Sat in front of me is a tired traveler who goes by the name of Eugene Hütz, fronting the gypsy-punk outfit Gogol Bordello. Speaking in a thick Ukranian accent and taking generous gulps of double-strength coffee, he recalls the band’s recent tour schedule. Having done three shows in 24 hours across Sweden, Slovakia and here at British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park, London, he exclaims “If that is not rock ‘n’ roll then it doesn’t exist anymore!”. Sadly, the conversation I had planned out was significantly shortened as a result of a late-running back stage schedule.
Nevertheless, this is what came out of ten minutes in the company of Eugene Hütz…
We did Wembley Arena a little while ago.
When you first started the band, did you have aspirations to be in front of crowds like this or was it more about the music?
Well, I never wanted to just play music, I was supposed to become a painter actually. My uncle is a very well known painter in Ukraine. Everyone in my family was in one artistic pursuit or another, something “less professional”. My father was a musician also, so when you’re surrounded by so many different sensibilities and everything you see around you is square grey buildings, you have to mix it up yourself!
That must’ve had a significant influence on you.
Yes and naturally I was very interested in combining the music with some kind of visuals, costumes and so on which is basically how opera appears, you know. And I fucking hate opera so I had to do something else!
Yeah, that makes two of us!
I like the concept of it but I can’t stand the fucking sound of it!
So you’re off on a UK tour after this. How do you keep things moving smoothly when there are so many of you especially in the circumstances where you’re playing three shows in a day?
Well, it’s not always like that. We have the ability to do this because on early tours you find out if you can even be a touring band. At this point, it’s easy, we can do it. There’s not even a real sense of tiredness. A huge part of that though is that it’s not usually like this.
Is it just inconvenient that it would happen today?
I wouldn’t call it an inconvenience actually, we quite like the rush. In a way it’s like we become the music. Most of the year we are able to have so much time off in the countries of our choice so there’s a good working balance. Without spending time in Brazil, in my case, or Ecuador, I’m not sure we could make this kind of spectacle work.
Do you have much time off on this tour coming up?
Overall yes and this summer we will be taking time off. In the fall however we’re coming back to the UK with a new album which is out in August.
On this tour are you playing much off the new album?
Yeah, it’s really exciting to play these new songs. I wanna do it, it’s really our main driving force. Even today we have a really condensed festival set and there’s a part of us that wants to play it safe and do all the hits but our creative part propels us to do all these new songs which I find very exciting.
With the back catalogue that you have, how do you go about choosing songs for such a condensed festival set?
It’s quite a science actually because it’s very tempting to say “Fuck everybody, this is what we do” but there are several songs that we can’t get away with not playing! Everybody’s going to be fucking pissed off if we don’t do those songs! There’s always three or four of those songs that we can’t leave the festival without playing.
With this new album, is there anything around it that sets it apart from the others or is it more a case of doing a tour then putting out another album and so on?
There’s a lot that’s different about this album. I produced it myself so that was pretty bewildering!
Have you produced your own work before?
I have but after that I did six albums with the most well known producers in the world. Over the last decade I’ve been co-producing besides the likes of Steve Albini, Victor Van Vugt and Rick Rubin. The difference now is that I’m better at knowing what to leave untouched. That was a lot to do with it as was recording late at night when the sugar drops and the magic happens.
Is that when you work best?
I think when people are chasing magic, late nights are usually where it’s at. It’s pretty hard to capture any kind of “sonic magic” at 11 in the morning, no matter how hard you try! That’s just not how it works.
With that, our conversation is urged to be concluded. The band went on to do a fantastic set given the exhausted state they must’ve been in. Make sure to check out the new album coming this August and try and catch the on the remaining UK dates they are currently playing:
- 4th – O2 Academy, Bristol
- 5th – Leeds Beckett University, Leeds
- 6th – The Dome, Brighton
Tickets for these dates are available from their website.
Seekers and Finders is out on August the 25th