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 producer behind the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z and the Dixie Chicks.
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 — 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 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.
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 just amazes me everywhere I go I wind up hanging with family," he said. "We all know the same songs, different dialect but essentially the same language."