Banned in Tel Aviv, Monotonix hit the road

There’s a long list of venues in Tel Aviv, Israel, that Monotonix will never play again. Ami Shalev, vocalist of the hard rock trio, estimates that of all the shows they played in their hometown about 80 per cent of them were cut short by irate venue owners or police officers responding to noise complaints from neighbours.

One can only guess why they were banned when the typical live show quickly became a frenzied set preformed not on stage, but on the venue floor right in the thick of the crowd. Or maybe it could have been that the band, including the drummer, crowd surfed one too many times along with their instruments. It could have also been Shalev’s frequent use of lighter fluid to set instruments, and occasionally his shorts, on fire. Whatever the reason, Monotonix did what any other band would have done and took their now infamous live show on the road.

The high-intensity energy of performing came natural to Shalev and his band mates, Yonatan Gat and Haggai Fershtman. From the very first show the band thought it would be a good idea to set their instruments up within the crowd.
“It’s the idea that we can break the boundaries between us and the audience. I think we saw that if we were going to play on the floor it would be easy to get in touch with the audience and get the same vibe,” explained Shalev. “We became one unit with the audience.”
When you literally play with fire there’s always an underlying danger, but Shalev maintains that they know when a situation is too dangerous and that they won’t “cross security boundaries” – especially when a venue owner is looking on with a concerned grimace.

Monotonix rarely perform in Israel, they’re now in the midst of a North American tour before heading to Australia. Along the way they’ll be stopping in Montreal for a third time. The only difference this time around is that they won’t have to sleep at in a stranger’s apartment like their earlier tours.
What has become a challenge for Monotonix is to bring all the energy and atmosphere of their live performances into their recordings. In 2009 the band released their full-length debut, Where Were You When It Happened? To Shalev it’s an area the band will always have to work on.
“It’s very hard. If you put too much energy into a record it becomes too violent and it’s not fun to listen to when you’re in your living room. We try to capture it and put it into a recording. I think the new record is better with this compared to the old EP,” said Shalev. “But I’m not sure if we managed to do it completely.”

In his youth Shalev had to resort to relying on imported records or CDs to discover music outside of Israel since bands rarely, if ever, would tour the Middle Eastern country. Shalev fondly remembers listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath and in the “90s whatever was coming out of Seattle.
Shalev admits that Monotonix doesn’t exactly fit into the predominantly Eastern music made up of a mixture of Greek or Arabic influences that dominates the mainstream radio in Israel.
“There’s not a lot of rock “n’ roll bands here because it’s not really in the culture of Israel,” said Shalev. “There are a few good bands that play here, a few of them even tour Europe, but that’s how it is in Israel.”

Catch Monotonix perform at Il Motore on Jan. 17

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