With the atrocities still being committed in his native Ukraine, GOGOL BORDELLO and especially frontman Eugene Hütz have been on the forefront to bring more attention on the invasion of Ukraine. Bearing witness as his homeland endured the heinous barrage of a violent and deadly invasion from Russia, Eugene joins us today to share his thoughts on the invasion, the Ukrainian nation and the band’s new album, available for streaming below.
“While the legacy of Gogol Bordello remains to be seen, at this particular moment they have clearly chosen to stand up and be counted. With SOLIDARITINE they have created an album that stands up to the forces of hate and bigotry. Their music and their message serve as a call to arms across the world. This is the time for solidarity, and with their new album Gogol Bordello lead the charge.” / SpectrumCulture
“Solidaritine may be one of the most urgent and personal albums of this or any other year it isn’t just a soundtrack to a war. Gogol Bordello’s mission to bring their self-styled ‘joy core’ to the world, invigorated and adapted into a fuck you to Putin, and telling testament to the power of punk.” / LouderThanWar
“Solidaritine is another welcome shot of life that Gogol Bordello tend to excel at, where the punk philosophy and attitude mixed with the richness and colour of Romani music makes a blend that still sees them in a class of one. They remain refreshingly diverse within it too, no doubt in part to the deliberately scruffy and bedraggled execution that boosts their fluidity even further.” / TheSoundboard
Being on the verge of releasing your first album in 5 years, how do you look back at your journey since 2017? How busy were you before the COVID era?
Damn, has it been that long? We’ve been touring and busting out music nonstop , especially during the pandemic, but yes… it is a first full length… was able to bust out some collabs and resumed full length speed now… I find it truly amusing when people lazy around like they have time to waste… we just don’t. On previous album, Seekers Ann Finders, we gave our best and final shot, I believe, to the idea of sympho-punk… having virtuosos in the band kinda was suggesting that experiment. Some of it I think is pretty dope, but music on the edge is what’s really in our bones, thus the new one is more of what we do best: rough.
How painful were the pandemic limitations for you guys? How did you spend your time during the lockdown?
Not particularly painful. I mean, it was another exercise in turning your minuses into your pluses. They call it transmutation in alchemy, I think. I mean, after a bit of reflective time, it also gave a chance for some cool ideas to come forth like teaching some zoom classes of martial qi kung to my buddies in various parts of the world, who were always interested in it, but didn’t have time. Then I set up home studio and been working on all fronts regularly. Lotsa reading and writing was done for sure.
Looking back at early 2022, what were your outlooks on the upcoming year, weeks before our European reality changed for good on February 24th?
Well, as you may know the war has actually been going on since 2014 when Putin invaded Crimea. Because the world didn’t react to it in any tangible way it resulted in this new round of aggression. it was pretty pathetic to observe the world walking on eggshells and eating up all this unintelligible propaganda trying to paint Ukraine in a bad light. So, Ukrainians realized they don’t have anyone to count on and screwed in the lightbulb themselves, you know. Then luckily the allies came to help the undeniable cause, much respect for that. So, on that level Ukraine already been living that reality since 2014. Of course, I wish we could just go back to working on music for art’s sake but at the moment it remains more of a musical combat.
Where were you at the very beginning of the invasion? How did it feel? What was your reaction when that actually happened?
I was finishing mixing the new album in NY. I was closely watching the situation constantly, in touch with my friends and family in Ukraine. So, when it begun that wasn’t shocking, the shock was how brutal it was, and how clueless it was. I mean, few years from now there will be documentaries for how it all went down for all to see, and one thing for sure absolutely nothing went as the invader planned. Cause historically Ukrainians are fight experts, they know how to defend.
Did you personally believe full-scale war was coming?
Yeah, as I said, since annex of Crimea in 2014 it was tangible. But the shocker is how brutal it was.
Can you say a little bit more about the background to the current crisis, the current war?
I mean, there is big power politics behind this ‘proxy war’ and there are many shifting strengths, including China and their scramble with the US, but geopolitics-wise, what’s your general stance on this conflict and what potential outcomes do you see in the nearest future?
That’s a super complex question. Let me narrow it down, cause basis of the answer is actually quite simple: proxy war is not the essence of it. It’s Ukrainian people’s struggle. Ukraine sovereignty was attacked, and you have to understand: Ukrainians already had it with Moskovites for centuries. Literally for centuries. Attacking Ukraine is a huge miscalculation typical for self-aggrandizing Russia who treats everyone around them as sub-standard.
While Ukrainian people are just humble OG’s and their cause in this war is self-evident and righteous: they are defending their home, their culture and their language from invader they already detest for centuries. They are defending their right to choose their own destiny. And now that Ukraine showed the world that you don’t have to walk on eggshells around these delusions of grandeur, everyone around is game to continue de-imperialization of Russia. When Ukraine will be rebuilt it will have a lot to offer to the world and may be even help along a rebirth of certain creed and street cred which have been kinda vanishing lately.
The impact of this war is tremendously strong on the whole country and I believe musical productions and new art creations have slowed down considerably in Ukraine due to the war. What might Ukrainian art look like going forward?
Of course, the flow of everything is devastated or disrupted, depending on the region, but in creativity on the contrary, the art and especially music have been bonanzatronic! Extreme situation propels peak performance. Admirably, lots of artists keep creating literally while in trenches. Also, there are gigs in subways and undisclosed locations, and musical tv marathons especially around meaningful symbolic dates. It’s a very musical culture, so music is inseparable from events. even the most lightheaded pop stars turned to more meaningful topics. U tube is flooded with music in support of the defenders .., punk , hip hop, metal, is being smithed out daily. I can hardly keep up…
Your new album is an obvious sign you’re back on track and on-course for new artists journeys. How does it feel to be back with new release?
Feels fkn great to be making music that serves purpose beyond amusement and entertainment. As soon as things started opening up we got out on tour and got busy making a new album, as always tracking it live together. There is a general feeling of jumpstarting better things and perhaps everyone is still kind of rebuilding their lives, so in that sense I feel like a pretty reliable jumpstarting teammate.
”Solidaritine” comes as a hard-hitting offering drawing from the Energy of your earlier releases, with a great sense of urgency. Music wise, what inspired your new tracks?
You said it: urgency… Well , you know, all that pandemic indoor time gives you chance to get rid of some of those fantasies that grow at the back of your mind… like : “only if I had extra time I’d be busting out one book after another like Stephen King… and so now that you get all that extra time you start putting this fantasy into practice, you create all this body of work and develop writers discipline, write and write until one day u go: man, fuck, There is a reason why this is not what I do! What I do is bust out punk rock music since I was 14, as my destiny has it… and so you go back to your true calling with recharged passion.
How was working with Walter Schreifels?
We were aware of each other from a distance for long time… I had my Youth of Today /Warzone /Gorilla Biscuits /Quicksand toolkit since back in the day… cause you know, I never got off that early hard-core punk train so I always keep an ear for what’s happening in that scene, cause it has a lot of integrity to it, there is always something going on. Even now when war just started, who was the first to put out song in support of Ukraine? Guys from Sick of It all! “God save Ukraine” was up on Bandcamp in matter of days.
So, when some years ago touring brough us together with Walter, we just hit it off… and I just knew there is something more we can do together. And it was a blast, I was bummed we got the record done too fast! We are both long distance runners, literally, so that stamina is there for us… but we didn’t really get to use it! And the Rift Studios in Brooklyn was a great comfortable spot to work.
You’ll be hitting the road in support of ”Solidaritine” this autumn in North America, with further UK live dates. Can we count on more European shows coming up in the coming months as well?
We love what we do, so ring us up, we I’ll try our best to get over there… Europe, south America, Africa, Australia, we’ve been everywhere, and we gonna go back… can’t wait to go back to Ukraine and get more good shit done.