Eugene Hütz Q&A: Gogol Bordello's New Album 'Just Feels F---ing Big'
First Listen: Hear "Lost Innocent World"
Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz reports that the band has, typically, been out “raising the mother fucking hell” on international stages since finishing up their new album, “Pura Vida Conspiracy”. The global gypsy-punk trailblazers will follow the July 23 release of the record (ATO/Casa Gogol) with dates in the U.S., Canada and Brazil, where Hütz resides when not on tour.
Billboard caught up with Hütz on a recent day off in Vermont, where the Ukranian native first emigrated to the States with his family (and where he got his first job at McDonalds). In an interview that amounted to a few Qs and a lot of As, the unrestrained singer, actor, and show man talked about the album, being a citizen of the world, and tapping human potential with music.
Billboard: What is the “Pura Vida Conspiracy” you refer to in the title of the band’s new album?
Eugene Hütz: “Pura Vida Conspiracy” is a word play on the fact that the great majority of people seem to be very focused on everything that’s going wrong to the point where they’re completely neglecting everything that’s actually going right. Bringing attention to what’s going right and positive abilities and potentials is becoming a radical thing today.
Because people are entirely aloof to their own potential – everybody knows it’s there, they feel it’s something, they know there’s something they’re not exploring but nobody knows what the fuck it is…the human potential is my main interest in life. Music, especially Gogol Bordello’s music, is about exploring human potential.
At Gogol Bordello’s recent concerts have you been feeling that power of human potential in your audiences, even at a time when positive energy may not be so easy to tap into?
We are the locomotive leading people into a certain condition. We have ability for them to experience another dimension of consciousness…The feeling of exhilaration comes from the band. We are ourselves in the crowd, we’re like a generator for all these frequencies. That’s why we have the ability to raise the motherfucking hell. We don’t rely on the crowd we take the crowd. They have no choice. All of your so-called problems of real life go away.
People go and see us for two hours every now and then. But for some, for myself, I’m sure it’s when you are in that frame of mind, or I should say frame of soul, or frame of being, you can see so clearly and certainly into connections that are all between us. That crosses all the borders. People get into such a magnificent same wave length, in the daily life you don’t fucking use it. If you have spent as many hours in that position as us, it’s natural for it to become a huge part of you. So naturally you will take that consciousness to everyday life. That is what artists do.
That’s why people have a feeling of freedom with music, because the divisions temporarily go away and they say ‘wow that felt so fucking great’. Yeah, reach out and get it! Make it part of your day, start the morning with that connection with art. It can be martial arts, it can be science; it doesn’t matter.
“Pura Vida Conspiracy” (recorded in a studio in El Paso, Texas and produced by Andrew Scheps), includes the sing-along dance anthems and slow jams your fans will expect; where did this album take you?
One thing about this album is that we kind of opened up to this huge melodic dimension. It’s very symphonic. That dimension was kind of dormant in us before, but it was there – but now we were in the right place to express it. I feel in that sense that this album has more like a composer feeling behind it, rather than a songwriter with the band.
And it’s a different sensibility - it just feels fucking big.
That’s about the musical development of all us. On this album everybody seemed to be doing their own thing and supporting where the train is going at the same time.
That’s a lot of musical development, a lot of musical consciousness and musical recklessness. The reckless sensibility is the most exciting thing. All the musicians going in different directions, to me, they accomplish something fantastic.
All the work in the studio wasn’t like, ‘what the fuck?’ It was like ‘fuck, yeah!’ It’s a drama either way, it’s a fucking mess, but the ‘fuck yeah’ drama, that’s our kind of drama. When we finished recording, usually you want to get out of the studio. I was like ‘we’re not even tired why are we leaving?’
Why use Spanish in the title?
It occurred to me to why not call it “Pure Life [Conspiracy]”? But it’s simply because when you travel you find that some languages have something that no other language can offer. It seems like “Pura Vida” in Spanish has all the gusto.
Last month, the track “Malandrino” was offered as a free download on the band’s web site; the media noted the song’s mariachi tinge. Elsewhere on the album you sing in Spanish, the title’s in Spanish…have you become more interested in Latin music?
I live in Brazil, and I’ve been into Latin music for decades. About 80% of music on my laptop is Latin: folklore, electronica, and rock -- “Matador” [by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs] is one of my favorite songs of all time. I’m into cumbia, baile funke…It’s kind of a second nature for me. I don’t think of it as anything foreign.
Now, in this album people start to hear the mariachi. I didn’t think about it like that. I wrote the line that popped in my head, I got the trumpet player, I didn’t think of it as a stylistic movement.
In their own way people see our music as a combination of many styles. I don’t see it like that at all. For me, it sounds of mariachi or Brazil or Balkan sounds, or New York City or no wave sound, really it’s the same pool of excitement. I forget about where the labels go geographically; it doesn’t connect in my head where it really came from. And the combinations are endless.
How long have you been living in Brazil?
Everyone thinks I’m crazy because I live in Brazil. I moved there originally because of a [now ex] girlfriend. I’ve been in Rio for more than five years. Besides being in Rio, the heart of rock and experimental music is Recife, if you ask me.
I’ve toured Latin America extensively; as I lived there I became part of local landscape. Then I looked around and am like, I think I’m becoming, paradoxically, like an outsider once again. I will never become Brazilian [laughs]; I will never become Argentinian. I was back into the story of my life - that’s where my real place is, as an outsider. It’s a pretty good fucking position.
Culture is always just a great mask, and as great as it is, it’s only a mask. It’s very useful and sort of flexible, but a great mask can only take you to a great masquerade and a great Carnaval. But if you really want to get to know yourself, you’ve got to rip that thing off. That’s why people get uncomfortable if you start mixing cultures in their face.
Not just adding flavors, but if you deconstruct cultures, people get really uncomfortable and offended and shocked, but it’s the only way I feel is worth the strife.
So our music is kind of is spoken from that place; all the songs are spoken from that place. To be a true citizen of the world you have to be an outsider. Only then can you start getting a better idea of where the human potential is.