A Chat With Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello

With a history of delivering high-energy sold-out shows worldwide across multiple continents, and a reputation for being some of the biggest party animals on the international punk/folk scenes today, I had absolutely no idea what to expect for my interview with Gogol Bordello before their performance at Leeds Beckett Student’s Union. I arrived at the venue in good time, only to be told by their tour manager that they were overrunning, but that I was welcome to sit at the side and listen in on the sound check until they were ready for me. Eventually, the door beside me opens, and the tall figure of Eugene Hütz emerges through them, saunters over to me, and introduces himself with a mischievous-yet-welcoming grin. The language barrier is present, so Hütz takes the time to speak slowly to ensure that he is understood, but this does not become an issue as we discuss a range of topics from tour life to politics with the rest of the band loudly sound checking behind us.

Noizze: So, how’s the tour going, to start with?

Eugene Hütz: This is the final cut, of the tour. It’s been five weeks!

N: Five weeks?

E: Yeah… Now it’s just straight nice line which is UK, France, and Italy, so the food is gonna be getting progressively better and better.

N: Better than in the UK?

E: Well… *laughs*, that’s known! But that balances out with very pumping crowds of UK, who are always great to us. And uh, another thing is that… all the crazy festival flying is already over. Uh, three days ago was the end of that stretch where we did three shows, in three different countries, in thirty four hours! Imagine playing Sweden, festival, at 7pm; next day playing in Slovakia, around 5 or something; then getting on the chartered plane again and going to Hyde Park. So by the time we get off the stage in Hyde Park it was something…

N: And were you awake the whole time?

E: No. We kinda learn how to do that thing. But it was… it’s funny because at the end of those stretches is when you end up partying more than fucking ever! Just when you think like all I wanna do is recharge and maybe go get horizontal… That’s when a twelve hour party awaits! *laughs*

N: Oh wow… And you’ve got the new album coming out soon as well?

E: Yeah.

N: Is that all recorded?

E: It’s mixed and it’s gonna be on your table in about five weeks. It’s coming out on August 25th.

N: All ready to go then! So is that going like the last couple of albums with a more Latin sound away from the Eastern European stuff you used to do?

E: No not at all! It’s a lotta uncharted territory that’s kinda getting covered here.

N: So it’s a completely new sound, or?

E: Yeah we’re going for like Gypsy-Christ Superstar now, with like, Kraftwerk arrangements. Like, *laughs*, yeah you know what it's… Back to the root, but, in a more… Sufficient advanced way. So recently it’s been… Personally for me it’s all about capturing this, what people call magic. So, the word is beat up and banal, but let’s… Whatever word you find for it.

N: So while we’re talking about the roots, how often do you and the guys get to go back to your cultural roots with music or in person?

E: Several times a year.

N: So do you think your music inspires other people to do that? To go and explore cultures and parts of the world that they never would otherwise?

E: That’s what we’ve been told, yeah. It’s not really our intent or anything like that. It’s just one of the things that happens I think.

N: Completely accidentally then?

E: Maybe not completely accidental. Any kind of art activity is kinda there to provoke the… Dialogue with the other side let’s say.

N: So sort of, trying to promote dialogue between people from different parts of the world?

E: I mean the other side, as, not this world, as the other side. And I think that’s really… where it’s at, actually.

N: Okay sure. So you’re mentioning that you’re trying to go for bit of a new sound with the album, are there any new instruments and things we haven’t seen before? Because you’ve got quite a frenzied line up, instrument-wise.

E: We don’t need any new instruments, god forbid Jesus Christ! *laughs* I’m joking, but, yes there are new instruments but it’s not really about that it’s never been limited to any instruments to begin with. It’s more to…

N: Whatever comes up at the time?

E: It’s a more propelling [and] dynamic thing to drive that particular song. You know? Because the song… It’s pretty much a completed soul already when it arrives. And then you like for like how to put that song on a pedestal. You know, there are bands that do well with just having a formula. Some great bands like The Ramones and The Cure you know it’s basically just one song, it’s just that thing and it’s all you get. We don’t have a formula. It’s like Rubik’s cube: you have to constantly put it together and, it takes gigantic amount of time.

N: So when you’re writing your just sort of experiment and see what happens?

E: It has to be an adventure. I… don’t see it any other way *he gets up to make a coffee*… So, there are some elements of course that kind of glue together; make it recognisable, but uh… Even that is a kind of a myth. Like listen to this *gestures to the stage where the rest of the band are playing a new song*

N: Okay, yeah, it’s quite different from what you’ve been doing.

E: Like where did that came from? From the space.

N: So it all just comes to you?

E: Yeah, sure, to us! *laughs*

N: The other thing I wanted to ask is, because you’re quite a multicultural band, is it kind of depressing to see the xenophobia that’s coming out of America and Europe these days?

E: Ahm… No. It’s not come around, it’s always been there. It’s just getting... exposed.

N: So you think it’s always been there and people are just noticing it more?

E: Well yes. Which is the good thing; that means there will be reaction to that. When it’s unexposed, it is just there without any reaction. Is like an undetected cancer.

N: And do you think your music helps with that? When you’ve got songs like "Immigraniada"?

E: Well, I think it certainly may help some people feel more at home in any environment, that’s what I gather from the feedback… It’s made for us to feel home. So, we don’t make propagandistic work to make some kinda social impact. Or any artist who tells you that they are kinda making some kinda work to, particularly with some particular purpose of social or political impact, you can just like punch ‘em in the face. That’s not what’s behind it. It’s a very highly individualistic pursuit that can be masked as this or that. Uh… And the bottom of it I think that soul is out there, fighting, not fighting necessarily, but expressing its own uniqueness individuality. It can use a lot of different masks, like David Bowie, you know? But then people with a low denominator, people grab to the lowest denominator of it and go “yeah that… David Bowie said like Sieg Heil” or something, no he fucking didn’t. *laughs* He never did! You know? It’s absolutely no political agenda.

N: So you think it’s just people seeing messages where they aren’t there?

E: Yeah, I mean so there’s a lot of paranoid people out there. It’s always good to scrape that kind of a… Agenda off I think. Because politics they don’t exist, it’s a huge ghost! You know, it’s like kiosk with newspaper and today it’s this and tomorrow it’s that but basically the same. Nah, there’s not whole lotta difference… Uh, process of change is very slow so.

N: Back to Gogol Bordello then, it’s ten years of “Super Taranta” this year.

E: Oh yeah!

N: I saw you posting on social media a while ago that you’re not gonna do a tenth anniversary tour, was that always the plan or did you think about it one time?

E: I didn’t think about doing “Gypsy Punks” reunion it just came up, I wasn’t counting the years to that. Just offers came to do that, and no, at that moment it seemed to be right thing to do because the original drummer was available, and it just seemed like a great fun thing to do, and uh, Pamela Racine who was [the] original girl in the band, she was available at that time. You know so we all just kinda jumped in on that rocket, you know?

N: So do you still try and get the old band members back together when you can?

E: But the old members are here!

N: But you’ve had a few lineup changes over the last few years, haven’t you?

E: Well, I think that’s normal when you have nine people in a band. I mean, when you have four people in a band one of them is gonna go probably within several years. When you have nine? If they don’t, something is wrong perhaps. Because people get, they wanna go start family, people wanna go do other things. Yeah, it’s no mandatory…

N: Is it just the life of constantly being on tour? You tour quite a lot don’t you?

E: I don’t know… I feel like a pretty horrible life if I were constantly on tour like, why the fuck would I wanna do that? *laughs*

N: So you don’t think you’re doing it too much?

E: Uh, I think that um… eight/nine month of the year off the tour is a pretty good indicator of where it’s actually at. I think that sometimes people get this kinda like… idea, I dunno where they get it, that Gogol Bordello is like this one-eyed beast that’s always on tour. That is just… Never been true.

N: So you get a decent amount of time off as well?

E: Everything is on stage is an expression that gets conceived in a very humble, quiet… Environment. Like, Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro, which is where I spend the last six years. Then the enraged souls take their feelings about the world, and display it. But it has nothing to do with some kind of a trademill… touring… Who fucking wants to do that? It’s quite, when you get on tour it’s like an adventure, it’s like a crusade, and then it’s exciting in every form. But it’s because you’ve missed it that much.

N: It’s an adventure for a few weeks and then you need some time off?

E: Absolutely. It could never be any other way, yes.

N: Last thing before I let you go, especially now that we’re in the age of the internet and everyone’s trying to compete and there’s lots of kids trying to be upcoming musicians, do you have any advice on how to be original with that?

E: Ah… Who? *laughs* I don’t have any advice, to anybody, on any level, that’s for sure. I don’t believe in any advice. And I’ve never taken any advice. Um… Originality certainly doesn’t come from taking any advice. What I can tell you is that the age of technogenic communication and interaction... It’s sorta, a slaughter of originality for sure. Just look at your options when you’re presented with any kind of new picture display... You used to have like or don’t like, and now you can like or not, and that’s your fucking options right there. Smells a little bit like age of Nazi zombies, fuck yeah, welcome to it. That’s exactly what it is; the whole fucking breakdown is accumulating to. So, to get any kind of originality going in the age of Nazi zombies, that’s gonna take a little more effort, than say in the seventies or eighties, you know?

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