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Prepare for chaos: In advance of Echoplex show, Monotonix talks live show, diet regimen

January 27, 2011 |  7:54 am


Monotonix plays the Echoplex on Thursday, and prospective attendees should hide their beers, protect their cellphones and be prepared to rethink how they view a rock show.

The Israeli trio hates playing on the actual stage, instead opting to rock out in the audience, on the audience, atop the bar, in the bathroom -- and don't be too surprised if the 40-something singer Ami Shalev ventures outside the club to climb a tree and sing from a branch.

They take the antics of Gogol Bordello, the raw power of the Stooges, and meld it with a type of performance art that's equal parts house party, Marx Brothers and chaos.

In support of their new album "Not Yet", produced by legendary engineer Steve Albini, Shalev spoke to Pop & Hiss by telephone, noticeably happy with their sophomore offering, released through Drag City on Tuesday.

Monotonix2The band last performed in Los Angeles in October at Spaceland as part of the Culture Collide festival. It was scheduled to return as the opener for Faith No More at the Hollywood Palladium in November, but when the fire marshal insisted that they stay on the stage, the band decided not to perform at all.

"I don’t know the details about the cancellation," Shalev said. "I know the fire marshal said we are not allowed to play on the floor. Because the show was sold out, it would have been crowded on the floor. If they won't let us play on the floor, we can't give the full experience of [our] show."

"To play on the floor is the band’s principle," Shalev explained in a thick accent. "We must play on the floor or there's no point."

Indeed, zigzagging around the club is part of the spectacle of a Monotonix show, with Shalev as the center of the action.

One minute the drummer might find himself wearing a trash can over his head thanks to Shalev dumping it there. The next minute the bearded rocker can be seen stealing a beer from a fan, drinking part of it, spitting the rest out and pouring the remains on another audience member. The Spaceland spectacle concluded with most of the group rocking out atop the bar as Shalev kicked cocktail straws and maraschino cherries on the otherwise too-cool-for-school Silver Lake crowd, who ate it up.

Do the clubs fear such raucous behavior? "We are not breaking things,"  Shalev said. "We are not doing any damage. We get messy at the end of the show. If we do damage we pay for it."

In regards to recording with Albini, best known for his work with Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey, Shalev said the experience was positive.

"He is not a dictator at all -- just about the food," Shalev explained. "When you bring food in from outside, he has opinions about the food. He knows all the places around the studio. The best thing to do is follow him. He's very polite."

After seeing Shalev exert so much frenzied energy, it's hard to believe he hasn't been injured more. Does he have a secret diet or workout regimen?

"Milk shake and sundaes," he quips. "That’s my special diet, and I get it from a special place in San Francisco. They send it to me by FedEx."

Thu. Jan. 27 -- Los Angeles @ Echoplex w/ Ty Segall
Fri. Jan. 28 -- San Francisco @ Rickshaw Stop w/ Ty Segall, Nodzzz
Sat. Jan. 29 -- Austin, Texas @ Mohawk Outside w/ The Strange Boys
Sun. Jan. 30 -- Denton, Texas @ Rubbergloves w/ The Strange Boys
Mon. Jan. 31 -- New Orleans @ One Eyed Jack's
Tue. Feb. 1 -- Birmingham, Ala. @ The Bottletree Cafe w/ Pujol
Wed. Feb. 2 -- Nashville @ The End w/ Pujol
Thu. Feb. 3 -- Raleigh, N.C. @ Kings Barcade w/ Pujol
Fri. Feb. 4 -- Washington, D.C. @ Comet Ping Pong w/ Pujol
Sat. Feb. 5 -- Brooklyn, N.Y. @ 285 Kent Ave. w/ Pujol
Sun. Feb. 6 -- Providence, R.I. @ Machines with Magnets w/ Pujol
Mon. Feb. 7 -- Philadelphia @ The OX w/ Pujol, Federation X
Tue. Feb. 8 -- Cleveland @ Beachland Ballroom w/ JEFF the Brotherhood, Pujol
Wed. Feb. 9 -- Madison, Wis. @ High Noon Saloon w/ JEFF the Brotherhood, Call Me Lightning
Thu. Feb. 10 -- St. Paul, Minn. @ Turf Club w/ JEFF the Brotherhood
Fri. Feb. 11 -- Chicago @ Empty Bottle w/ JEFF the Brotherhood, Call Me Lightning

-- Tony Pierce

Photos: Monotonix breaking the fourth wall at Spaceland in October 2010. Credit: Tony Pierce / Los Angeles Times