Gogol Bordello, the incomparable pioneers of the Gypsy Punk movement, played the first
show of their sold-out two-night stand at The Fillmore New York Irving Plaza on
7/20/07. Living up to their reputation as frenzy-makers, they played to an ecstatic crowd
who created a rabidly riotous party atmosphere, the likes of which I'd
rarely seen before.
In anticipation of the event, your very own TixGirl had the
tremendous good fortune to
interview Gogol Bordello's legendary
frontman/vocalist/guitarist/songwriter, Eugene Hütz.
He was generous with his
time with yours truly, so there's lots of juicy stuff to read.
Check out the most
Eugene's musical influences
the Gogol Bordello approach to songwriting
real Gypsy music
the band Beirut sucks
being a movie star & filmmaker
the Madonna experience
a Gypsy presence at Live Earth
tuning in and turning on the celebration
how are you doing?
I'm doing well. Covered
in sweat, actually. Today is the perfect day to talk, because
the release of our record.
on that! So you're currently out touring behind the new album. What
you tell us about "Super Taranta"?
actually kind of a supernova for us, because you know we play supermusic. And
time we wanted to make sure it was kind of full of epic stories
and a collection of instant
I understand that you
guys kind of coined the term "gypsy punk."
night I was basically sitting, thinking of how the hell to end this whole
journalists not knowing what to say to describe us, and
just getting tired of unnatural
descriptions. Stuff like
"klezmer-Russian-ska" and so on. And just wanted to say,
is the most driving forces of this band? What are the two
biggest inspirations? " And it's
autobiographical, so it's my
Romani heritage, and it's punk
You've said you come
from a punk rock background. How did you get into punk?
was already into rock and roll because of my Dad, back in Ukraine.
When he was
younger he was playing in a band, and I grew into a major
fan of his music, like the
Doors, and the Stooges, Rolling Stones,
Queen and whatever. Black Sabbath. But you
know, I just added my own
taste in music, like Devo, the Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols,
like that. So, I'd buy records on the black market.
started out quite innocently, actually, cuz I originally went to black market
stamps. You know, so I started out to collecting stamps, and I
made my way down to
buy stamps for different countries. But then I
actually switched to buying records.
went to the store looking for stamps and came home with
I came home with Devo and leather
jackets, and stuff like that.
classic! So where did your musical interests go from there? Because you really
pull in influences from all over. You've mentioned your Romani
heritage, punk rock, and
also ska. On this new album there seem to be
a lot of new influences, as well. I've even
seen some people refer to
it as a mixture of ska and Tool!
always come up with bizarre comparisons. I saw that one journalist said Gogol
mixed up System of a Down and Manu Chao! Which makes sense, you
There are some elements of Prog Rock, speed metal. And there's
that sound on some of
the more trademark tunes, like "Ultimate"
and "Forces of Victory". Like
truth of it is that the band and I never think about making it
all of this together and that together.
the Gogol Bordello approach to
What's the process
of writing music like for you guys? It sounds, to my ears,
something that would really come together in a jamming kind of
situation, as opposed to
sitting down and writing an entire song,
altogether. But I could be wrong about that.
will tell you exactly how it goes. There's no rules. Absolutely, it can start
from one word,
or it can start with a melody. The song itself. But I
write the song originally. I write all the
songs, but for me it's
important that they work on guitar already. I'll write the songs
test them at a party, or a dub safari. Then it's a matter of when
I see the reactions. When
I test a song and it turns out to be an
instant classic, then I bring it to the band. And there
it becomes completely
something else. There it starts taking on life and becomes
Bordello material. The musicians we have, everybody has a very
distinct personal style.
Amazing musicians, you
And they're from all over the world,
like Refugee Information Processing Central. So I write a song from my
and suddenly Yuri will strike a chord and take my
imagination and take it somewhere
else. Their personal styles start
expanding the material, and eventually we've boiled it to
composition. So it's a casual band where everybody gets a
It really comes across on stage.
This incredible high-energy performance. I mean you
guys are wearing
have to! Otherwise you know it would be a really traumatic experience.
(laughs) And being onstage shouldn't be
And it's also 9 people running
around stage like, fucking, the romper room in the match
know? You have to have some pads. I would actually also like to have
of those things that boxers have on their
(laughs) So you don't go running
into the bass drum, right?
though, to sing you know, you can't do that.
real Gypsy music
Yeah, it would
sound pretty funny. So I've noticed that it seems lately there's a sort
"nouvelle gypsy" movement in indie rock right now. You
know, bands from all over the
place bringing in accordions, and fiddles,
and brass, and all kinds of traditional
instruments. And it really
seems to me that you guys were the ones who paved the way
for this new
interest in traditional Gypsy music. Do you sense that there's kind of
burgeoning community right now?
that's actually been going on for quite a few years. If you look at it just
historical-wise, you'll see that Gogol Bordello has been doing it
for nearly 10 years. We
started in '97. I moved to NY '97 and
immediately went to the first club and saidthat I
needed a gig. Here I
am with my guitar. So they gave me 20 minutes on a Monday night.
from that gig I started accumulating following, just by myself. And it became
and then three, and so on, and so forth.
the point is that in the past there was a genuine breakthrough of that music.
idea was to make Gypsy music to be a part of subculture, to
bring it to kids, or into punk
rock and reggae, and to other forms of
music that come from social unrest. Because that's
music. And it's something that turns all negative energy into
Punk rock, reggae, gypsy music, that's what got me through.
That's music of social unrest
that comes from authentic social...
it's just from specific places where social unrest does exist. But I just
comment on the rest of the question. The whole original
cohort of those bands was
Taravteri Dukes, Mafar Chokerli, and Boban
Markovic. [Note: Please
hideous misspellings.] Those are bands from Eastern
Europe. And ours actually paved
the way toward a lot of
them. And we're all coming out at the same time. And at this
actually, it became a lot more massive, but there's a lot of people just trying
on the bandwagon, you know, people trying to catch on with the
popularity. And you can
easily tell those apart. They usually have,
you know, all their album covers look exactly
the same, and they don't
really know anything about Eastern Europe. It's just
the band Beirut sucks
as simple as just adding an accordion.
totally not that at all. So after a while, I thought this whole thing started
reflecting on us. And we decided to distance ourselves from it,
because reality is that we
always did our own thing. It was that we
have our own massive scene, and our own grass
roots following. And
that was due to our real fans. That was not due to press or
who made big posters for us, or anything.
authenticgrass roots following, and we've been playing to thousands of people for
Now we know our fans, and the communication we have with them. And then
this point, we think that distancing ourselves from that movement
is actually a better thing,
because a lot of those things are really
terrible, and actually just tasteless. You know like
fucking, Beirut is just like, even just purely from cultural point of view,
real crap. Because trying to expand, trying to come through
in so many ways, expanding
culture, and he's calling his record
"Gulag Orkestar." It's obviously someone that doesn't
it's like calling it "Auschwitz Band." It's obviously fucking
somebody who doesn't
know what those places are. And doesn't know
anything about anything. It's like for
people who think that, like, Israel
is Balkan. You know?
It comes from a
place of ignorance.
main thing about gypsy music is that it's fire. It's fire of catharsis. And we
We take it and we carry it. And we also make it more than
entertainment. We make it
"educ-tainment." You know? But
there is so much shit out there that not only can't be
it's just a complete disinformation. It's pseudo-Balkan, pseudo-gypsy.
just plain fucking crap. And that's why we've said that it's
probably much better off to be
content with being known as
"one-and-only." We don't really need all that
"Movement." We know who our friends are, and we know
who the real pioneers of this
music is, and the shows are unbeatable.
It's Mafar Chokerli, Taravteri Dukes, it's Kultur
to Part 2...