I'm willing to admit defeat. People kept telling me that there was this band from Israel; that they were the greatest live band on the planet, and they had this Get in the Van mentality to touring, so I was bound to be able to see them sooner or later. I was skeptical.
When I finally did see Monotonix, their set lasted no more than twenty minutes, and the three piece made their way from the middle of the floor, to both ends of the venue; being carried by the legs, and by the hands of the audience overhead. Bodies as well as pieces of musical equipment levitated, and somehow, the music and energy were kept up at peak level for the duration of the set.
A year later the band is set to release their first proper full-length, Where Were You When it Happened? The eight songs presented are a ferocious outburst of Jesus Lizard/AmRep focused aggression, and Stones cocksure swagger. Couple this newest release with the several live shows I have seen since that first time in a steamy, smoke-filled space in Bushwick, and I am now willing to admit that Monotonix might possibly be not only the best live band on the planet, but the best at crafting the total package of what rock n' roll should really be. Dirty, fun, dangerous.
What is the secret Monotonix formula to going out and playing what might be the best set in the entire world for that given day?
I don't know about that, but I think we were a little lucky, our show was an idea that popped into our heads one day, and since the day we tried it, it felt so good and right that we were able to do it over 600 times since. Something about us doing our show like that was just amazing to us since the begining, and people learned to appreciate it I guess. That's why you called it that.
I think the fact that we did it a lot, and in a very intense way helped too.
Is there any specific shows that stick out in your mind as being more fun or crazy than the others?
We played a festival in Paris in May that was insane fun. We played this small outdoor space, but people were standing on bridges all above and around us. We climbed on the bridges with the drums, it was great. A show in Phoenix where Ami set the floor on fire and Native Americans that were there started dancing around the flames. A show in Toronto where the floor was shaking so hard everyone thought we're all gonna fall to the first floor.
Where was I when that happened?
That's the problem, you don't know. You only know you weren't there.
What is the deal with “Hunt You Down”? Is that song Monotonix gospel?
It's a love song I think.
In the liner notes to your newest album Where Were You When it Happened?, it says producer Tim Green provided “some feedback” on guitars. How much feedback are we talking, and how did Tim get to contribute said feedback?
I wanted some crazy noisy overdub in “Flesh and Blood”'s c-part, and Tim had this broken old guitar, so he found himself just standing in the room throwing the guitar around and feedbacking over the music. We liked how it sounded.
Tim produced one of my favorite albums, Comets on Fire's Blue Cathedral, and somebody added saxophone to some of the songs on there. Would you guys ever consider adding a horn section?
I wish. I've been obsessing about horns since we lived in New Orleans. Those Allan Tousaint stuff are great, and all the brass bands I've seen are still resonating in my head. When something seems suitable and right, we'll do it. For this record we felt comfortable with just guitar, drums, organ and vocals.
Would they have to follow you around the crowd as you played live?
We used to tour with a 15-piece band from Athens Georgia called Dark Meat. They had three to five brass players and they used to play with us sometimes. It was fun.
The best was in Buffalo last summer. We played a show there and went outside with the audience at the end. And suddenly a bunch of tuba, trumpet and trombone players that were just walking by joined us as we were playing drums with the audience. They were just walking by, seriously. Buffalo is weird.
You guys seem to tour all the time – what's the current soundtrack while on the road?
Iv'e been listening to Elvis Costello, London Calling, Django Reinhardt, the new Oh Sees record, Max Romeo and the Small Faces.
I'm curious when the Monotonix Scandinavian takeover will happen?
We just got to play shows in Scandinavia this summer and it was great. We played festivals in Norway, Sweden and shows in Denmark and Finland. Finland was amazing, it's a really great place. We got to see the midnight sun, and I went to a Finnish metal bar with black jack tables that change the rules towards the house. In black jack, if you're tied with the dealer it's called “push” and no one wins, but in the Helsinki metal bar there's a sign that says if you tie, house wins. I think they are just relying on drunk people not using their judgement. People like to rip off drunk people.
I lost 20 Euros.
What's next? Are you guys going to go disco like Kiss?
I don't know, we don't have any new songs yet. But I think we'll stop playing together way before we become a ridiculous version of ourselves.