WELCOME TO GOGOL BORDELLO

By Chris Pacifico


Eugene Hutz
Growing up as a kid I always heard my grandmother use the term "wild eyed gypsy." Bear in mind that she lived on a steady diet of vodka martinis and Pall Mall's, so naturally I concluded that it was the Stoli that did the talking for my Grandma. But from the second I met Eugene Hutz, the affable and charismatic front man of NYC's self- proclaimed "gypsy punk" collective Gogol Bordello, I heard my grandmother's voice all over again. Hutz's eyes are ever-so-piercing that he doesn't seem to look at you; he looks into you as he extends his hand to me for greeting, smiling with his gold tooth and twisty mustache for which he carries a can of Murray's Hair Wax to keep twirled. Just before putting on an energetic live performance at The Trocadero this past April, Hutz was nice enough to shoot the breeze with JamBase for an interview peppered with profanity inside Gogol Bordello's tidy tour bus with the essence of Febreeze in the air.

A lot of listeners tend to make two inadequate assumptions about Gogol Bordello, the first one being that they're a Russian or Ukrainian punk rock band. Hutz was born in Kiev, Ukraine and attained an interest for music when he was a kid. However, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union under the rule of Communism, so naturally Western music wasn't played on the radio or sold in any of the stores. But Hutz still managed to indulge in much of the music that the world had to offer, especially the music of the punk and post-punk era sold on the local black markets. "I got into stuff like the Birthday Party, the Fall, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, the Cramps," he reminisces. "Stuff like the Clash and Joy Division. I mean who doesn't listen to those bands? You'd have to be a fucking idiot not to listen to them."


Gogol Bordello
Hutz evacuated Ukraine in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, moving from one refugee camp to the next throughout Eastern Europe for seven years before making it to Vermont in 1993 and eventually to New York City in 1996. Hutz then met Gogol Bordello's accordion player, Yuri Lemeshev, a native of the Russian island of Sakhalin, and violinist Sergey Ryabtzev who worked as a theater director in Moscow for ten years. "Yuri and Sergey and me started out playing weddings. That's just what you do when you can't get a gig. Kind of like jazz," says Hutz.

From there on out, Gogol Bordello made a name for themselves throughout the NYC area and now the world as they have released three full-length albums. Their present-day lineup includes Israeli members Oren Kaplan on guitar and bassist Rea Mocchiach with American Elliot Ferguson on drums, proving that music is a universal language that can unite people of all creeds and backgrounds. The New York Times even hailed them as "Iggy Pop meets Kafka."


Eugene Hutz from KindaMuzik.net
The second wrong assumption is that Gogol Bordello mixes punk rock with merely "gypsy" music or Slavic music. While those three audible components are flagrantly underlined in the band's sound, Gogol Bordello includes an eclectic stew of tunes from all around the globe, including reggae, Latin, tango, jazz, Middle Eastern, and just about everything on the table from an eclectic international smorgasbord of sounds.

"I just kind of narrowed it down," Hutz states. "I didn't want to be classified as 'strange world music' or some bullshit like that. A lot of critics in America are pretty unequipped to describe other music in any other way. A lot of people here don't even know the difference between klezmer and gypsy music, so I'm not out to get labeled as 'Russian klezmer ska' or some fucking shit like that."

When the term "world music" comes from out of my mouth in a question directed at Hutz, he abruptly cuts me off. "First of all, we want to destroy the term known as world music," he proclaims. "We want people to realize that it's just music because if you tell young kids that it's world music, then they will walk away and that is the fault of the fucking stupid way that music is marketed in America. I don't understand how whatever isn't sung in the English language is world music and how artists from the US and UK are the ones that are classified as western music."


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