Interview: Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello

Since last we spoke at this year’s annual British Summer Time Festival, Eugene Hütz and his band Gogol Bordello have been hard at work releasing and touring their seventh studio album; Seekers And Finders (though they certainly don’t consider it work). Prior to their show tonight at London’s Brixton Academy, on what might be their biggest UK headline tour to date, Eugene crackles down the phone, updating me on all things Gogol Bordello. There’s talk on the new album, the state of the world (naturally), how Eugene understands revolution as an internal realisation and a new Gogol Bordello documentary…

Last time we spoke was early July, up in London, how have you been since then?

Pretty busy, man, busting out new funk, bringing in a new record.

How was the whole experience of putting Seekers And Finders out?

It’s always exciting to bring new music to people, play new songs and see their reactions. That’s why they’re created.

Are you getting to play a lot of the new songs on these shows?

Oh absolutely. It’s actually a very nice mixed bag right now. We’re in a really good place right now.

Are you playing stuff from all eras of the band?

We know there is loads of material that people won’t let us go without playing. We know those, some we know they’re responsibilities but others are not which is why it’s such a fun, special bag at the moment.

When the reviews for the new album came out, it was hailed as the most complete and the most reflective Bordello album. Do you see it like that?

I’m not in disagreement with that. The reviews have been really good, I’m not going to argue with any of that. People are always latching on to their own denominators, the closest to them, but I think the new album is pretty panoramic in terms of what we’re doing and the evolution of the band. It’s definitely a leap forward while still being anchored essentially in what we’re all about. It’s quite a multi-layered thing and was inspired by alchemy and blending things. The quest for the Philosopher’s Stone continues!

Were there any new inspirations on this new record or was it just business as usual for you guys?

I don’t really rely on any particular places to be inspired, I think that idea is pretty infantile to go places to get inspired. No, I go places to live there and perhaps some of it leaks into the work. I have written lyrics just out of being in solitude in a very well-known place and I’ve written records from very exotic places as well. The inspiration comes from who we are and how we feel about ourselves essentially.

Is it mainly you writing the music or does the rest of the band have an input?

I write all the songs for the band. That’s been a big principle for us since the beginning, same as any other band I’ve been in before. It’s just what I do. There’s a lot to be said about what happens after I write it though, that’s like a whole other chapter when I bring it to the band and a lot of unexpected things are added. That’s really the way I love it to be. You bring in quite a well-structured thing and it can transform into something really speedy instead of the ballad you intended. It’s kind of magic to me, you know?

Throughout the new album and your back-catalogue, you talk about a lot of world issues through songs. Do you feel that’s the best way for you to address them and change public opinion over time?

I don’t expect any change to come out of my songs in any way, politically or globally. We’re not so foolish as far as that goes. They’re created to be played and to be experienced as a soulful thing. It’s not for any kind of parade or activist movement. I’m not with those sort of activities. I think that revolution is a very internal, personal matter. It happens on the inside and has nothing to do with joining any groups or screaming your opinion as loud as you can. All of that is alien to me.

We spoke last time about your intense touring schedule and you’re coming up to 100 shows this year. Is there any particular way you try to keep it interesting for the fans and the bands after all these shows?

It is interesting, there’s nothing to keep. That’s like asking how to keep a tall person tall! Just don’t cut him in half and he’ll be pretty tall. It’s kind of like that. The whole idea of us not being interesting wouldn’t exist because we’re all doing something that’s essentially antidote to anything stale or dust-collecting by its very make up.

So with the amount of travelling you do, what do you do as entertainment on the road?

Again, by its definition, the travelling is antidote to being not entertained. Are you saying it’s more entertaining to going to work in an office? It’s travelling the world you know?

Do you write much on the road?

Yeah, as far as my essential activities go, touring doesn’t prevent me from doing any of them. I still move forward quite rapidly in my writing and just being me. The level of comfort that we experience now is 10,000 light years ahead of what it was for us 7, 8, 9 years ago. What you can do in your living room, I can do on the tour bus really except I get to experience any sort of cuisine that there is. I think the whole thing is not so damaging anymore.

With that in mind, how do you re-adjust when you’re not touring?

I don’t. It seems to be quite normal flow. I think we don’t get much time to be idle as people. I go to my favourite places, maybe Brazil. What I’m saying is that I don’t feel there’s much of a dramatic difference from being on tour and being not-on-tour. It’s definitely more adventurous on tour but I can go on my own adventures if I want to.

Having travelled the world and lived in Brazil for as long as you did, have you any favourite places to go and play or stay at?

I think the top three places would be Brazil, Italy and Japan.

You’ve spoken before about how people seem to reach out to you in troubled times. If you could influence a law or a president, what would you do? What change would you like to see?

I don’t know actually, I find that subject to be quite uninspiring and boring. I don’t want to participate in this maniacal panic that everyone throws themselves into. I don’t want to be like Dead Kennedys and sing about Ronald Reagan for four years only for the music to then become outdated as soon as Reagan is gone. No, thank you, I’m attracted to things that are timeless. I don’t feel like that sort of panic is my speciality. It has absolutely no impact on my life what presidents change and how they taunt. It seems to have zero impact on anything that’s actually going on. So getting hysterical about things and chanting some media driven slogans? No thank you.

Lastly, as Seekers And Finders is out now, do you think there’s room for another “Gogol Bordello Non-Stop” documentary?

Yes, in fact it is in editing mode at the moment. The documentary you mention was quite close to our scene for the initial five years of Gogol Bordello and as soon as that was released, someone else started another one where it’s a whole other chapter. So to answer your question, yes, it’s on the way.

What era of the band is it covering?

Oh, it starts off in 2007 or 2008. I think it’s basically going to be the last ten years.

Have you been involved with it very much?

No, I’m kind of waiting to be surprised and flawed and bewildered!

Seekers and Finders is out now on Cooking Vinyl

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February 28, 2018 5:37 PM

[…] Before that bonanza, the good folks from that site took some time to chat with Eugene. You can check out the interview for […]