When Monotonix played Cafe Bourbon Street last summer, the few dozen folks lucky enough to experience the onslaught were talking up the Israeli band for weeks afterward. As the videos on the band's MySpace page attest (including one clip from the Columbus show), singer Ami Shalev has no reservations about tearing through the crowd, covering every square inch of the premises in the pursuit of connecting with his audience.

The band returns to Cafe Bourbon Street tonight along with Japanese wonders Green Milk From the Planet Orange and local metal masters Deadsea. I thought I had been cursed to play phone tag into infinity, but a few minutes ago I got a surprise last-minute call from Shalev. We spoke about his explosive live show, touring the world and being a rocker in Tel Aviv.

When Monotonix played Cafe Bourbon Street last summer, the few dozen folks lucky enough to experience the onslaught were talking up the Israeli band for weeks afterward. As the videos on the band's MySpace page attest (including one clip from the Columbus show), singer Ami Shalev has no reservations about tearing through the crowd, covering every square inch of the premises in the pursuit of connecting with his audience.

The band returns to Cafe Bourbon Street tonight along with Japanese wonders Green Milk From the Planet Orange and local metal masters Deadsea. I thought I had been cursed to play phone tag into infinity, but a few minutes ago I got a surprise last-minute call from Shalev. We spoke about his explosive live show, touring the world and being a rocker in Tel Aviv.

Your tour stop in Columbus last time around generated quite a lot of buzz. Do you remember that show?

Yeah yeah, sure. I donít just remember it. Weíve got a MySpace video from that show. It was great fun for us. We played with a great band called Lambsbread. It was pretty wild and very enjoyable. It was a very good show.

The obvious thing people bring up about your band is your exploits during the live show. Has that always been part of your act?

Yes. We always want to be in crowd level. We donít want to be separated from the crowd. We want the crowd to be a part of the show. We try to do kind of a party, you know what I mean? We want everybody to dance and be around us, and we want to feel the audience from very close. We donít want to be on stage and get separated from the audience. If we play in a bigger venue, and itís really packed, we must be on the stage because thereís no place for us and nobody can see us. So when we play in big venues, we sometimes play on the stage. And after some songs we go down to the audience and play with it. But usually we play on the floor and want to be a part with the audience and feel the power of the people, you know what I mean? Be one body with everybody thatís there.

Has that escalated at all since you started, gotten more extreme?

Weíre trying to improve our show, so every tour weíve got things that... We donít think about the show at home. We donít say, ďAlright, now weíre going to do this.Ē Itís happened during the shows. We improve ourselves. Itís happened with the performance and also with the music. Thatís things that weíre thinking about during the shows to improve the shows.

Does that confrontational nature stem from living in such a volatile part of the world?

Umm, I donít think so. Tel Aviv is a really quiet city. Thereís no bombing in Tel Aviv. Itís kind of a normal city. Itís not like a city in the United States because itís in Israel, but thereís a lot of parts in Israel that are similar to European cities. Thereís clubs and bars. Tel Avivís a great city. This situation, it doesnít influence our show. The fact that we are Israelis and weíre born in the Middle East and Israel, that influences our show because this is our culture. Itís a different culture than in America. But not the part of the bombs. The part of the weather and things like that.

What is the music scene like in Tel Aviv? Is it comparable to what youíd find in an American city or a European city?

The rock scene in Tel Aviv is quite small, you know what I mean? Because itís a small country and rock n roll is not the main music in Israel. Itís not like in America where everybody knows rock and loves rock. In Israel, thereís not a lot of people that love rock music. Most of the people like Eastern music. There are kind of hardcore in Tel Aviv that like rock music. Right now the scene in Tel Aviv is not so big, but itís going quite good, you know what I mean? There are some clubs and some bands. Right now there are some bands that are touring. We are not the only Israeli band thatís touring right now. Quite good.

What about Israel on a broader scale?

Tel Aviv is kind of different from other cities in Israel. Thereís three big cities in Israel, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and in these three cities thereís people that love rock music. The other people in Israel are into what you call Eastern music. Itís kind of a crossover between Arabic music and Greek music, but the lyrics are in Hebrew. This is the main Israeli music.

Sort of Israeli folk music?

This is kind of like folk and the blues for the United States.

You were known more as a producer before you started Monotonix, correct?

I had a few bands before I started Monotonix, and yeah, I own a recording studio in Tel Aviv. And yeah, I produced and recorded some bands before I started Monotonix. But right now Iím really focused with Monotonix so I donít have time to do it because Iím touring a lot of months from the year. But yeah, before this I was producing and recording.

Why did you decide to move from producing and recording to being in a band full-time?

Because I always played in bands. When the three of us started playing with Monotonix, all of us felt that right now is the right time for the band. My first love is making music. Because I love music, I want to be involved, and producing and recording is fun, but my first love is to play and be with my band. So when Monotonix came about two years ago, everybody in the band felt that right now itís the right time to be more serious about a band and start touring. It felt right in this situation. Iíve got my studio there, and Iíve got people that work there, so right now Iím free to tour the world.

You have toured pretty heavily in the United States before even releasing an album. How did you end up playing so much over here? Did you have some connections, or did you just book it yourself?

The first and the second tour in the United States, we booked it by ourselves. We got some connections from friends of ours in bands that came to play in Israel and we promoted them, like Federation X, Silver Jews, Will Oldham, Calvin Johnson, Old Time Relijun. Theyíve helped us some. But right now in the states weíve got a booking agency called panache booking. She booked our tour right now, this last tour. In Europe right now we book ourselves and thereís some people there that help us with local booking agencies for each country. So weíve got help from people. Itís quite comfortable for us right now.

Had you done a lot of traveling before you started touring?

I was in the States before and Europe. Itís not my first time. Everybody in Israel travels a lot because itís a small country. It really presses on you if you stay in Israel. Itís the size of one state in the United States, even smaller.

Has anything surprised you about this country?

Yeah. All the time, all the time, all the time, all the time. For us, I donít know how it is for an American, but for us every day is a surprise. Thereís so many people. Itís huge. We arenít used to driving so many miles without seeing anything. A lot of hours. Itís amazing, you drive about half an hour and suddenly it starts snowing, and after an hour, itís sun and desert. You drive from Seattle to Denver, and every hour the weather changed. Itís snowing, itís sunny. In the middle of the road, change time zone. Itís insane for us. And of course, a lot of people, the most surprising thing is people in the states are so kind, you know what I mean? They always give us a place to crash and everybody wants to help. In Israel itís not like that. Itís tiny, but in America everybody wants to help you. Itís amazing. And every day that you play, you see more bands and more bands and more bands. Itís really great. Itís insane for us.

When will the album be out?

Right now on tour weíve got the album. Weíre selling it at shows. Right now weíve got no label. We have some connections and weíre talking with labels, but right now weíre in negotiation with a few labels in the US. But right now, the people that come to the shows can buy the album. In the stores, the release date, weíll figure it out when we have an American label. But I hope it will be soon.

How does it sound?

Itís kind ofóI think the basic thing in this album is, first one, itís got very live atmosphere because we recorded the basic tracks live as we play in a show. And we did it only on analog recording equipment. Itís kind of, I think, we try to take some points from the 70s rock and update them to today but really give it something from us. We tried to do it as much as original as we can, but kind of classic poppy music. I donít know. Thereís í70s influences on it.

That reminds me: Are there a lot of record stores? Where do you get music?

Right now we are very, very deep into í70s rock, all the huge bands from the 70s. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones. All these bands. Also garage bands like the Sonics and all that kind of stuff. And a little bit from folk music. But right now we are very, very, very into í70s rock. You know, Grand Funk, T. Rex, David Bowie, all these things. Thatís whatís in the van when weíre touring.

But when youíre at home in Tel Aviv, is that music easy to find?

HmmmÖ Yeah. Not compared toÖ Thereís some great record stores in Tel Aviv that you can find really, really good music and some rarer bands that nobodyís heard about. Itís pretty easy. But if they donít have it, you can order it. Itís not like in States that you go into Amoeba in San Francisco and thatís huge and insane. Itís all right. We can buy a lot of American music and British music all over the world. Itís not a problem for us. Tel Aviv is kind of, it looks like an Eastern city, of course itís got a downtown and all that. But people in Tel Aviv are all the time traveling the world and U.S. and Europe and everywhere. So people really know whatís going on. And in this particular way, itís kind of a Western city. Itís kind of a crossover. So thereís a lot of American rock music that you can buy.

Anything I didnít ask you about that you want to say?

If anybody wants to have a good time, come to our show tonight. Weíre playing with a great, great, great, great band from Japan called Green Milk from the Planet Orange. They do kind of progressive rock and they are really, really, really, really great. Come and see us. I promise everybody that comes and sees us that you will have a good time.