Bands are better representatives of their countries than politicians are. What if we were headbanging to a band that secretly thought we were all a bunch of schmucks? Do Monotonix think that? I wanted to talk to them when they were in Chicago because anytime I talk to someone from the Middle East I feel like the elephant in the room is that they fucking hate me because I don't know what suffering is and I represent manifest destiny, etc. But no, that is not the case, I'm just being paranoid and all they really are thinking about is hair and teardrops. Our interview was actually a lot like an after school special.
Vice: So let’s be honest. Tel Aviv, Israel. I have no idea what’s going on…
Yonatan: Are you writing a story about Tel Aviv?
I want to hear about how you guys feel about Tel Aviv, if you could offer an explanation of what’s going on in your own terms but also how you feel about it.
Ami: Basically, I live in Jaffa. I love it very much. Jaffa is kind of a suburb of Tel Aviv.
It’s one of the original parts of Tel Aviv.
It’s the old city and I live there and I really like it. For my opinion it’s the best city in the world. I mean it’s not really a city; it’s a small one. You call it a town? Or a small village? Something like that, but I love it. The food is great, the vibe is great. Tel Aviv is more…I don’t know. I don’t know how to put it out, but I prefer Jaffa.
Would you say that Tel Aviv is more so for yuppies? Jaffa is more for the OGs?
He said before, maybe two months ago, that Tel Aviv is maybe the most Yuppiest city in the world.
Yonatan: I said the most in the world?
Yonatan: It’s pretty yuppie. People really like…the bars all have like weird lava lamps and just, it’s kind of yuppie.
Ami: You told me you can’t find a dive bar. Only one dive bar in Tel Aviv and the other one is kind of Yuppie bars.
Compared to the rest of the Middle East, there’s not so many terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv but have you witnessed anything like that first hand?
[All collectively shake their heads no.]
Is it destructive out there? Is it really war torn?
Less in Tel Aviv. Most of our problems in Israel right now are in the south.
How do you feel about that?
Bad. I feel bad about it. It’s our country. Right now, kind of a war situation. I don’t say who is right, who is wrong in this conflict. I don’t have any, I’m not taking a side but I’m an Israeli. I don’t like the people in Israel OR the other side suffering from this situation. It’s not good.
Do you think the contentious air in Israel is partly responsible for your destructive live shows?
Yonatan: The way I see it is they write that it’s messy, and our show is messy it’s uh…not so simple.
How would you describe it?
I guess the atmosphere in Israel is that way because of many things. Partly because it’s war torn, like more than the United States. And like the other mentality of Israel is kind of, like, Mediterranean, and people are a little more rude and loud and guys are kind of macho. I guess coming from that, which definitely affects the way we are and the way our show is.
Ami: We got more hair chest.
Chest Hair. I can prove it.
No, I believe you. You got banned from a lot of venues in Tel Aviv, or something to that effect. Maybe more than one?
[All collectively nod yes.]
Do you think it’s because you picked up this macho thing ‘cause it’s part of the terrain and you took it up a notch and then people weren’t ready for it?
Yonatan: People are macho in the street. Not really in the shows.
Ami: I think that the performing culture in Israel is not used to wild bands in what you call the regular venues. In Israel, there are not a lot of wild bands. And the venues don’t know how to deal with it. That’s the problem. That’s the reason I think they banned us.
Do you ever go to any of the performance arts stuff in Tel Aviv?
Haggai: Yes, there are performing arts there.
So they’re more receptive to a performance piece where someone’s doing something wild or strange, but when a band does it they freak?
Yonatan: It happens not in the rock scene or in the club scene, it happens only like in galleries or museums.
Ami: Like Uri Katzenstein. He put a glass with a fish on his head!
Yonatan: Or he takes his own bloodstream and enters it into a machine that makes music. I’ve seen it live.
Have you ever tried playing in a gallery?
Ami: Yeah, we played in a gallery in Chico. In Chico, California. It was great. It was one of our best…it was two and a half years ago? It was one of our best shows in the early days. When we had short hair.
Have you even played galleries in Tel Aviv or Jaffa?
In Jaffa? We never played in Jaffa. You can’t play in Jaffa
Yonatan: There’s one place that plays Moroccan music.
Have you ever considered playing in a gallery since the galleries are more open to ridiculous things you can play the galleries instead of the clubs?
Ami: Not so much in Israel.
Haggai: The galleries are not so open to subcultures and underdog stuff.
Ami: I am not an underdog.
Haggai: I meant to say underground. UNDERGROUND!
Ami: “What is your style in music?!” Underdog!
You are still a young band.
Young?! Look at me.
Young band. Have you ever read anything about the band that upset you?
Yonatan: They always say our hair is good.
I have terrible hair. I mean, look at this [taking off my hat]...
Collectively: No, no! That’s OK! It’s the hat!
Ami: If you’re not gonna use that hat, I can recommend the Paul Mitchell Super Scalp.
Yonatan: Sebastian Conditioner. You need to buy them at Beauty Supplies and you have to have a hairdresser’s license.
Your songs have upwards of six or seven parts and are all really complicated. Are there any bands that influence you to write songs in that fashion, with such a large amount of parts and to be written so economically?
Ami: Economically means we make money out of the song?
No, economically means it’s worth every second of the song, it’s worth the time and energy you put into listening to it.
The Mars Volta
The hair! Is that a Mars Volta reference as well?
Let me write that down, THE HAIR IN THE MONOTONIX IS A MARS VOLTA REFERENCE.
I wish. Man, the Mars Volta? They got the best hair in the world. I mean you see these huge afros…wow. I mean, driving a car, nobody behind him can see the traffic lights.
Yonatan: Imagine: He goes to the cinema and sits in the middle.
Ami: No he can’t. He sits in the back.
Yonatan: He sits in the middle and gets banned from every cinema in the United States. They are not open to his hair.
I went to see You’ve Got Mail but instead saw Omar Rodriguez’s hair.
I saw You’ve Got Mail. I cried. I like when they meet in the park and they discover they’ve been talking online and they love each other online and they love each other in real life, too. I think it’s really good.
Have you even had an online girlfriend? Someone you met in a chatroom?
I met Alice in a chatroom.
No. Sometimes I wish I did.
Why would you wish you had met in a chat room?
Tom Hanks just goes right to your core.
Ami: I like Tom Hanks! Big is a great movie.
Yonatan: Forrest Gump is Haggai’s favorite movie. He made me watch it like three times.
Ami: And he cried.
Yonatan: And I cried. Tom Hanks just makes me cry.
Do you typically cry at movies?
Yeah, that’s why I don’t watch them.
All right, enough of this nancy shit. What are some good fuckin’ bands?
Ami: Butthole Surfers.
What’s a really sick band I’ve never heard of that you’re really into?
Shlowaltzi. He’s a great Israeli artist. He’s a great man. He’s the biggest singer in Israel.
Haggai: He’s our Bruce Springsteen. He used to be Ami’s boss.
Ami: I was his sound technician. It depends on how you look at it, but it was good.
Was he bad to you?
Sometimes, might not be. He said nobody give him the high end that I gave him. The high end of the sound, I’m the only one who gave him what he liked to hear. Never again after I left the position nobody can do it for him.
Does he write you desperate emails wanting you to come back and work the high end again?
There was no internet when I left. It was before internet.
Yonatan: He fired him with a pigeon.
What is the biggest thing that’s going to happen for you guys this year? Are you playing the Statue of Liberty?
Haggai: Actually it’s still a secret.
It’s still a secret? Can you give me a hint?
Give me a riddle.
It’s gonna be wet.
Ami: Do you know that Rush has an agreement with NASA to be the first band to play on the moon?
Well that’s kind of bullshit ‘cause the Cardigans have a record called First Band on the Moon.
Ami: We will have more toms than Rush next tour.
Aha! A hint. Knew I’d get something out of you.