INTERVIEW: Gogol Bordello | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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I have just finished speaking to Eugene Hutz, and I am exhausted. This is a man of such passion and integrity that a mere 20 minute conversation is enough to leave me gasping for breath, so a two hour Gogol Bordello show is matched only by the Great North Run.

Gogol Bordello’s latest album Pura Vida Conspiracy sums up the notion that the pure life, one without worry, is nothing but a smokescreen. “People look for a better life and they never find it; they fear every second of the day. It just depends on whether you’ve cracked the case or not, but one thing is for sure, life is there!” The message is that whatever troubles you encounter, life goes on. Some people understand that naturally, some people crack it eventually, but Eugene certainly comes across like a man content with life.

Eugene Hutz has been writing songs since he was a teenager. “I call all the shots as the songwriter of course, because that’s what I do, and anyone who joins Gogol Bordello knows that they are joining to perform my songs.” It’s not quite as dictatorial as it first seems, the music is very much a collaborative affair and it is the band who make the songs into what he describes as “actually Gogol Bordello music”.

“The impact of the arrangements is tremendous. The band is a powerful collective musical intelligence; this is where ‘calling the shots’ isn’t the right word because in a way the band works as a filter that keeps the mark up. Sometimes I’ll come in with a bunch of new songs that I consider to be finished and some of the band will absorb and digest them in a matter of minutes, and something that I thought might be the new Bohemian Rhapsody suddenly I come to the realisation that it’s just a piece of trash.”

It is well documented that Gogol Bordello stick firmly to their gypsy roots, but I wanted to know if the principles of a gypsy youth had remained even with the fame and wealth that has inevitably followed success. “There is not any kind of principle, there never was any kind of principle, it’s an absurd statement, a gypsy principle!

The gypsies arrived into every country of their choice, observed their local folklore and made it 100 times faster, harder and better than local people could before, and that’s how they made their money. They are actually very professional hardcore, music-drilling musicians.”

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People are starting to understand that their life, and their so called soul and so called destiny is in their own hands and is located not in their head, but in their solar plexus

He doesn’t see his career as a continuation of a family tradition, rather a bonus for handling the rigours of touring; where others crash and burn, Eugene is like a kid in a candy shop, drinking in the local atmosphere and joining the party wherever he is. “Lots of my friends in the band always complain about touring, how they don’t have any energy for any extra curricular activities and how they are literally falling apart on tour. How they don’t see anything except stage and soundcheck and hotel, and I’m like ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’ I mean that, I’ve literally never seen that side of life, I’ve never been on tour like that.”

Eugenie uses his passion for music to reach out and engage with his audience in a way that makes them forget their inhibitions. “People are starting to understand that their life, and their so called soul and so called destiny is in their own hands and is located not in their head, but in their solar plexus and that’s where all the perception is happening. You are in the driver’s seat your whole life, you are the one who is driving it and I am a performer that is just demonstrating it on stage: that’s why the audience see us as inspiring because most of them see themselves as a victim of life, most people think that things are happening to them and they have to battle them, but most things are happening for them to evolve. It’s like an endless stream of material for you to evolve.”

Gogol Bordello play a very crafted kind of music, but in such a passionate and reckless way that it becomes a kind of improvisation. “It’s very close to jazz in a sense of physical power. Jazz came from kick-ass motherfuckers who would not eat or sleep for days and keep blowing that fucking horn, and kids would follow that boat down the Mississippi for 10 miles. There’s a lot of human power in it, there’s a lot of resilience and a lot of pura vida. It’s the people who never give any attention to any shortcomings in life, and they have their spirit set high and they just fucking power through it.”

For Eugene, pura vida is not a conspiracy, it is a fact. Letting go of what holds us back is the key to enjoying life and Gogol Bordello urge you see the art put into practice.

Gogol Bordello play O2 Academy, Newcastle on Monday 8th December. Pura Vida Conspiracy is out now via ATO Records.

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