[Interview] Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello Dials In And Radiates Positivity
Front man for gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, Eugene Hutz and I shared some phone time on Tuesday, in preview and preparation for their show on April 12 at The Fillmore. If you've never attended a Gogol Bordello live show, take advantage of this stop in our city next week and go. If you have, I hope you already bought your ticket, and I'll see you there. Much like after a show, chatting with him left me optimistic and energized. Hutz poured out eloquently worded responses, and a truly positive vibes only outlook, I feel extremely fortunate to be sharing it with you now.
One of my first Gogol shows was at FloydFest, which is in my home state of Virginia and holds a special place in my heart. Are there any festivals you play at that feel the same for you?
I gotta say Bonnaroo is my favorite festival. It's in America, but in the spirit, it reminds me of some of the other festivals worldwide, like Roskilde Festival in Denmark or Beautiful Days in the UK and those are the kind of festivals that are just very, I guess they have a touch of communal magic.
I can get down with that, Bonnaroo famously carries the "Radiate Positivity" code. With the number of instruments in your lineup, you still somehow find a way to spotlight each band member in the live show. Is that an intentional part of your songwriting and set list selection during live performances?
When I moved to New York I was very inspired by this idea that I was gonna put together a band of very strong characters, each one of who is gonna be a sense of their own martial art. So what you're seeing is that. It's just the initial brilliance and flamboyance of every person as they are, and my idea of the band is more of like a creative, collective gang. A Master of his own jujitsu jujitsu, his musical aikido, it's really a lot more like observing a performance of group musical mixed martial arts competition.
I find the hardest part of describing an especially vibrant show is finding the right words deserving of my experience. Your shows host the same difficulty in articulating, how would you describe a Gogol show to a new fan or reviewer from your perspective?
There is absolutely no difficulty to articulate it, it's dancing around the campfire. Essentially every human soul, no matter how old they are, is ingrained with a unifying experience of dancing around a campfire. There's not one single human walking around on this planet without that in their soul. Anthropologically speaking that ritual appeared for a reason. It's not really about dancing, it's realizing you are one with the universe, it's about a trance in which an individual realizes he is part of a larger tribe and consequently a part of a larger tribe than that. It's a human experience that reminds them that everyone is a ray of a sun, and the ray cannot exist without the sun, no matter how big the ego can get, it is still just one ray of the sun.
We are all in this together kids, take it from a professional. The band's albums are vastly different in the catalog. To recommend one as the "place to start" in order to get the best feel for your music, which one would it be?
That is an interesting question because for a lot of people we sort of came on their radar with the "Gypsy Punk" album and a lot of people still think that's our first album. That suits them just fine until they discover there were three albums released before that, which are absolutely beautiful and there's a lot more chamber, there was a lot of focus on acoustic kind of a feel, those were the formative years of kind of accumulating of this larger orchestra of heroic immigrance. You know, that eventually got pretty fucking loud. The first album, Voi-La Intruder 1999, is especially dear to us. It is just soaking in the juice of tango and some old world magic is captured pretty greatly in that album. Soaked in all sorts of homemade alcohol, spiritually it was definitely the manifest of what the band was setting out to do. Our hard core base knows it well, and songs from it are still present in our set list, a lot of times in the encore for our hard core base.
Note: Nine albums in the discography, band members who have come and gone, all worth a listen to experience the progression as well as understand the influence of time and varying talent additions.
In Charlotte, like other growing cities, we struggle with losing venues to progressing movements in the city. The city calls it gentrification but we call it parking garages and apartment complexes. Does this ever affect a band's tour schedule and city selection?
Well, I believe that creative energy is unstoppable and will very quickly find a way to transform its channeling. Everything is becoming much more standardized and compartmentalized but in a larger picture, I don't think any creativity will be lost because it will find a new way. There's definitely places that have saddened me by closing, places that meant a lot to punk rock kids who are damaged or emotionally damaged, and those places were very necessary for them culturally, to feel a part of some kind of tribe. I've seen places like that close over the years. But I think there's a lot of great opportunities with every generation and everything will transform into yet another powerful way of creativity.
I wanted to get this question in as it's been a hot topic for the city of Charlotte. My hope is all bands feel the same confidence in our capability of transforming creativity. As the music scene evolves due to technology, what do you find the most interesting and the most frustrating about those changes?
I find it frustrating that people are really at peace with handing over their uniqueness and personality to simple standardized forms of communication. They are pretty happy with emotional responses that give them two simple options either to like or dislike, and a lot of people are happy with that, like a lot of people are happy with becoming robotic. It might be a phase, it might be much stronger but, I know I will forever be a fan of people who cherish and preserve and share their uniqueness instead of their standardized side.
Another note: Be you. It really is that simple.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
We have a new album coming out, it will be called Seekers and Finders, and you can expect it in June. Look out for it!!