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An Interview with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello

Talking about the Gypsy Punk Revolution

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An Interview with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello

Eugene Hutz

Photo (c) Michael Lavine

Eugene Hutz is the charismatic, Ukrainian frontman for Gogol Bordello, considered to be the founders of a new movement in punk rock, Gypsy Punk. While he was on the road, I spoke on the phone with Hutz about the tour, and about the influence and message behind this addictive new style of punk rock.

RC: How's the tour going?

EH: It's f***ing great man.

RC: Where are you guys right now?

EH: In Lawrence, Kansas.

RC: Is Kansas exciting?

EH: It's actually surprisingly OK. It's always been great here. We've gone through all of these territories before. We have a grassroots following pretty much in everywhere we hit before.

RC: What is this Gypsy Punk Revolution about that everyone's talking about that you guys seem to be on the forefront of?

EH: Well, I suppose that's correct to assume (laughs). I guess about maybe the late '90s when we all started meeting each other in New York, we were all driven by similar frustrations with predominant forms of music and just the state of culture in general. And a lot of us, you know, the future members of the Gogol Bordello, who were interested in music; me and Sergey, our violin player, being basically kind of the main force about it because we're directly, blood wise, out of a Romany background, out of Gypsy background. So for me, it wasn't only kind of a musical hobby for me, it was like my inspirational goldmine since day one.

I think we felt that the Western Civilization and culture had kind of exhausted itself or maybe repeated itself too many times at this point, you know? Which is very kind of a cultural and economic problem, unfortunately because it's favoring white products and force-feeding it; it's isolated itself from any foreign influence.

For example in Europe, you'll find German songs on Italian radio or vise versa, and French songs on Czech radio, so all these things are just going on all the time, but things in foreign languages never become popular, or they don't get pushed in America or in England. I guess we thought there was something wrong with that situation and Gypsy music in particular being such a goldmine of authentic energy, you know I found that is probably one of the last forts of that kind of power. Power that wakes people up and shakes things up.

So, seems we kind of had a collective feeling about, you know it all kind of drifted into, not drifted, but assumed the form of Gogol Bordello. And from then a lot of other kids, some who were second-generation Eastern Europeans, some of them were just Americans, they all got inspired by it because Gypsy Music is one of the last authentic goldmines left before sameness completely sweeps away this planet; so it's one of the last forces of resistance and I think it's pretty amazing that, we got touring around, that social and cultural tendency keeps conglomerating. It kind of goes against the way that music is channeled in the UK and the US.

RC: I know last tour you guys toured with Flogging Molly. Do you think being billed with an Irish band was part of an ethnic package? Or do you think it was just great bands playing together?

EH: Well, the reality is much simpler, we have the same manager and we're friends. We're on the same label and it's just as easy as that (laughs). And that wasn't the last tour, after that we did more tours. We toured Europe twice, and then Canada, and now we're doing the US. We always headline our own tours, that was just one of the rare things when it made sense to tour with Flogging Molly and show our music to their fans.

Flogging Molly essentially does a completely different thing, but our music appeals to their fans and vise versa. There are other bands that we've started collaborating with now that are much more of joined forces with us like Kultur Shock from Seattle, that's like a Bosnian, Serbian, Japanese band which plays their own brand of Balkan metallo-punk, which is very very strong, so we've been doing a bunch of shows with them. Also the band Outer National, and you know just the bands with a message, an awakening message.

RC: You guys started in New York, but most of you are not from the U.S.

EH: Well most of us from are all from different parts of the world. The only American who's now in the band is Eliot the drummer.

Yuri and Sergey are from Russia, from Far East Russia, actually. Yuri is actually from Sakhalin, beyond Siberia, it's near Japan. Sergey is from the middle of Russia, so Gogol Bordello is more like a huge international processing center. Everybody brings in their information and exchanges it with people in the band. Not only music, but any cultural information.

The person we've added the latest is Pedro Erazo who’s from Ecuador; he's our MC now. Then Oren Kaplan, who's always fundamental, an Israeli guitar player who sort of holds the whole rocky operation together

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