Interviewing Monotonix over the groupies

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The Israeli Knesset’s worst nightmare other than pulled pork pitas for Purim.

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Sjimon Gompers | November 8, 2010

monotonix with groupies

Monotonix, and mystery guests. All photos by Jenz.

Right about when boredom set in late Sunday afternoon at the Treasure Island Music Festival, the Monotonix came and thrashed up everything and everyone gathering around the tunnel stage (which they did not play on, I might add, although I think Yonatan might have played in the photo pit for a couple licks). Lead singer Ami Shalev, guitarist Yonatan Gat and drummer Haggai Fershtman met me in the press tent and escorted me passed the security checkpoint to their posh backstage tent where we discussed Hebraic etymologies, our family ties, histories, and classified matters of securities that I could tell you about if you officially swear all ignorance of this following interview.

What's up those crazy shorts, where did you get those shorts?

Haggai: Portland.

Is it true that you are all banned from playing every venue in Tel Aviv?

BAND: Yes.

What catalysts caused this, what did you all do? How did this happen?

Ami: Playing shows! You play shows and then they ban you.

Are the police restrictive on entertainment and rock and roll?

Eran (U.S. tour manager for the Monotonix): It's the promoters.

Yonatan: The promoters don’t like to promote entertainment.

Is it because of national security issues?

H: It’s because of the history.

A: it's too happy, it's too fun!

Y: It’s also because of the camels around the venue, most people have camels in their yard and a camel needs 14 hours of sleep a night. If the noise goes on after 8pm in the evening, then the camels can’t sleep. The show’s have to be early or otherwise…

[At this time a groupie crasher with no idea whose tent she's crashing asks to spark a joint and claims she's in a band called Mimi, to which Ami inquires the following.]

A: What kind of music are you guys doing?

Groupie: What kind of music are you guys doing?

A: Rock…and roll!

Groupie: I love you! Who are you?

You’re in the presence of the mighty Monotonix. How was the experience of working with Steve Albini on the single Fun Fun Fun/ Try Try Try and the upcoming Not Yet album?

A: It was great; I came to him and said, ‘Mr. Albini, this is Mr. Shalev! Please record us! And then he said, ‘I’m not sure that I can record you.’ So I said, ‘Shalom! Please record us!’ (Then he said) ‘Because you says to me ‘shalom,’ I will record you!’

Y: And then he took a dollar.

A: I gave him a dollar for good work!

Have you finished recording Not Yet?

A: Yes.

It’s finished?

A: Not Yet! [The band and groupies burst out into laughter.] But yes, it’s finished.

Loved the “Easy Skanking” interlude, do you guys experiment with reggae and rock n’ roll like Bad Brains before you?

A: Sure, sure.

H: We don’t play the reggae ‘cause we don’t know how to do it.

A: Yah, it’s true, we don’t know how to rock too but ehhhhh…what else we can do? I’m not sure, I don’t know.

Groupie: What do you know how to do? [The band laughs.] What? I’m into you, I’m interested…where are you from?

Y: Israel or should I say, Yis-rayal

A: Israel Vibrations!

It’s not just a clever name.
[The band begins to talk to each other in Hebrew, laughing.]

Groupie (To me.): They’re talking shit about you.

No, no.

A: What, why, why, why do you say so?

Y: We are brothers!

Related, yeah! Now you guys say you don’t know how to rock and roll but you did the best performance of the Stooges Fun House era rock n’ roll, better than the Stooges themselves now or back in 1970.

A: Where is this interview going?

Impose Magazine.

Groupie: It’s a good magazine.

Y: That’s good, because if you say it is better than Fun House then it could take our careers to the next level.

Well you did a dead on number that sounded like “Loose.”

A (Doing his best Iggy impression): ‘Cause I’m loose!’ Da, da, da, da, da! Da da dad a da!

How did you guys get signed to Drag City Records?

E (Pointing to their U.S. manager Eran): The guy from Drag City saw them at a show, David Berman from the Silver Jews, who saw them when they opened for the Silver Jews and he loved them, yes, that was when the Monotonix opened for the Silver Jews when they played in Israel maybe three years ago? Four years ago? Maybe two years ago.

You’re going to Monterrey, Mexico right?

H: Yah.

Be careful, a lot of chaos happening there, cartel stuff, shootouts and such.The MtyMx Festival after SXSW was tough, a lot of the bands didn’t show, visa matters, buses that got delayed, caught up in the madness, more unrest. But given you’re upbringing I’m sure you guys can handle it.

H: We served in the Israeli Army, we are not afraid.

Wow, 2 years? 3 years? 4 years?

A: 3 years.

Wasn’t 4 years mandatory for a long time?

H: If you are going to be an officer, but I am not an officer.

Have you ever met Bi Bi (Benjamin Netanyahu)?

A: Ahhhh to tell you the truth I was once working as a PA engineer and I once made a sound in a Likud convention that got the threat of a guy named Ron Nachman who introduced Bi Bi and he lick his ass all the time!

Any relation to Reb Nachman? I hope not!

BAND: Oh no, no no, Ron Nachman!

A: He is the Mayor of Ariel.

H: It is the Capital of the Samarian Mountains.

A: Almost like California.

Kinda like an (Avigdor) Lieberman figure?

Y: He is the Israeli Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s how they get their rank, their badges of honor, look at Dayan, Peres, they all put in their time with the Israeli Defense Forces.

A: Shimon Peres put on a good show yesterday

What’s he doing now?

A: He performed in Eugene, Oregon and he was great!

Ha ha!

A: He played the shit out of the guitar!

That’s awesome! I’m guessing the Likud are not big Monotonix fans.

A: …And we are not good fans of them, although Ariel Sharon used to like Monotonix a lot.

Ariel Sharon? No way.

A: Yes, he was!

Did he ever attend a show?

A: He banned us! We performed our show and he banned us!

That’s amazing, well there’s nothing like a little bit of publicity huh?

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