Broken bones and naked guys: the pains of being Monotonix
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Few modern-day rock bands that follow a crowd-and-performer-as-one ethos deliver the goods quite like Israeli garage-punk outfit Monotonix. With only one full-length album to its name, 2009's Where Were You When It Happened?, the Tel Aviv trio has nonetheless become notorious for sweaty, physical, and nudity-infused shows that often straddle the line between performance art and barely-controlled prison riots. Incredibly, the hard-playing, hard-touring group had managed to avoid serious injury over the course of 700-plus shows until this January, when 44-year-old front man Ami Shalev badly fractured his right leg during a Florida gig. In advance of a short U.S. tour that includes a stop Tuesday at The Bay View American Legion Hall, The A.V. Club talked to Monotonix guitarist Yonatan Gat about Shalev's leg, getting "killed" in the U.S., and his many valiant, unsuccessful attempts not to fall on a naked guy.
The A.V. Club: How's Ami's leg?
Yonatan Gat: Ami's leg is doing better. He's been riding his bicycle lately and going through serious physiotherapy. He got a private physiotherapist and gets 20 phone calls a day from doctors about his leg, but it's been getting a lot better. It should be good for the tour.
AVC: After his injury, have you been scaling back the physical aspects of your show?
YG: I can't speak for Ami too much, but all the shows felt normal except the two he did sitting on a chair on the bar with crutches just after the injury. Since then, it's been feeling as usual.
AVC: You're a band that seems to be constantly on the road, yet your upcoming U.S. tour is less than a month long. Why so short?
YG: It's actually been pretty mellow. We don't tour that much this year because we're busy in the studio, and we're very relaxed working on the new music—much more than previous records that always had a lower budget or time schedule. The songs are not relaxed—they're actually faster, shorter, and more hyper—but we're taking our time and having a lot of fun doing what we do, and I hope people will feel the same listening to it.
AVC: After the U.S. tour, you’re headed to Europe. Are there any differences between U.S. and European audiences? Do they both expect the same things from your shows?
YG: I think we're a bit more known in the U.S. than most European countries. Maybe except France and the U.K., so in Europe we still have the shock factor sometimes, which makes it a bit different. Audiences are a bit more reserved, but they can be cracked, too, and a lot of shows in Europe have been fun. It's just a different culture. Like ours, many of those countries don't really have that much of a rock 'n' roll culture, and it makes things different. The initial reaction is definitely different at times, but they can also be very fun and receptive in most countries.
AVC: Do you ever get tired of trying not to fall down on a naked guy? Is there ever any concern that your actual music might be overshadowed by your live performances?
YG: I don't care at all. I guess more people connect to the show, but for every three or four people that will talk about the show, there's one or two people who will take the record home and keep listening to it again and again.
AVC: It would seem almost impossible to capture the energy of your live show on an album.
YG: It seems like the last two records we made aren't as catchy and immediate as the show. Maybe not even as communicative, because our show does have an element that touches people in a very immediate place. For us it was harder to achieve that on record—or maybe we never really tried. The music is very important and emotional for us, and I think that long after we're gone and all that's left are stories, some people will still be listening to the records we made. To me, that means a lot.