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By: Sarah L. Myers

Journalists make full use of the hyphen when writing anything about Gogol Bordello, the gypsy-punk-speed metal-Eastern European group, and their Renaissance front man, Eugene Hütz.

Eugene Hütz is the true definition of multifaceted. His talent is immeasurable in nearly every field he pursues. As an actor, he’s turned out comedic and affecting roles in “Everything is Illuminated” and “Filth and Wisdom” (Madonna’s directorial debut). He’s the subject of “The Pied Piper of Hützovina”, an intensely moving documentary which follows him as he retraces his heritage and culture in Kiev. Eugene fled the country shortly after the Chernobyl disaster, eventually finding his way to New York City when he was 17. In New York he fused his Gypsy roots with his passion for punk rock and Gogol Bordello was born.

With their second album, “Super Taranta!” at the top of every Best Of list in every magazine, Gogol Bordello are truly changing the landscape of the music scene. The live show is another experience altogether, with their pack of rabid fans transforming venues into soccer stadiums of universal chants and shirtless mayhem. It must be seen to be believed.

Thirsty caught up with Eugene just after he’d returned from Berlin, where he attended the “Filth and Wisdom” premiere with Madonna and friends

Photo by Mike D'Ariano

Thirsty: Last time I talked to you, in 2005, Gogol Bordello was also touring with a new album and you were promoting a film! You’ve become so successful since then! You guys have really exploded.

Eugene Hütz: Really? Um, well maybe it looks like it’s exploded for everybody else but nothing was overwhelming on my end of things. As a matter of fact I literally feel like it’s actually step by step by step and it really never, it’s always been engaged in full gears with lots of things. I guess the audience really accumulated to a bigger audience and it keeps accumulating. But my engagement with projects was always just as intense and high, you know? So that’s kind of how I feel about it. Nothing really changed that much for me.

I am still, you know, I’m writing new album and going on tour with an album and, you know, managed to make a film and same time, you know, starting a new side project with Romanian girl, you know? New electronic side project. So, and you know, and managed to fucking move to Brazil! Yeah, I’ve been living in Brazil lately! So I was just there for the past couple months and had basically experiencing face to face what I always dreamt about, Brazilian culture and its diversity and it’s just full on, indestructible celebratory way of life.

You were just in Berlin for the premiere of “Filth and Wisdom”? How did that go for you?

Yeah, I had to cut my Brazilian exploration and jet back to Berlin, you know? It was so absurd to come to Europe when this whole fucking thing was happening in South America! We had a lot of fun, you know, just like we had a lot of fun making a film, you know? And I think it’s quite obvious that we just made a kind of a Gonzo, beatnik, fun, optimistic film in three weeks, basically! I didn’t have a whole lot of time, I had to get back on the frontline with the band.

How did your experience making “Filth and Wisdom” differ from making “Everything is Illuminated”?

Every film you do will be different and it was just,

“Filth and Wisdom”, as I said, it was very spur-of-the-moment. Since we first talk about it with Madonna and to the point of starting to shoot with only several weeks and usually you know that movies are prepared for years and then they fucking never happen! They fall apart! So this was very different. This was like, ’ok I think we can do it! Alright, let’s fucking do it!’ It’s done!

You are also the subject of a new documentary, “The Pied Piper of Hützovina”.

Yeah, that’s a very special film. That is not only entertainment, for sure. This film can pull some strings you didn’t even know were there. It’s very, it’s a kind of a thing, I still have a lot of intense feelings about it because, I mean it goes right into the heart of my culture, you know? With all of it’s favorable and unfavorable sides. It was shot without any planning, it was just knock on the door and walk into people’s houses and if I was to be praised and celebrated, so that was happen, and if I was gonna kick my ass kicked, it was all that, too. I think the polarity is actually, the polarity is in the film, you know, and now that I have some distance from it I start to appreciate it!

Working on “Everything is Illuminated” was a very emotionally challenging experience for you. I image the documentary was even harder for you in that respect?

Well, I think that the documentary was probably emotionally the most draining because it just captures a journey with a bundle of dramas amongst people who are making it, you know? It’s like a broken romance with, and it’s all real, you know? It’s a broken romance and there’s a new romance in the same time. There is all this really, kind of, fucking feelings about your own habitat, you know? They are extremely mixed, so I say the documentary is the most emotionally intense. I think that work on a film as natural as I seem to be with the movie, it is still a big technical effort, simply because you have to fucking wake up at six in the morning every fucking day! That’s already a lot! That’s a lot, man!

“Super Taranta!” seems more mature and augmented than “Underdog World Strike”. Did that come from your experiences in going back to the Ukraine for this film?

I think that it was actually the “Super Taranta!” was in a lot of ways inspired actually by trip to Siberia, which is also in the documentary. It was a lot more than just Ukraine. I think just breaking out to a new plateau of Siberia, that was, you can hear it literally in lyrical references like in the first three, four songs, you can tell it’s in a way kind of this trans-Siberian Western! It’s just like a larger than life territories whose future is still unwritten actually. That’s what attract me, you know? I’m kind of torn apart between these condensed areas of civilization like New York and areas that are so indefinite and certain, like Siberia or Brazil. And I’m torn apart to the point of actually going there all the time and becoming part of it. It’s like, I’m too fucking there to be here entirely. That, I guess, is pretty…It’s just my global, the division of the globe is kind of arrived to a certain point when it was comprehensible, I suppose! That’s what you maybe see on the record, it has a more philosophical standpoint under the belt.

I think the band is a lot more in gear. We have new members in the band that bring a lot, you know? It’s much more serious bass force from Thomas (Gobena), you know, and now we’re building our written section with additional Latino-American musicians, you know. So I’m quite sure me living in Brazil will have an impact on next record. I mean, how can it not?

This record is a lot heavier in terms of the philosophical themes, but it also has a great balance with the playful songs like “Wonderlust King” or “American Wedding”. Did you go into it wanting it to be more balanced than the last record?

I don’t really analyze things like that. The world knows punk rock, which is my roots, and Gypsy music, which is my roots too, those are kind of music that are so immediate by their own nature that people who play them are not the people who strategize too much! It’s too instant for that.

So I think it’s more like, every record is a world, is it’s own thing. It documents a stage in biography, and every album is a kind of exploration of one particular spiritual plateau. In a way, time between the albums is always kind of a crisis for me! It’s like I explored this plateau and then I have to invent a new one, you know! So that’s why I always thought a perfect time for me to live was the Age of Exploration with Vasco da Gama and all those guys! There was plenty of fucking time to rock the plateaus back then! Now it’s like I have to fucking invent new plateaus and countries and cultures of my own and then discover them!

What other projects are you going to be working on after this tour?

Well, I have a project, a new electronic project with a Romanian girl, a Romanian dancer and singer who is raw power case, and actually has never been onstage. But I think she will be fronting the project and I think she’s phenomenal. In a way, I would not dare to describe it in any way so far! But I know it’s an area of its own and people who heard it and encouraged me to make it into a record, they either fell off the chair or crawled out of the chimney out of my house. That’s pretty much how I like it. There is always things coming up. As I said, this album is over, I start working on new one next day. And this film is premiered so I start writing script for my own to direct. That’s one of the things I’ve been shaping up to do. I actually have been working on several of them. Sixty percent of film is music. It is so inspirational for o many great filmmakers. I think as film became more part of my life and I discovered more appreciation for it I think some films become inspirational for my music, and also for my own thoughts for film. It is a dangerous thing to flirt with a film. You’re gonna for sure end up with a child of your own there.


Thirsty : April 2008 : Gogol Bordello slideshow

Thirsty : January 2008 : Listening Post - Featuring Gogol Bordello




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