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Gogol Bordello's 'biblical' desert disc
Eugene Hutz mulls the global influences behind the 'gypsy punk' troupe's latest full-length

By Melinda Newman
Special to MSN Music

They weren't wandering for 40 days and 40 nights, but band leader Eugene Hutz compares recording Gogol Bordello's sixth album, "Pura Vida Conspiracy," to "some kind of biblical desert situation."

The collective, who pretty much has the "gypsy punk" genre all to themselves, sequestered themselves in a studio in El Paso. "We were basically in a desert, like where people go away to receive the message and you have absolutely no distractions and the focus and attention are very important," he recalls.

That intensity and purity of purpose shines through on the album, with Ukrainian-born Hutz and his magical band of musicians from all corners of the globe creating a rambunctious, loose-limbed, colorful collection that celebrates life.

Hutz talked to MSN Music from Paris, shortly before the band was set to take the stage. His mind is as all-encompassing as the group's wide-ranging music, as he surfed from topic to topic. Gogol Bordello is on tour in North America through mid-August.

MSN Music: From the opening track, "We Rise Again," the album deals with the indomitable human spirit. Was that your goal?

Eugene Hutz: Absolutely. [On] the album, not only the message is uplifting, but the album was also recorded in a very uplifted condition of the band. As a matter of fact, the most uplifting it's ever been. [It's] something that happens usually when the band really gels together and starts listening to each other. It's kind of a cumulative feeling, a cumulative feeling that we arrive as a band, as a family, to a point of true communication and now that we're hearing each other, we're capable of a better communication artistically.

Listening Booth: hear the new album

To what do you attribute the band getting to that point of true communication?

Ooh fa fa. A lot happened. It's an accumulation of not only playing and not only being together for a long time, but it's also an accumulation of a lot of psycho-drama that eventually gets transmuted into something beautiful. If I would use more of an ancient language, it's the ability to understand chaos as a form of order.

So much of the Gogol Bordello experience comes from seeing the band live. How did you capture that in energy in the studio?

We make a point of recording live, and that's the bare bones of it. The whole band always plays in one big room with as much eye contact as possible. And at the same time, it's almost too romantic to view it like that, like it all just happens because we have eye contact. There's a lot of professional musicality that goes on in there. There's a lot of work behind it. It is indeed a beautiful thing to imagine that a band walks into a studio and it all just happens, but, in all honesty, I assure you that nothing like that ever happened on the planet [laughs].

You've put together players from all different backgrounds. As the ringleader, is it your job to then allow each of them to flourish in their own way?

Absolutely. That's been kind of the origin of Gogol Bordello. I was always very fond of Jim Jarmusch as a director because even such beautiful masterpieces as "Down by Law" or other movies he's done, they have a very loose script. Actually, I feel like there's no script at all. If you bring in amazing powerful personalities, like Tom Waits or John Lurie or Roberto Benigni, who the f--- needs a script? [laughs]

More: Gogol Bordello in New This Week

You still DJ all over the world when you have the chance. How does that influence what you bring back to Gogol Bordello?

Who the f--- knows? I mean, literally, how would you know? [Laughs] How would you know when any person who's talking next to you on a cellphone subconsciously actually influences you or any car that passes by with some kind of beat coming out of it might be a beginning of a new song? There's a big cooker in the subconscious mind. What happens there, only Lord knows.

You've been going back to your native Ukraine in recent years. Why?

Some reasons were romantic and some were just actually opening up a venue in Kiev. A real musical venue that's going to be a powerful musical laboratory for local musicians and musicians from Latin America and bands from New York and London. I was just at the point where I wanted to unite all my experiences. But, you know, as far as some kind of nostalgic reasons, I'd be very suspicious about that because I went back to Ukraine after living in Latin America for five years, after 12 years in New York, and I went back there to realize that I will never be Brazilian, I will never be Argentinian, just like I will never be Ukrainian.

You're talking about being an outsider in all these places. Where do you feel most at home?

I feel at home most in New York City because it's a city that accepts any identity. It's a really f---ing annoying thing in the world, everywhere you go people are [relying] on their national identity or some kind of thing. Essentially, they are using that to feel superior, and every dictatorship [and] government is really happy to keep promoting that idea.

Those tags often divide us instead of unifying us, and your music seems to be all about unifying, right?

Any great music really will destroy any boundaries, and this is where it really gets interesting because by mixing all these cultures together and bringing it to various places, you kind of make, at first, a lot of people pretty uncomfortable and shocked. It's "How can you do that and just throw that beat with that melody and kind of mistreat the tradition?" And all that kind of worthless jazz [laughs]. All the purist talk. But then the interesting part is when everybody says, "Wow, I felt so free in these two hours. It's just amazing," and it's like, yeah, because this music destroys your identity. That's why you felt so free, because you weren't tormented by your baggage and your mind and your plans for the future and your living in the past. You know what minds can do.

Bing: Gogol Bordello

You recently played Metallica's Orion Festival. It may seem like you don't ave that much in common with metal bands, but you both share an intensity and passion.

We've played a lot of metal fests, and there's a big reason for that. It's a music that's high-energy and it's a music that exists regardless of radio, regardless of TV, regardless of press. It's a music that has a wide audience regardless of that. ... People love pure powerful music; it's therapeutic for them. No matter what you say and no matter what you do, you cannot convince people to buy certain things or look a certain way, but their body and their soul knows whether it feels good or not.

Melinda Newman is the former West Coast bureau chief for Billboard magazine. She has covered music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, MSN, AOL Music, Hitfix.com, Variety, People Country and other outlets. Recent interviews include Taylor Swift, Susan Sarandon, Pink, Jeff Bridges, Brad Paisley, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Carly Simon.

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