Gogol Bordello Frontman Eugene Hutz on ‘Seekers and Finders’ and the Invention of Gypsy Punk
Gypsy punk may be a genre that you’ve never heard of, but perhaps it’s one you should check out. And there’s no better band to start with than one of the original, and only, mainstream bands, Gogol Bordello. This eight-piece band of misfit musicians comes from places like Russia, Ecuador and Ethiopia with the lead singer, Eugene Hütz, hailing from Ukraine. Now, most of the band members call New York home, a city that Hütz breathes inspiration from, and tends to give a little back as well. As any New Yorker can attest, when he and his gang of accordion, fiddle or guitar toting bandmates take the stage, the audience is instantly engulfed with vitality. There’s an aura about Gogol Bordello because of their packed tour schedule, but one aspect of the band is undeniable: they’re relentlessly high-energy performers. Today, amidst the release of their latest album “Seekers and Finders,” Hütz and the gang are gearing up for a stretch of shows across the globe.
Hütz had a chat with Entertainment Voice ahead of the album release to discuss his view on gypsy punk through a modern lens, how he enjoyed working with Regina Spektor and the myth of Gogol Bordello.
Your new album “Seekers and Finders” is a gypsy punk album for the modern day. As one of the founders of the genre, how would you define gypsy punk in 2017?
Gypsy punk is just an invention, from the beginning, to set the record straight that we’re not making music to win any kind of competition. We’re just out to make unique music of a very distinct kind and to generally eliminate any kind of competition around creativity, basically demonstrating that the thread that has kept us together was just the obsession with the music, and with all the cultural influences that our different members bring in… it’s the kind of thing where you’re on the same page and each person is directly connected to the culture. I was able to tell my story in a language that was modern and inventive but at the same time with the old-world dirt.
How do you believe your sound has progressed since the band’s inception in the 90s to today?
I think that it’s progressed tremendously. In fact, with every record we set out to make a new sonic world with that. We’ve never settled for a formula. I think that this record in particular is perhaps the most dynamic of them all and perhaps more elegantly orchestrated. Not to say that it’s not a wild beast… but it gave me a new perspective. That’s a great way to make a dynamic record is to let every piece, every song, stand out on its own.
Your musicianship has clearly progressed as well, as this is the first time you’ve taken on the task of producing. How was that experience?
We were absolutely lucky in our past to work with great producers in the sonic world… that would be Rick Rubin and Steve Albini. While being involved in that, it would only make sense to finally get inspired to do that myself. I don’t know if my band will ever want me to produce a record again (laughs), after being up until fucking five in the morning.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your lead single, “Walking on Burning Coal.”
That’s kind of relevant to any kind of rite of passage experience that you may have in your life. It seems like the world we live in doesn’t really provide anybody with any kind of rite of passage experience. People’s lives have become this blurred mess of immaturity and utter confusion, or another extreme happens where people subconsciously drive themselves to be some kind of absolute disasters. It doesn’t have to be either way, I think there’s a mechanism within every person that sort of propels them, their heart is their own propeller for a rite of passage. It’s sort of like you have to color in your own turmoil, you’ve got to fill that vessel with your own experience. I really love that I write from that point of view because that’s what draws me to make that sort of music.
The title track “Seekers and Finders” features Regina Spektor, someone who you’ve previously said you admire. What did Regina bring to this track and what was it like working with her?
Well she brings a lot of things that I could not bring. For example, making the melody visible (laughs). It’s been said I am quite capable of writing a pretty memorable melody, however it’s mostly fast paced. (She’s) a tremendous vocalist. We became successful around the same time. I’m surprised we didn’t do this earlier! We share so much culture. You know, she was born in Russia; I was born and raised in Ukraine. So, there’s a lot in common there. Considering everything that(s) going on right now in those particular countries … in a way, this was a way to heal that situation a little bit. Or, to start the healing process. A lot of the emotional drive there is kind of coming from the desire to remedy.
I was just generally excited that she likes the song. This song was actually from a solo record that I was putting together of duets. But (on a Gogol Bordello album), it seemed like the right place for it.
Gogol Bordello is about to embark on a huge tour that’ll take you across the U.S., Europe and the U.K. The band tours extensively. What’s it like to be on tour all of the time?
A lot of the times no one knows where I am for a duration of about six months. I usually can disappear in Brazil or somewhere else. I sort of like that myth that we’re always on tour, but think about what a horrible life that would be. The reality is that a lot of the songs are documentary driven, constructed of this macabre house in another world. Sometimes the songs sound like a very rambunctious song that came from insanity but there’s a good chance that I wrote that song in a botanical garden in Brazil, in complete solitude.
“Seekers and Finders” is available Aug. 25 on Apple Music.