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Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello Interview

December 28, 2017

Only five months have passed since we last down with Eugene Hütz, but the intervening period has been a busy one for him. His band, Gogol Bordello, recently launched their seventh full-length studio album, “Seekers and Finders”, and they have been touring it across North America and Europe relentlessly ever since the end of the festival season. However, if this busy schedule has taken its toll on their frontman, he hides it well. A Ukrainian native who has spent the past few years living in Brazil, Hütz clearly doesn’t agree with the cold British December; he wears two thick coats over his stage attire, and complains about the weather all the way to the bus, where he makes sure to turn all of the heaters up to maximum before sitting down...

Noizze: So you’ve been fairly busy since the last time we spoke, right? How’s the tour going this time round?

 

Eugene Hütz: It’s always pretty busy here. I mean, that’s just the way things go. It’s busy in the head and in the heart, so everything else is just a reflection on that.

 

Noizze: So you’ve had the new album dropped as well? What have the reactions to that been like; how are people taking it?

 

Hütz: The reviews have been amazing. The best reviews we’ve ever gotten actually, and it’s of course only a simple modest reflection of the fact that I produced the record *laughs*. Well, I did produce it, but I think that the band is just so well-oiled. It’s that time when everything is cooking in its own juice and everything just falls into place without it having a particular struggle, I’d say. Plus honestly I think that the kind of great reviews are reading into a fundamental criteria of anything that has good response, which is complete unity of mind and soul. I think that this album captures that well and, I mean, that’s why I took all this time to get off the industry treadmill and deliver some kind of fucking deadline – no; just taking all the time in the world really.

 

Noizze: To deliver something you’re happy with?

 

Hütz: To deliver and to make a record that’s essentially made in a condition of experiencing, you know, not making some kind of magic on a tape. But, experiencing so-called “magic” while doing it, that’s really the most important thing. So it’s kind of really about that, soaking in that whole chemical frame of mind.

 

Noizze: Sure, so what do you like about album most other than that you’ve produced it? Is there something that stands out as something you really like about it?

 

Hütz: Well, I mean, I just love the process of sculpting and it’s really a quite fulfilling; really the most fulfilling experience one can have… if he is me *laughs*. No I mean the incredible satisfactions that people have from, like, an architect completing a castle, or raising a great family. It’s really up there with that, the fulfilment to a great kind of degree, you know?

 

Noizze: So when you’re on tour and here in the tour bus, what do you do? What’s the average day for you like?

 

Hütz: Well my life on tour is not so different from my life not on tour. It’s just like, I am busy being me. That’s pretty much a full time commitment, and uh… Read half a book a day, watch a great film, internal work. Mostly internal work, I mean, it’s kind of a thing that I think, with the shadow that follows us around that’s like being a mega extroverted bunch. And the truth is that it’s only half of the truth. The truth is we are all kind of personalities that become full force extroverted and then full force introverted, and it’s kind of like that on a daily basis. Writing is my dominant activity, which is part of the internal work, but other things that are just kind of in the realm of contemplation and meditation and all that sort of thing is a huge part of my daily life, it has always been. It’s, I’ve kind of mastered it to the point where I can go on the road without disrupting my domestic flow of things: keep writing, corresponding, experiencing, turning out essentially new artwork.

 

Noizze: It’s not just work all the time then?

 

Hütz: There is no work; I don’t look at it as work. I hate that word actually. I go to bed around eight in the morning, so, when the concert is happening that’s like before my lunch. And whether I choose a night to be social or introverted is really a mood thing, but the hours are immense for that. When everybody goes home my day begins basically.

 

Noizze: Gogol Bordello has a reputation as being a band that likes to have a big party or an afterparty after the show; how much of that is true and how much is reputation?

 

Hütz: Well I already kind of answered that question, I think that there is really no such a musician who doesn’t like a party in its full swing. So let’s say we like is a little bit extra. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there is this whole other way of life beyond it. The actual real truth about it is I hate fucking party, that’s why I became a DJ, you know. There is absolutely no interest in standing around and making loud verbal noises, surrounded by nervous people. That’s what party is actually; that’s what Leonard Cohen was saying actually, I just saw it in an interview, his son invited him to a party and he was like: “I’m so relieved watching all these people completely neurotic, trying to sell some kind of idea of themselves to everything else, and I’m just standing there watching; so glad that I don’t have to do that.” I have always never had to do that, because I would always go to a party and be like: “fuck this, let’s start playing music, and make it happen; make it into a debauchery of some sort.” That’s the mechanics of how I really approach the party, it had nothing to do with wasting the fucking time away.

Also, a lot of times there’s just this party overtone. Someone actually sampled me saying the word “party” with DJ tracks, like I found a CD like that, I just bought one of them in Switzerland, a gypsy party CD. And so, it was like, it was taken from the “Gypsy Punks” record I get it, where I say it once. *laughs* But anyway…

 

Noizze: On the travelling note, is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go that you haven’t been to?

 

Hütz: Well I mean I haven’t really been that many places. I mean, most of the world: Africa, Asia, Middle East, Antarctica, large parts of Latin America; I’ve never been there. I mean compared to the average person that’s been some places, and it can be said that, you know, “I’ve been around the world with my band” but, have I really? I dunno.

 

Noizze: Most of the Western World then, obviously?

 

Hütz: Well I mean, you have to understand that when you go places these days it’s essentially quite similar. I mean, it’s pretty basic knowledge. So you know, your experience in like Eastern Europe or Western Europe or Canada can be quite similar, or Argentina for that matter. It’s not really that different. Same brands of food, same corporations running the show, I’d say that places that really stand out that I’ve been to is definitely Brazil. That has a quality of distinctly something else, even though they have all the same brands and all those corporations, but I think the soil and the people and the climate and culture is so drastically life-giving that, it actually does stand out as: “wow, that is something else.” That is why I spent seven years in Brazil. It's the country I went up and down left and right and could never get enough of it.

 

Noizze:  I’ve never been down there, but from what you were just saying, do you think it’s a bit sad when you go back to Ukraine or somewhere and you see all these big American companies everywhere? I was in Ukraine over the summer and the first thing I noticed when I left Odessa station was the big McDonalds outside it. Does that get depressing sometimes?

 

Hütz: Oh you were? Well, I’m not a fan of McDonalds, that’s for sure.

 

Noizze: Me neither.

 

Hütz: *claps*, well the thing is, what’s the alternative? There is no instant alternative. I mean, the local economy is destroyed; it doesn’t exist. There is no kind of strata. Suppose you are the most well-intended businessman who is gonna go out there, of local origin, who is gonna go out there and set up a company, and hire all the most well-spirited people. And, this particular time, I’d say it’s we’re looking at another twenty, at least another two decades, for a kind of seed of something else to emerge. You know, McDonalds is a terrible alternative, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s banal to bitch about that. It’s like, you know, it’s too late to bitch about that, first of all. And it’s depressing to see McDonalds in the middle of New York City. It’s not about that, it’s about that people don’t know what quality is. And where would they know it from? Like, where would a new generation’s idea of taste come from? From their parents? But how, when their parents were also raised on trash. Like, how would that happen?

 

Noizze: I guess people can go and experience it themselves and find it.

 

Hütz: Exactly, you said it, experience. Now, who the fuck is going to experience anywhere, anything, if the minute they wake up, they are gonna turn on their phone and disappear into it. That’s their experience. Their uniform experience, we are living in a time of Nazi zombies. People think it’s some kind of science-fiction, but it’s full-out reality. So, umm, it’s very strange because even if you take the idea of lineage of quality, it has been dissolved. You can’t see it in any aspect. Take rap music: when hip hop appeared, you know it was like “wow this is the new punk rock”, it was; it had an experiential quality to it. It had a lotta substance, and it had a… It had you know, an emotional legitimacy. And what’s most importantly, even what’s more drastically different from it was funk itself, all these musicians, you know, Public Enemy, NWA, Grandmaster Flash, they kept talking about how much they are coming from James Brown, and how much they are coming from jazz, like that’s their roots. It’s in funk, it’s in jazz, it’s in poetry, it’s in Malcolm X, they were excited the day they made this new form of…

 

Noizze: Music?

 

Hütz: Just voice. Now there is like a civil war inside of the rap scene, because the whole new generation of artists who can actually, none of whom can rap, who are not even interested in any of that lineage. Like, they are completely ignorant of it, and what’s more they are not even interested to find out. That I think is fucking really amazing, in a terrifying way. So you know, there you fucking have it man.

 

Noizze: Since we’re talking about new music, what’s in the future for Gogol Bordello do you think? Any new sounds, I mean, you’re doing this brass section thing with Lucky Chops; is that gonna stick around or?

 

Hütz: I hate these kind of questions. Everything you see, is a subject of change. It’s just the way life is. It’s like I am wearing this jacket now, will I be wearing it next time I see you? Everything you witness that we do it’s like, make no mistake about it it’s a special occasion.

 

Noizze: It’s very much in the now?

 

Hütz: Have you ever seen us coming over here with the same lineup with the same show?

 

Noizze: No.

 

Hütz: Well there you have it, there’s your answer. Do I try to go and methodically find something new so I can make it new? No. It’s new because it’s new all the time, because we are moving forward, that’s why it is new. It is new and it’s old at the same time, yeah.

 

Noizze: So change is good for you as people, as musicians?

 

Hütz: Well as well-known spiritual truth says there is only thing constant thing in life and it’s change. Tao Te Jing and Book of Changes, there is no kind of mystery about it, except that maybe, umm, you know, there’s a pretty well-known metaphor of things being a river. It’s always there, it’s always running, except I gotta say our river is running pretty fast. It’s not a pretty slow river.

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