Gogol Bordello harnesses its high energy in latest album, tours
Gogol Bordello’s charismatic ringleader, Eugene Hutz, wrote the gypsy-world-punk ensemble’s new album, “Trans-Continental Hustle,” from his new residence in Brazil during downtime from a relentless international touring schedule.
With production overseen by Rick Rubin, Gogol Bordello’s fifth album and American Records debut finds Hutz exploring the dark side of love while tying a bond between Eastern European and Latin American cultures, and further closing the gap between art and artist.
He spoke by telephone before the band’s appearance Monday at Spokane’s Knitting Factory Concert House:
Q: What was it like to work with Rick Rubin?
A: To be able to bounce ideas and develop them with somebody so extremely gifted and talented makes you produce a higher caliber of work. It was a seamless process of crystallizing our special way of songwriting and helping the band to orchestrate the energy in the most authentic way possible.
When you have a high-energy band sooner or later you have to turn the energy into a craft, until it’s methodical, like karate. Otherwise, you’ll burn out.
The long-distance runner’s spirit is in this band. It’s our fifth album but it feels like we’re only scratching the surface.
Q: What are some of the similarities, or differences, you see in the people and places as you travel from city to city, state to state, country to country?
A: On a superficial level the differences are disappearing rapidly. The way Budapest is no different from Brussels, Moscow is no different from New York, at this point, on a superficial level, as far as influences from the last century go.
On a much deeper level, which you can only get by being a resident of a country, the soul age of these countries is very different. Some things that are unexplainable to me make me feel instantly very at home in Brazil.
Q: After relocating from New York to Brazil, what kind of effect has that had on your music?
A: Brazil is so powerful and exotic it’s going to reshuffle your musical sensibilities no matter what, and especially if you welcome it, and I do welcome it because it’s a pure energy.
The way Brazilians make their music, it’s so authentic and rich. It conveys a sense and mood and a lot of that leaked into the songwriting on the whole album. I’d go around the world touring and go back to Brazil and write, and then go to Rick’s house in Malibu every three months with a new batch of songs.
Q: Likewise, as you spend so much of your time touring around the world, how much does your environment dictate your attitude, mood, music?
A: It’s not like all we do is sneak around gypsy camps. That’s only a fraction of the adventure. But I tend to have a more anti-touristic experience in other countries because either I have friends there or I discover things on my own because that’s my nature, to discover and conquer and explore.
That experience itself is what drives the fulfillment of the whole Gogol Bordello organism. It’s based on the idea that it’s not just a band, it’s self-exploration and that’s why the music is so extreme at times, because I’m always interested in the extremes of human capabilities.
Q: There are a lot of love songs on this album. Is that a reflection of the long-distance relationships that come from touring and the toll it takes on your love life?
A: That’s a good question. The album is titled “Trans-Continental Hustle,” but one of the meanings it has taken on is “Trans-Continental Love Hustle.” There have been so many departures and comings and goings. It’s clearly the dark ages of love and all this material comes from that, too. You can’t ignore your emotional self.
I think Rick encouraged me to bust that material wide open. He wisely pointed out to me that that makes for some of the strongest material on the album. And, dammit, he was right.