CL Interview: Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello (audio + video)

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The nine-member band represents seven nationalities all told. Their sound combines gypsy and Slavic music traditions with punk rock, dub reggae, metal, rap and even some funk and grooves, and the lyrics are delivered in English sprinkled with Spanish, Ukrainian and Italian verses. Since 1999, they have released four LPs; the most recent, 2007’s critically acclaimed Super Taranta!, fully launched Gogol into the international spotlight.

Many of Gogol’s songs (including "Wonderlust King, below") are about living a roving, responsibility-free lifestyle, though various other topics are touched upon, from the absurdly catchy “Start Wearing Purple,” about letting loose and being silly, to “American Wedding,” which pokes fun at our country’s stuffy wedding traditions (“Where is the vodka, where's marinated herring? / Where is the supply that gonna last three days?”), to the hilarious God vs. Science debate in “Supertheory of Supereverything.”

Everyone contributes vocals to the boisterous, colorful music, like violin virtuoso Sergey Ryabtsev, capable of some of the fastest and most furious fiddle playing I’ve ever witnessed; accordion player Yuri Lemeshev, who also moonlights with the studio band on Late Night with Conan O'Brien; and attractive lady entertainers and pandemonium makers Pamela Jintana Racine and Elizabeth Sun, who alternately sing, dance, and play marching band-style percussion throughout the live shows.

Hütz is the captivating and unpredictable center of it all. He sings lead, plays forceful acoustic guitar, and, usually shirtless with sweat dripping from his thick handlebar mustache, marches back and forth encouraging playful unruliness and leading spirited singalongs. He pilots the vigorous musical spectacle and keeps both his band and the audience as amped-up as he is.

Leilani: So, tell me about the role you play in the band as ringleader. How much of your songwriting goes into what happens on stage?

Eugene: I think it’s quite obvious (laughs robustly) that I write all the songs. (Click here to read more; VIDEOS and more after the jump.)

Google “gypsy punk” and most of the dozen or so results relate back to Gogol Bordello. Search the band specifically and you’ll find more than a million pages that mention it. While Gogol’s Ukraine-born visionary/composer Eugene Hütz isn’t interested in taking credit for spearheading a whole new movement in American music, his band’s influence is undeniable.

Gogol grew from NYC's underground music scene, just as much a melting pot as the city itself. Hütz immersed himself in it and assembled a motley crew of talented, multi-ethnic musicians to create his gypsy punk orchestra and make his vision of infusing East-European culture into Western music a reality.

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