Gogol Bordello man goes Rio grand

Here are some highlights of my interview with Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz, which appeared in tbt* today. The band brings its Eastern European-folk punk-mishmash of styles and infectious reverie to the Ritz in Ybor City, Tampa, this Monday.

What’s new recording-wise; what’s on the horizon for Gogol Bordello?

   We’re working on new record with Rick Rubin. I think it’s too exciting to hold some of this material back, so we’ve already performed some of it. As you probably know, our music is biographical, so as we continue traveling – we’ve been spending a lot of time between Brazil and New York – my two main residences,  be prepared for outbreaks of gypsy punk rock samba. It kind of came full circle because there are a lot of Romani in Rio. 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.

   I was thinking of making another film (like the Pied Piper of Hutzovina), but in Brazil. There are amazing things that keep happening to me. I became quite fanatical about visiting samba schools, and every favela has its own samba school with completely different style. I’ve been going and invited to play with some of the bands. The tourist experience never did it for me. When there’s something really interesting and heart-stirring, I want to live it by getting it closer to it. … I’ve been really welcomed in Brazil in a lot of ways.

   So you know, when we’re playing Sao Paulo, it’s really good, but when we’re playing Rio, it’s like this is our guy! He wears the T-shirt of our town! It’s like a fucking homecoming.

 So how will you manage those syncopated, Afro-Latin beats?

    We have a new drummer, Oliver Charles. He has actually joined the band at the right time. He comes from a dynasty of drummers from Trinidad, which is a key and 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’t believe what I’m hearing. It’s too good to be f***ing true (laughs). Right now I cannot share the recordings with anybody. Live, I can’t hold back! We’re just too much on fire to play them!

 People are down and out in America now. Do you consider this tour a rescue mission of sorts?

   I certainly hope so. You’ve got to burn all the tension. 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.

Is it true that Manu Chau lured you to Brazil? 

   Manu is the guy who originally turned me on to Rio. Originally, I went to hang out with him a bit. I just fell in love with the place. This last carnival in February we ended up performing together in Pernambuco, which is in north Brazil. It’s becoming like this secret new hang. Aside from all its beauty and charms, it’s a real 24-hour city. When people say “New York City – 24-hour city,” I don’t know what they mean. They mean the subway, yeah. There really is nothing there as far as nightlife goes. It’s not the kind of nightlife I enjoy anyway.

Has your way of life changed since living in Rio?

    No. It’s become more like when I was 17. It’s in my blood. Nothing’s going to change it. I gotta go – I can’t be in a city that’s not happening throughout the night. Despite all its history, America there’s not a one place in the whole country with 24-hour open microphone for poetry and music going on which is well-attended and exciting, but in Rio they do. What the fuck! Where am I going to be? Where there’s places like this? Of course! Nightlife is not about going to a predictable night club. That doesn’t interest me. I like swirling groups of people that have some kind of special activity on their mind, whether they’re obsessed with graffiti or making a party on the beach, playing music together or going up to the jungle and doing God knows what.

     The fact that all that is happening is up until the sunrise, on a regular basis, that’s the way to go. Different regions of Brazil will inspire you with something different. That’s what I live for. 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 U.S.), their inner warrior is pretty solidly fucking asleep.


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