Rubin likens Gogo Bordello to the groundbreaking British two tone group the Specials: "It's music from another place we haven't seen before, wildly exciting and danceable with a political punk aesthetic." But he gets most animated when comparing Hütz to the Clash's late co-founder and singer/songwriter Joe Strummer, calling the "aesthetic kinship" between the two "so close, it's shocking."
That kinship is no accident-Hütz has long seen Gogol Bordello as the carriers of the flame that the Clash first sparked in 1977. "It's like a school of thought and influence, and that school of thought was later on continued by Mano Negro and Manu Chao," he says. "I was lucky to meet Joe Strummer and to know Manu and to see that the carriers of that school of thought were not fakers by any means. Artistically, party as a vehicle for positive change is definitely something that Gogol Bordello carries on. But a huge part of it is how humble-truly humble-those guys are. How democratic and approachable and humble."
American Recordings senior VP/GM Dino Paradis draws a parallel between the reactions to Gogol Bordello with those he recalls from when the label signed Armenian hard-rock band System of a Down. "There was a similar vibe, that this is definitely left of center, but it's special and it isn't so left of center that it can't connect to a really broad cross-section of people.
"It's 'Wow, this record's rocking' or 'That song is great,' not 'Isn't that the gypsy band?' or 'That's that Russian polka band' or whatever some of the tags people might throw on it," Paradis continues. "That puts the ball back in our court marketing-wise and it's also a wakeup call to make sure that we don't stray from the path that music can be universal, and if it's good, people will pick up on it. It's just not that complicated sometimes."
"The goal is to make great music," Rubin says. "If you loved a band live and they made a great album, would you want it? If it's great, everything else works itself out."
"They're not limited to being a small band," Paradis adds. "System became gigantic for us, and it was so cool because it wasn't defined by their ethnicity or their culture or those elements of their music. It got big enough where it just became a great rock band. I would love to see the same thing happen for Gogol. That level of appreciation is deserved by a band that good."