoys it just as much as we do. They see that we’re having a good time, and you have no choice but to join us.”
At festivals, they’ve seen people aged 7 to 70 dancing along, although that likely won’t be the case at a SoMa nightclub. Still, it stands as a testament to their enduring legacy. But wherever they are, whoever they’re playing for, the jam gets pumped.
Technotronic with Cyber Rodeo (Kawasaki and Baby J), Primo, Friday, July 26, 9 p.m., at Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St. $16, mezzaninesf.com