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
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
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.
To what do you attribute the band getting to that point of true
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
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
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]
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
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.
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
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