Saturday, July 21, 2007

INTERVIEW & PHOTOS: Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello - Plus GB @ Irving Plaza 7/20 - PART 2

Continued from Part 1...

-On being a movie star & filmmaker
-On the Madonna experience
-On a Gypsy presence at Live Earth
-On tuning in and turning on the celebration

On being a movie star & filmmaker

I'm going to switch gears a little bit. I know that Gogol Bordello is your main focus now,
but you've also become a really well-known person, not just in the music scene, but also
around the world for other projects you've done outside the band. Like for instance, you
played one of the leading roles in one of my all-time favorite movies, "Everything is

Thank you so much!

Yeah, I'm serious, it really is one of my Top 10 of All Time. I absolutely loved it.

Well, I try to keep a low profile, I'm sorry.

(laughs) Do you foresee doing any more projects like that? I understand you've recently
completed a documentary.

Yeah, that's actually coming out on September 3rd. That's about Gypsy camps. That's
about several things, but most of it is about Gypsy camps in Ukraine.

And where are you from in the Ukraine?

I'm from Kiev.

Were you looking for your family who might still be there?

I'm actually very exact and certain where all of them are. I know. So I was trying to find
extended family. Because most of our family they all moved out from that area in the
mountains where all the Romanis came from in my family. They all moved to Estonia, or
Russia, or some of them are in Germany, or parts of Kiev. We were very aware of
where. But I was trying to find the extended family that goes back to like my
grand-grand-grandparents. But when I got there it was like, well, of course they
remembered the ones that left like 10-15 years ago. But when I said like, do you know
who else by thelast name of Hütz that moved here, they said there are like 40 families by
the last name of Hütz in every village!

How long were youfilming?

It was probably about a month journey.

Well that's not too much time. It was proabably just about the right amount to bite off all
at once, right?

Well, it's a good film. It was already presented at many festivals. It was already shown at
Barbican, which is one of the biggest Gypsy festivals in the world. In London. It was
shown there, and a lot of Gypsies were basically psyched because it was showing
Gypsies in a just straight ahead way. There was no romanticizing. It was just an insider's
look, you know? There was no exaggeration. We were just basically knocking on the
doors and walking in on people.

And how did they react to having cameras in their homes?

On the Madonna experience

You know you have to watch out for that. Everything is in the film. If I was going to get
welcomed, I was going to get welcomed. And if I was going to get my ass kicked...  And
acting, I just did another movie. I had a leading role in a film called "Filth and Wisdom."
That was directed by Madonna.

Left: "Ultimate," at NY's Irving Plaza, 7/20;   Right: "La Isla Bonita," with Madonna @ Live Earth

Really? I'm curious, because I know that you just performed with her at Live Earth, which
was a huge audience, and great exposure.

It was seen by every 3rd person in the world!

What's the Madonna experience like? How did you come to meet her? Did she seek you

Well, I had heard for years that she was a huge fan of Gogol Bordello. Originally, she
heard it through Liev Schreiber. And I always heard about it, but eventually, I heard in
person! And she said she had a film in mind, and she would love to have me do the
leading role. And I said to myself, Madonna directing me acting is going to be great. It's
going tobe out of control.

I can't even imagine!

You know, it's pretty much my character. I'm basically playing the singer from Gogol
Bordello. And the whole band is in it. And of course every morning I'd go there holding
my guitar and whatever... There will be my guitar. There will be freestyle Gypsy jam.
We're both musicians, we're both singers, and she really likes these songs that we're
singing. It ended up being, for Live Earth, just us freestyling, and improvising. I was
singing my songs, you know my Gypsy songs, and you know, she found a way to work
her song in. [Note: La Isla Bonita]

And it's a really great match, the way that it was orchestrated.

It was like completely spontaneous. It was like 10 days before the Wembley show that it
came together. And you know, we had all it takes to make it happen. I was there, she
had the last spot...

(laughs) and the dancers...

She had the beats, I had the melodies. Everybody was psyched about it. And to think
about it, everyone enjoyed it. Ever since then my phone has been ringing with
from Ukraine, and fans from the States, and from Russia, and my friends call me like
celebrating. They were like, "Hey man, you got Madonna to sing in Gypsy, that's crazy!"
Cuz you know those were all Romaniwords. You know? And I was like, "Yeah man,
that's what I do!"

So when is the film going to come out?

It's going to come out I think in the beginning of next year. It's a really sweet,
philosophical comedy. Fun fun fun fun, definitely. She's so fun to work with, you know?

Is she? Cuz you hear a lot about what a hard worker she is...

She's a totally hard worker, but it's dynamic. And it's like ideas non-stop. So sign me up!
That's what I like, and you know, itwas like, Gogol Bordello, that's a bunch of hard
workers, if you want to talk about hard work. That was a perfect live match.

And a match no one's ever seen before. I mean it really is unique.

On a Gypsy presence at Live Earth

Yeah, andhow many people would expect that? That's what I like, you know, to
challenge the people watching their televisions, including the die-hard. But you know, the
response has been so amazing. For people in Eastern Europe, it's like a cultural
breakthrough, you know. To have somebody like Madonna give us a spot to shine and
represent our culture. On such a scale.

Every demographic! You really are cutting across everyone by playing with her.

Because for us, for Romanis to be seen as a positive force in global affairs, to play Live
Earth, is a whole other step. I mean the shit that we have to deal with. And even moreso
the actual people who live still in the camps, you know? I mean, I made my way to be a
cultural representative. I am an entertainer. I live life of a rock and roll musician... I'm
more celebrated than them. Only once in a while will somebody show up at a show and
start handing out fucking pamphlets about white power...

Does that actually happen at shows?

Yeah, it happened twice, actually.

That's incredible.

Yeah, but you know, they are so outnumbered that they usually just leave, without a big deal.

That's unbelievable, in this day and age.

Actually, in Ukraine it's the worst that it's been. Like skinhead riots in Gypsy villages. And
in Romania, yeah, it's the worst. For us to be able to represent on a scale that goes under
the skin of the crowd is the last step toward altering Romani perception, you know what I mean?

I imagine your documentary will be a big step towards helping with that, too.

Yeah, well I don't know if every third person in the world is going to see it, but it wasn't
definitely meant like that. It's too radical for that. But it's good to be heard, you know? I
mean, of course Gogol Bordello is always going to be a special band, and with as big of
an audience as it gets and as big of a story, it's still a very unique band, that was never
continually close to making it. But it's good to be able to penetrate this far, and see who
else wants to join the party.

It also says a lot about her, about Madonna, being so on top of what's happening in

And she always has been that, that's for sure.

Yeah, and it's like now everybody's acting like we've just flown out of the sky and we're
like everybody's Christmas present. You know, but we've been around for nearly a
decade, and we've been touring with an illegal number of people in the band for years.
And it became, ok, now we have amuch better real touring bus and a crew, but there is
still an illegal amount of people on the bus. So everything just has two lanes.

But she knew about us years before, so everybody now realizes it's Christmas.

Well I am just so happy for you, because it really seems like the momentum is underway
and carrying you guys forward, and now you have this big tour in front of you. So it
seems like the timing is just perfect.

Yeah, I mean I think that some birds you chase, and some birds just land on your shoulder.

That's a great way of looking at it.

But you know, at the end of the day, people respect the whole odd character, you know.
Because for humanity, that's one of the things we can probably take pride on, is that we
actually have the ability to not give up that easily, actually. People are pretty strong, you
know. They want to celebrate, you know? They want to celebrate the depth of character.

On tuning in and turning on the celebration

And your music is all about celebration. It's rawkus and high-energy. You can't help but
smile and want to jump around.

Well, that's the good side of life, and all I want to do is share it, and turn people on. It's
very contagious.

That's a great word for it.

It's actually scientifically totally explained. It's the way we tune in to frequencies. If you're
tuned wrong, you're going to be suffering. By tuning yourself to a different chord, your
feelings are music. In our case, that's our area of expertise. That's what fans are
driving two hours for. They're not really driving two hours fora show and for the band.
They're driving for something that gets them tuned in and lasts the next six months. That's
what the experience is all about. It's a shamanistic act. It's a soul catharsis. It's a way of
tuning into something that sustains for a long time. That's why people get addicted to
certain things, because that's what makes them feel a certain way, and it's great so far.
And I'm just like that.

And music is transporting. Well, like I said, I'm so excited for you. And I get to see you
on July 20th! I can't wait, I'll be right up in front.

Well comebackstage and we'll have a drink!

Excellent, I will! Thank you! And thanks so much for taking so much time to talk with me.
Good luck with the album release today!

Thank you.

Gogol Bordello @ Irving Plaza 7/20/07

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