Monotonix Madness

Monotonix are best known for their epic performances. Crowd-surfing while playing guitar or even drums, jumping off and around the stage, stealing audience members’ drinks to pour on themselves, wearing next to nothing, or starting shows in one location and ending up finishing them in another — this band wants to give their audience a show.

The Israeli trio consists of guitarist Yonatan Gat, drummer Haggai Fershtman and singer Ami Shalev; who I spoke with in order to understand what kind of person it takes to put on such manic and frenzied performances. Sounding surprisingly calm and relaxed in his studio in Israel, Shalev said that when Monotonix formed they never had any specific goals in mind. And while writing albums he explained they do not attempt to conform to any particular musical style or classification. “We don’t really think about anything like that, anything about the style or the genre or anything. Our albums are what came out of us in the period that we wrote the songs and that’s what you got [ . . . ] We are just doing whatever we, I don’t know, whatever we feel.”

Monotonix will be coming to Winnipeg next Tuesday as part of a tour to promote their first full-length album, Where Were You When It Happened?, which came out in September 2009 and consists mainly of high speed garage rock. The sound of their music is perfectly suited as a backdrop to their wild shows which audience members are guaranteed to participants in. For garage rock fans, the album is a success that might not necessarily be translated into live performances. When the drummer is trying to play on top of the audience — crowd surfing and flailing his arms, and the singer is running around and screaming both Hebrew and English, it is easy to understand how songs can fall apart. Especially if the guitarist is crowd-surfing as well.
When asked if he is ever worries if Monotonix’s performance style stops fans from appreciating their musical abilities Shalev said “sometimes I feel that this happens because in the shows everybody is so involved, and sometimes people don’t pay attention to the whole nuance of the music, but to tell you the truth, that’s the reason we have records.”

The band does not do anything special to prepare for a show. Shalev explained, “Because we are playing a lot, we are physically in good shape, so we don’t need to do any kind of special exercise or things to get into it. Basically we don’t drink alcohol before shows and we don’t drink after shows to, tell you the truth, and we don’t eat any stuff before — that’s how we prepare ourselves.”
The collective mentality going into a show is simply “to have fun, because everyone has fun during the show.” Shalev said that all he hopes is that they can “have good times and make the most people you can feel good. The more that I can make people feel good it makes me feel like I am a success.”

Some of Monotonix’s performances have been cut short by security guards and, at one concert recently, a fan lit himself on fire. The band was also barred from several venues in Israel for rowdy shows even before they began touring and working on their first full-length studio album. Despite all this, however, Shalev couldn’t immediately recall any performances that had really resulted in a truly disastrous situation. While he thought, he let out a high-pitched “ahhhhh” reminiscent of the much louder and shriller sounds he is capable of during concerts. “I mean sometimes we get hurt, but not serious things. To tell you the truth we know how to keep our bodies complete,” he said with a chuckle.

Monotonix plays the Pyramid Cabaret on Jan. 19 with War Elephant.