Mono addicted acid man
A hard man to pin down: Israeli indie-rocker Yonatan Gat
Let’s start with the Monotonix show.
The well-attended event at 1078 Gallery on Sept. 8 also featured local favorites West By Swan opening and almost-local headliners The Velvet Teen closing. Given the middle slot, Monotonix, who have played with artists like the Silver Jews and Calvin Johnson, ruled the venue throughout their well-received set.
Israeli indie-rock troubadour Yonatan Gat is the guitarist of this hyperkinetic, Tel Aviv-based sort-of-punkish trio, but the always-in-motion focal point of the band is singer Ami Shalev, a guy whose performance style involves scaling walls and continually bursting through the audience like a football lineman. Stand-up drummer Ran Shimony, on the other hand, never left his station behind the kit, but did provide a barrage of blisteringly tight rhythms to support Gat’s technically superb rocking out on guitar.
It’s worth mentioning that Monotonix’s music comes across well on recordings also. Even without all the frenetic physicality of the live performance, Gat’s guitar playing and Shimony’s drumming create structures that impart a good deal of the energy they project live. Shalev’s lyrics, such as “I can feel your heartbeat, take it or leave it,” may not plumb any profound depths or illuminate any political or spiritual insights, but they suit the band’s MySpace self-descriptions as “garage/progressive/glam” and “Deep Purple—Made in Japan” without being overbearingly obnoxious, and are leavened with a trace of irony-tinged, self-conscious—or self-mocking—humor.
After the Monotonix set, Gat and I attempted a short interview, but the combination of the noise-filled venue and the after-performance duties of dealing with equipment and greeting enthusiastic fans led us to decide that an e-mail interview might be preferable.
But things don’t always work out as imagined. As I found out, possessing the urge and wherewithal to travel the world and play music doesn’t necessarily imply that a person will be articulate and forthcoming when interviewed via e-mail; and conversely it also became evident that an artist who is reticent in interview can be quite interesting when presenting the products of their artistry live.
In condensed form, Gat told us: “When [touring] gets rough the thing that keeps me motivated is the music. I liked The Beatles growing up. Nowadays I’ve been listening to a lot of Lee Hazelwood. [In Israel there are] not many venues, but there are some. No patience for loud bands, though. Israel is pretty primitive culturally; that’s one of the reasons I spend my days touring.”
And regarding political awareness: “Most Americans I meet do have a very basic knowledge of Israel and politics, but that’s maybe because I meet the more educated ones? I don’t know. It seems logical for Americans to not know a lot about what’s going on outside the empire; that’s just the way people are.”
Besides Monotonix (who formerly performed under the name Mono Addicted Acid Man), Gat is or has been involved in numerous other projects, including singing and playing bass in punk-rock trio Punkache, which was one of the most successful independent bands in Israel. He is also constantly performing and recording his music in different bands and under different aliases, sometimes playing all instruments himself. When Old Time Relijun (K Records), an American band, toured Israel in 2005, Gat joined them as drummer.
His solo acoustic music is reflective and thoughtful, played with a finger-picked and strummed style and sung in an unaffected voice that suits the simple melodies and poetic lyrics quite well. Contrasted with the intense hyperactivity of the Monotonix show, the solo acoustic side of Gat’s music should complete a picture of a complex and dedicated musician who can’t be confined to a superficial summarization.