GOGOL BORDELLO////EUGENE HUTZ////NOVEMBER 2007
Life and the cards that it dealt, became pretty significant for a 14 year old Eugene Hutz in 1986. As the young star-in-waiting was sat in his Chernobyl home listening to BBC radio, only to hear the DJ say, ‘for the citizens of Ukraine: There was just a disaster in Chernobyl and it’s not likely your government will tell you about it’. This led Hutz and his family on a 7 year trek across Eastern & Central European refugee camps, until they eventually settled in the good ol’ US of A, setting up home in Vermont. A few years later, Hutz left for the Big Apple to seek out the neucleus of his New York Gypsy Punk outfit Gogol Bordello. A band, which is comprised of a mixture of Eastern European refugees, was put in place to celebrate Gypsy culture throughout the world. Now globally recognised and acknowledged, Gogol Bordello is one of the most diverse sounding and adored bands around. Not only that, but they’re always up for a party, which is always a bonus for us…Hutz, who is probably most recognised in the UK for his appearance on stage at Live Earth with band mate Sergey Rjabtzev and more notably Madonna, has a lot to say, and luckily for us, he says it all exclusively to Outline…
So you’ll be back here in the UK soon, I wondered how you compare our culture to other places you’ve visited or lived?
Well, I must say that I didn’t get that country first of all. I think there is an initial barrier for Eastern European people. At first the barrier seems impenetrable; I’ve found that through playing music and having direct contact with people the barrier gets blown away and torn into pieces pretty soon. So now I see it as one of the rowdiest crowds, along with the Italians and Turkish. In the UK, similarly to New York, people are faster than other places at getting what we are about. They’re the people who are aware of David Bowie, the Clash and the Sex Pistols (which is such a part of their culture) and who have loads of underground film and music movements fronting right in their neighbourhoods – from Punk Rock to Jungle or Drum N’ Bass. It’s easier for me to communicate with those kinds of people than those who try to take apart what you are doing. I’m like, what the fucking fuck? It’s all about creating new entities, baking a new fucking cake or creating a new mix for things. The new mix is the new entity. So that kind of background is essential for me to collaborate with the audience.
In support of the tour, you have a new single coming out on December 10th called ‘Supertheory of Supereverything’ – can you tell us a little about the song?
Humour is the engine of survival. This applies to all matters including the existentialist philosophy of life, which I fucking hate. I suppose the track is about a triumph over the existentialism, which is such a boring and dull philosophy. It has polluted so much. I suppose in a post war environment it seemed to make a lot of fucking sense, but it’s still going on so slowly. It’s really time to fucking erase it.
Many people appear to have the perception that Gogol Bordello is being purely about entertainment, but there is a much darker side to your lyrical content, for example, the track Zina-Marina is about the increasing disappearance of beautiful women in the Ukraine over the last 10 years, and the massive increase of young Eastern European girls now working in brothels globally. Can we talk about this?
You know, with Ukraine being the epicentre of sex trafficking at this point, and me being from there, I couldn’t not write a song about that at some point. It’s just so in your face. I wanted to find a way of doing it, but in a Gogol Bordello way, because just making a political commentary is not enough, or so called raising the awareness. I don’t believe in raising the motherfucking awareness; I believe in getting down and making a difference y’know, so our method was always more extreme; that’s why the track is presented as a scary tale but over upbeat music. This is to make it literally frightening. It’s told from the perspective of a drunken Eastern European Cop who knows about everything going on, but lets it happen. For him it’s kind of a pay day. It’s a nonchalant reality for him. Its more frightening listening to this than reading statistics about it…
I’ve read that your latest album ‘Super Taranta!’ has the concept of N.R.I (New Rebel Intelligence) running through it, but what is this?
It’s a philosophical tactic that our band pursues; it’s about independence of thought. Gogol Bordello is like a massive information processing society. We are all from such different backgrounds and we all come with different interests, but most of those interests are humanitarian and based on human rights and spirit. All these different rebel minds come together to join forces and that’s the new rebel intelligence and that’s the driving spirit of Gogol Bordello.
The band’s sound has often been described as Gypsy Dub Punk, and you are renowned for fusing different genres of music together, but I wondered if there were any styles of music you wouldn’t consider playing?
Oh Lord, I don’t really think of it as styles. Anything can come in at a moment; I definitely don’t discriminate against any style.
Your appearance with Madonna at Live Earth has been well documented, but I believe you are also starring in her directorial debut, in the short film “Filth and Wisdom”, due out early 2008 – can we talk about this?
I think it will be a very sweet film. There are a lot of youthful and fresh dynamics in it. There are a few characters based around my character, which is playing the singer from Gogol Bordello; these other characters are trying to make their way through this existentialist confusion, going on their dream energy or power. It’s set in London. It’s good…
Gogol Bordello celebrates global gypsy culture. So if you could grant one wish to gypsies all over the world, what would it be?
If we were just left alone and to let our original ways be, that would be fucking fantastic.
Lyrically, do you write in Ukrainian or English?
Whatever you hear in Ukranian is written that way and the same with the English parts. I like to keep stuff in the original way that it came out of me.
Phill Jupitus described your sound as being “like the Clash and the Pogues having a fight in Eastern Europe”. What’s the best quote you’ve heard about yourself?
There is just so many of them (laughs), but that’s a pretty good one…
As we are fast approaching Christmas; are there any traditions or rituals you like to celebrate?
Actually I’ll probably be in Brazil at that time, not really thinking much about Christmas. I’m going there with my girlfriend to relax…
You play here just before then, is there a particular present you would like from your Norwich audience?
Well, I suppose, just bring gifts and offerings (laughs).
Touring appears to be a way of life, but how do you keep yourself focused whilst on these relentless road jaunts?
For us, with the nature of the band, that’s the most important thing. Out of everything, the most important thing is the music and the shows, so that’s everyone’s focus and everything revolves around that. Naturally our minds are always working in that direction. We are a very family spirited operation…so that keeps us focused.
Regarding your track called ‘Alcohol’ – can we assume that this is your biggest vice?
I manage it so we can be friends. I think my family has better stamina for it than others though…Cognac (laughs)!!!
On a lighter note, the most famous Ukrainian in the UK is probably Andriy Shevchenko; I wondered in a ring, could you have him?
Erm, he’d probably knock me down in one hit…yep, he’d knock me down…in one hit!
Finally, how do you want to be remembered?
Probably just as a simple man from Ukraine…