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MUSIC Yehonathan Gatro: On his own terms
by Andrew Davis
2009-08-01

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Yehonathan Gatro is rapidly making a name for himself in the music industry—and on his terms, as an out artist. Recently, Gatro ( a former Instinct Magazine cover model ) —who has returned to Israel after living in Los Angeles—took part in an e-mail interview and talked about everything from his home country's LGBT scene to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Windy City Times: First of all, you recently suffered a mugging in Tel Aviv. What happened exactly and how are you doing now?

Yehonathan Gatro: I was attending a pre-Pride launch event at a club in South Tel Aviv and, as I was leaving, three guys approached me in the parking lot to bum a cigarette and—next thing I know—I'm being dragged into an alley at knifepoint. You never think things like this will happen to you, but fortunately I got away with just a stolen wallet and cell phone. The whole experience really rattled my nerves for a couple weeks. It's made me more aware of where I'm at when I'm alone. I was able to "snap out of it" with the help of friends, family and just being busy with my work. I was lucky and, otherwise, I'm doing fine.

WCT: What is the LGBT scene like in Tel Aviv?

YG: The LGBT community in Tel Aviv has gone through some major but positive changes in the past few years. I think a lot of it has to do with the opening of a new gay community center, which is located right it the heart of the city. People would be surprised to hear that Tel Aviv is one of the most gay friendly places in the world. Anyone who's ever visited here would agree with me. It is definitely "the gay center of the Middle East," and I'm sure that once there is peace in this part of the world ( God willing! ) , it will become one of the hottest tourist destinations for gay men and women!

WCT: How would you describe your style of music?

YG: I'd describe my music as a blend of pop, dance and electronica, but my popular songs so far have been dance hits, so at this point, I'm known more as a dance artist. Recently I recorded several ballads and realized that I could no longer describe my music in conventional terms, but for the sake of my new album, "My Turn," it definitely stays true to my dance spirit and sound.

WCT: Some musicians incorporate very personal items into their songs, others use other people's experiences and some do both. What's your approach with song lyrics? How personal are they?

YG: As a songwriter, I think that I have a signature style when it comes to my music, so if it's dance, pop, or ( don't laugh ) country, I write about what's happening in my life and world, and it's important for me as an artist and a human being to continue to write about what I know and feel. So naturally, my music is inspired is inspired by my own personal experiences or events from the lives of my friends, family member, or even a news segment on TV. I'd like to think that my songs are very relatable to people because I write about love, loss, acceptance, my mother or even a hot sexual encounter on the beach.

WCT: Could you discuss the significance of Lyrik in your life?

YG: Well, Lyrik produced my current album and even collaborated with me vocally on the gay duet "Across The Universe." Otherwise, Lyrik is by far one of the most important people in my life. He's one of my best friends, we work well together, and I share a strong karmic connection with him that I could never begin to describe. For people who know my video for "Just Another Summer," Lyrik played my lover on the beach. In real life, however, we started out as lovers, and it developed into a musical producer/singer relationship. Today it's all about being the realization that an amazing friend who came into my life. Lyrik is also a wonderful singer in his own right and I'm currently helping him produce his first Hebrew album.

WCT: You have songs called "On a Hot Summer Night" and "Just Another Summer." How hot does it get in Tel Aviv?

YG: Actually, these two songs are really the same. In fact, there are two versions on YouTube, but one, "On A Hot Summer Night," is in Hebrew, and the other, "Just Another Summer" ( which just got voted to the top of MTV/Logo's Click List! ) is the English re-recording that's on my new album. The sound is the same, but the lyrics have different messages, only because ( and here's our Hebrew lesson for the day ) it's more difficult to translate Hebrew to English than the other way around. But, boy, both versions are H-O-T! LOL

WCT: When did you officially come out? Do you have any advice for musicians who are still in the closet?

YG: I'm very lucky because I come from a very liberal family, so nobody made a big deal about it. I knew that I was gay from a very early age, but came out to the world when I was 25. I told my mother when I was 18, however. My advice is basically to all artists—gay or straight—is to just seek the truth within yourself in anything you do. No one can tell you who you are—instead, tell them, no matter what they may be about! I know that it's not the easiest thing to be a closeted gay artist but, for me, it's easier being out because I'm able to be more honest with my audience. But who wants easy? I've learned the most about myself and the world around me by overcoming major hurdles in my life.

WCT: Do you plan on touring the United States? Also, have you been to Chicago? We have at least two "gayborhoods," actually.

YG: I am in the planning stages right now to tour the United States and hope to flesh out details for it later this year. I can't imagine excluding Chicago from that tour, so it would definitely be on my list. I've lived in Los Angeles and have visited a couple cities in the United States but, sadly, I haven't been to Chicago—yet!

WCT: In light of Pride Month ( which has just concluded ) , who is your favorite LGBT icon? Why?

I love Dana International, who's a famous Israeli singer ( who happens to be transsexual ) . She is famous to the world because she won the Eurovision song contest about 10 years ago, among other really admirable accomplishments. Hands down, she's such a pioneer in my book when it comes to pushing boundaries and being true to herself.

WCT: Two questions about the "My Turn" video: Who plays your love interest, and who plays the bartender ( with the collar ) ? I'm sure plenty of our readers would like to know.

YG: Such a dirty boy, I love it! Ha! My love interest in the "My Turn" video is a popular Israeli model named Tiran ( I can't remember his last name ... does that makes me a slut? LOL ) and the bartender is Hai Ben Shushan, who's really famous within the gay community here in Tel Aviv—mostly for his sexy good looks!

WCT: Speaking of videos, some artists find filming them very tiring. Has it gotten old for you yet?

YG: Not at all—I love it! Bringing a song to a different visual medium is something that I always look forward to doing. In fact, I'm currently meeting with directors for video adaptations of two songs on my album, and it's a blast, so much fun! The videos I've done have helped me get noticed as an actor and because of the sexually charged nature of those videos, I got cast in "The Reviat Ran," a provocative series on Israeli TV, where I played a naughty boy who wreaks havoc on the sexual lives of a group of gay men. LOL. l I also have several film projects coming up that I'm really excited about. So, no, videos have played an important role in my success in Israel and now in the United States!

WCT: You've talked about your fascination with Madonna. Have you met her? If not, what do you think you'd say to her if you did?

YG: Nope, haven't met her yet, but I hope to one day. I have so much respect for her musically, professionally and even personally. I saw her in concert several times; however, but that's nowhere even close to what it would be like to actually meet her.

Frankly, I'm not so consumed about "meeting her" as I would be about working with her. I find her creative powers to be so razor-sharp. It would be great to meet her, but I'm such a fan that I'm sure I wouldn't know what to say. Maybe hand her a copy of my CD. LOL. I think it speaks for itself.

WCT: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

YG: I think that I would like to see more established artists helping other artists that are struggling to be heard in this business. So until that happens, the same artists dominate radio and TV, and we don't get a chance to hear what emerging artists are doing. There could be a better, united group of artists ( the haves and the have-nots ) when it comes to creative potential.

WCT: You've served in the Israeli army. What was that experience like, and what do you think of the United States' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy?

YG: It is so strange to me that Israel, which has a much more conservative image in the world than the United States, doesn't share our policy, which allows gays in the military. In fact, you can be completely out and serve here. Nobody cares! It's true that Israel could never afford not to recruit gay soldiers! LOL. But, I am surprised that the United States has made such a big issue of this silly policy.

WCT: You would never a date a guy who ...?

YG: Funny you should ask this question, because I was just talking to a friend about this guy I was interested in and why it would never work. He was still in the closet, and although I respect, understand and sympathize with his reasons, I worked so hard to kick my way out of the closet that I realized that it would be too difficult for me to be on such different pages with him in that way. I want a boyfriend that I can show off to my friends and family, and I can hope he'd do the same! I'm all about the boy, but romance me and show it to the whole wide world! That's my mantra!

See www.yehonathan.com .


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