When Eugene Hutz leads his band of merrymakers, gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, into Boise next week, it will be in support of their new release, Super Taranta!, and on the heels of some interesting projects for (or about) Hutz (pronounced Hoots) and the band.
According to an AP story, Gucci designer Frida Giannini "fell in love with Hutz and his flamboyant gypsy style" and he became the inspiration for her fall 2008/2009 collection. Earlier this month, Filth and Wisdom, Madonna's first stab at directing, debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. The film features the music of Gogol Bordello and co-stars the Ukranian-born Hutz as a Ukranian immigrant whose dreams of becoming a rock star must be supplemented by working as a dominatrix in a dress. This isn't Hutz's first foray into silver screen territory and, according to him, probably won't be his last, but it's on his music and his band that his focus is "1,000 percent."
The release of Super Taranta! finds Gogol Bordello—though with a much different and much larger lineup—in its tenth year. In his low, melodic voice that resonates with the antiquity and timbre of his native language, Hutz says of the band's surging publicity and popularity, "It's about f***ing time."
For American audiences in particular, it's great fun to watch the incredibly high-energy shows that have helped define—and popularize—Gogol Bordello. It's just as difficult for the same audiences to imagine, however, those eight people off stage, working and traveling so closely together.
"I hear that question a lot," Hutz said gruffly. "In Western mind, it seems that would be such a strange thing. That's because people moved here to America originally to build these big ranches within 20 miles of each other. The idea of like personal space, you can't f*** with it. You know what I mean? In Eastern Europe or farther east, things like that don't exist. People grow up in like, like 10 people in one f***ing room. The core of Gogol Bordello is from Russia and Ukraine [with members] from Israel and Ecuador which is all third-world countries ... For five years we traveled with 11 people in a van. That's insane. It's an illegal amount of people. It was hard at the time but I think would be impossible if we were all from those big ranches."
Gogol Bordello has played Boise before and Hutz agrees that out West, we do like our wide-open spaces. "Ain't no sin, you know," he says. "I'll drink to that when you have it. If you don't have it, you have to be versatile. You have to be able to swing both ways."
And though the band obviously swings whatever way it wants or needs to, it is Hutz who stands tall at the lead, guiding Gogol Bordello with his big baton: his voice.
Hutz's vision for the band is best articulated through his vocals. He says his voice "is the centerpiece of the expression" and coupled with his lyrics, defines Gogol Bordello's sound. "The music has a strong story-telling aspect to it," Hutz says, "such as Johnny Cash or Nick Cave or Tom Waits or Manu Chao. It always has a character telling a story. That is the angle I keep. Plus, the voice is such an underlooked instrument with most rock musicians. There are many places to go with the voice, really. I never considered myself to be a singer at all. [I think] for this story, this is the tone, for that story let's look for another tone. There's just so many shades. It's just such an emotional thing, the voice."
Super Taranta! offers so much lyrically, that the shades of Hutz's voice must cover every nuance of the rainbow. The songs race along the spectrum from the funny, to the literal, to the bittersweet to the somber. "Zina-Marina" is a reflection on the sex-slave trade, a problem prevalent in Eastern Europe. "Being from Ukraine, which is the center of that business, I could not not write a song about that. Actually, I think I'm 10 years too late to write that song. Or we're 10 years too late to release it because that song has been around about a decade."
"There is a kind of front of artists forming to do anti-trafficking benefits and coalitions. We have played benefits for that actually. The problem is that a lot of that kind of information gets used as some kind of 'hot topic' by movies [and media]. It's like same problem with violence in movies. When they show exciting thing; they don't show actually what it is. Violence that's shown in the movies is exciting ... it's like next scene is just little bit of damage. But nobody shows where one hit in the face, person is actually in pretty bad shape for next few months."
The mood changes with "Strange Uncles from Abroad," which lyrically, vocally and melodically seems to combine all the elements of the Gogol Bordello sound into an almost beautiful package. "That's a really important song. If we would need to put one song of Gogol Bordello into Voyager for the other civilizations, that would probably be the one."
Hutz seems to truly believe a Gogol Bordello song would be perfectly suited among whatever artifacts Earthlings might send into space as an introduction to the sentient inhabitants of the Blue Planet. Hutz's band and the new album is a source of great pride for him. He is the mastermind behind Gogol Bordello and his thumbprint can be seen on every part of the band, down to the neon-colored CD cover with a crowd shot cut from a photo and a shirtless Hutz wearing striped pants caught in an action pose is reminiscent of late '70s, early '80s punk records.
"I didn't think about it like that at all," he said. "My references were more old world. I was never a big fan of '80s for sure. The nature of Gogol Bordello is very much carnival in the full-on hard-core sense of Carnivale in Brazil, which is where I've been spending lots of time lately."
Hutz said his time in Brazil will not go unnoticed and will likely not only lead to percussion and horns prevalent in Brazilian music becoming part of Gogol Bordello's music, but could possibly lead to another member of the band.
"Taken from a hard-core angle, [the band's] Carnivale aspect is not just about celebrating some abstract notion of momentary happiness. It is a militant Carnivale. It is really a channel for a progressive vision of the future," Hutz said. "Even on the cover, the whole arrangement of the bodies is nothing you've ever seen before. That style is all about the Gogol Bordello aesthetic. [We've] been described in Ukraine when we played there first time as '[Gogol Bordello] looks absurdly obscene yet it has some unknown aesthetic to it.' So, there you go."
March 9 with Skindred, 8 p.m., $17.50, The Big Easy, 416 S. 9th St., 208-367-1212.