Yonatan Gat is god! Former Monotonix guitarist talks improvisation and why he doesn’t use pedals
One thing is clear. Yonatan Gat does not jam, he improvises. The genre bending musician is a modern day guitar hero and composer. With cohorts drummer Gal Lazer and bassist Sergio Sayeg the inventive trio fuses an instrumental stream of consciousness that somehow manages to fuse elements of free jazz and punk into the same cauldron. Their latest release Director continues the exploration of diverse styles.
Yonatan’s time with the legendary Monotonix set the bar high for intense live shows with audiences immersing themselves into the experience. Gat continues the spontaneous tradition with his new project that delves into a more improvisational sound. And he does it all without effects using only his Les Paul and a Fender Twin Reverb amp.
Yonatan was kind enough to speak with us on a few subjects before his show in Madison.
Pedals and the future of the electric guitar
“Sometimes the desire to go to sound manipulation with pedals is an escape from the fact that you don’t have anything to say on the instrument,” explains Gat. “I connect the guitar straight to the amp and let it go. Any distortion you hear is just the amp overloading. It gives me more flexibility than using a lot of effect pedals. The dynamic range is incredible. Using equipment in that way really optimizes the boundaries you can push the instrument. I’m not focusing on pedals. I can face the audience the entire show without leaning down and using the devices. I can focus on the instrument itself and what I can get out of that instrument."
“It’s a hard thing to say in 2016, but I think there are still a few new things to do with an electric guitar,” continues Gat. It’s true that a lot has been done with this instrument in the last 50 years. That’s why I like to play with very simple set-up. It gives me the opportunity to focus on the guitar itself and if I have to do something really fucked up that will send you to space and blow your mind, I will have to do it with my hands."
Jamming vs. improvisation
"I don’t really look at what we play as jamming because we improvise and that’s a little bit different,” said Gat. “Jamming is like somebody playing 12-bar blues with a solo.”
“The difference between us and other rock bands is that were more similar to a jazz band, although we don’t sound like a jazz band at all. We use improvisation and we never stop. Our songs never have a finalized version. We can go into the studio and re-record a song that exists on an album from two years ago and somebody may not even be able to recognize it. That’s how different songs can become. You play a song over the duration of a 100 shows and it becomes a completely different animal. Sometimes it has a similar melody, it has similar beats. Sometimes it stays pretty constant, but sometimes it just becomes a different song. It’s a very exciting way of songwriting because you get to be creative all the time. The composition never stops."
"Often when bands go on tour, like my old band Monotonix, you would write the songs at home and then you play them at the show,” said Gat. “So basically after you’re done writing the song at home, you’re done writing. In this project we’re never done writing. We write at home. We write when we practice. We write, you know, in the shower. We write in the sound check. We write at the show. To me, improvisation is a way to never stop being creative. I’m not a jazz person by nature. It’s not the music I’ve been listening to most of my life. It’s something I’ve been listening to in the last few years."
“Our shows have no set list. Our shows are a completely unique experience every night for us too because of improvisation. We try intentionally and it’s difficult sometimes. Of course the show has a structure that we’ve been developing for two years. We’ve played 300 shows a year over the last two year. The show is very constructive in one way but in that construct there is a lot of room for change. It’s very often, almost every night, something happens that never happened before musically. That leads to an excitement with the musicians and translates to the audience immediately. Everyone in the room can feel the excitement if the musicians are excited themselves."
“Before this band, I was touring all the time. I played a thousand shows with my old band Monotonix. It always bothered me that something was missing, in terms that I didn’t get to be creative all the time. The key to creativity is to enjoy yourself and for me that’s improvisation."
"The nature of our work with improvisation we try to make each one of our records really stand out from the others. For an instrumental band like us in particular, but really for any band, it’s easy to release records that sound the same. If I made a record and we achieved something, I would like to explore that in the next recording too. But I would also like the next recording to add to the world you know something the last record didn’t.”
For a truly unique experience, see Yonatan Gat live!