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Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz talks gypsy rock, recording with Rick Rubin




Is the music industry’s hirsute maker of magic — a man once named to Time’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People — taking on the irrepressible, Ukrainian-born Eugene Hutz and his gypsy punk cabaret, Gogol Bordello, a band that’s incited joyful hysteria in festival crowds worldwide?

“We’re working on (a) new record with Rick Rubin,” Hutz tells tbt* during a phone interview from Vermont, casually dropping the name of the living-legend producer behind the Beastie Boys, Slayer, Jay-Z and the Dixie Chicks.

Details about the new CD have been tightly under wraps. No songs are available on the band’s site, and Hutz’s publicist hasn’t confirmed any details about its release date or production.

But Hutz, who brings Gogol Bordello to the Ritz Ybor this Monday, said he’s looking forward to getting the new material out there.

“I think it’s too exciting to hold some of this material back, so we’ve already performed some of it,” Hutz says.

The 37-year-old musician, folk historian, philosopher, DJ and actor — co-star of Everything Is Illuminated, with Elijah Wood; star of the Madonna-directed Filth and Wisdom; and inspiration for a character in the indie film Wristcutters: A Love Story — exudes more elation about the new twists to Gogol Bordello’s sound than any of the other particulars surrounding his celebrity.

The band’s new foreign accents resulted from time spent in Rio de Janeiro, where Hutz has resided the past couple of years, lured there by visits with internationally renowned performer and friend Manu Chao.

"Our music is biographical,” Hutz says. “As we continue traveling, we’ve been spending a lot of time between Brazil and New York. So be prepared for outbreaks of gypsy punk rock samba.”

The syncopated rhythms of GB’s new African-Latin beats required Hutz to make some personnel changes, replacing American member Eliot Ferguson with Oliver Charles.

"He comes from a dynasty of drummers from Trinidad," Hutz says, "(which is) so essential for some of the new elements in our music. Oliver comes in with a full knowledge to break out the gypsy punk samba. It is out of this world. A lot of times I really can‚Äôt believe what I‚Äôm hearing. It‚Äôs too good to be f---ing true. (laughs) Right now I cannot share the recordings with anybody. Live, I can‚Äôt hold back! We‚Äôre just too much on fire to play them."

Gogol Bordello’s forthcoming album follows 2007’s Super Taranta!, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (2005), Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony (2002) and Voi-La Intruder (1999).

The group’s songs have been featured on movie soundtracks and the ensemble distinguishes themselves with an adrenaline-charged and accordion, horns and-violin-kissed reverie, heard in tunes such as Start Wearing Purple, Through the Roof ’n’ Underground, Think Locally, F--- Globally and the recent U.K. hit Wanderlust King.

Hutz himself could be called a real-life gypsy renegade. His family evacuated his hometown near Kiev during the aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. As a teen, he discovered punk rock through bootleg tapes and moved from one European city to another until settling down in Vermont (and later New York) in the early ’90s.

As an adult, Hutz discovered his quite-literal gypsy connections by way of his Servo-Roma maternal grandmother and formed a band of kindred spirits and international merry mayhem makers.

Appropriately named for Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol, a 19th century writer recognized for his societal critiques, Gogol Bordello has blended seemingly disparate genres with punk and Eastern European gypsy folk — from dub to metal to hip-hop.

And now, the swaying pulsations of Rio de Janeiro.

“It kind of came full circle because there are a lot of Romani (the ethnic classification of gypsies) in Rio,” Hutz says. “It just amazes me everywhere I go I wind up hanging with family. We all know the same songs, different dialect but essentially the same language.”

Hutz is so moved and inspired by his life in Brazil, he says that he wants to make sequel to the documentary, The Pied Piper of Hutzovina, a film that traces Hutz’s Eastern European gypsy roots — but this time centering on his time in the favelas of Brazil.

"Being in Rio has tripled my creativity. It’s actually helped me to see similarities with Eastern Europe, with the way people are more in touch with their inner warrior. People here (in the United States) — their inner warrior is pretty solidly f----ing asleep."

This Monday, thankfully, some recession-weary Americans will be roused from their slumber, a task Hutz regards as a rescue mission.

"You’ve got to burn all the tension," Hutz declares. "You’ve got to take all the trash out of the soul. That’s our calling. That’s our job. Hopefully, it works for everybody."

-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo by Getty Images.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 1:00pm]


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