|Gogol Bordello: nthWORD Exclusive
by Gina Ponce
For over a decade, gypsy punk rockers Gogol Bordello have been storming venues around the world with their high-octane live performances. The band's broad cultural influences pervade their new album Trans-Continental Hustle, which was mostly written by frontman Eugene Hutz after his move from NYC to Brazil. Industry leader Rich Rubin joined GB to produce what could be one of 2010's best albums. nthWORD caught up with Israel native Oren Kaplan (guitar) and Thomas Gobena (bass) of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to discuss the new album, GB's live shows, and the future of their underdog world strike.
nthWORD: What inspirations were behind the new album, Trans-Continental Hustle? Does the title say it all?
TG: Yes, the title is pretty descriptive of what continues to inspire us. But life in general is an inspiration of most artistic outlets and it holds true for this album as well. Eugene, not only now, but in other past Gogol Bordello records basically writes inspired about life and its challenges.
nthWORD: How did the collaboration with Rick Rubin come about on this album, and what insights did he have to offer?
TG: Well a friend of the band, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, came to see one of our live shows in LA and told Rubin to check us out, and he came to a gig in LA and checked us out and loved what he saw and offered to work with us. Rick is one of those unique individuals that has many years of experience working with many different artists covering many different genres. He feels music and has an incredible instinct when it comes to good music. One of the first things he told us was that everything starts from a great song. He insisted and guided us to sculpt great songs before we even started recording. And then he made sure that we rocked it. So the final result is an album full of great music that rocks like hell.
nthWORD: How did the relocation of Hutz to Brazil, after being a NYC fixture for so long, affect the new project?
TG: I am sure you can definitely hear some of the influences of some Brazilian music in a few songs. But also, the inspiration comes from many years of traveling all over the world learning about different cultures and music, which is also present in our songs. It's true that Eugene wrote most of these songs while in Brazil. Brazil is one of those places where music is a way of life, and I am sure that would inspire any artist.
nthWORD: When it comes to writing lyrics, is there any topic off limits for the band?
TG: As long as it comes from an honest place, no topic is off limits. We don't write songs just because it's a trendy topic or for the shock factor.
nthWORD: Is it ever difficult for every member of the band to get on the same wavelength when it comes to ideas for a record or show?
TG: Sometimes yes, but nothing that can't be resolved. We all have different backgrounds and sometimes different opinions like any family would, but at the end our direction is always the same and together and forward so [it's] not hard to come to a brilliant conclusion. This is actually what makes the band so special.
nthWORD: How much planning goes into a tour and live show? Is it just understood that when you get on stage anything goes?
TG: What you see on stage is very honest and raw and also the music and the live show is carefully planned and rehearsed.
nthWORD: Is it hard to capture that performance energy the band is known for in a studio recording?
TG: Well, recording and live shows are two separate entities and should not be the same as far as I am concerned. Having said that, we always try to capture as much energy as we can on our recordings.
nthWORD: With each member of Gogol Bordello having a unique cultural background, what is it about music that fuses you all together?
TG: The fact that we celebrate our differences, the fact that music is truly our life and music in general is borderless and universal. This is evident not just with the band members but our fans. People of many different cultures, backgrounds and ages love our music and travel around the world to celebrate it with us.
nthWORD: When Gogol Bordello first came together what was the vision for the band?
OK: I joined the band in 2001, having already seen them play around the Lower East Side [in NYC]. I think I was, more than anything, excited to play with a bunch of crazy drunk Russians, which was a complete contrast to anybody I ever played with before. There were other bands around trying to combine gypsy, cabaret or lounge stuff with rock, but these guys were obviously the real deal.
nthWORD: With the release of your fifth studio album how has the band grown in the last 11 years?
OK: Well, it has certainly grown in many ways....we doubled our size in members for one, also my guitar collection has grown considerably!
nthWORD: Has the creative process changed from your first album release to this most recent one, or have you found a rhythm and method to stick to?
OK: Obviously, after five albums and playing with the same people you develop some kind of "method." It's much easier to know, for instance, what guitar parts will work better, etc.
nthWORD: What continues to be the draw of "gypsy punk" music after so many years?
OK: I don't know - maybe it was Eugene's mustache, after all?
nthWORD: Is there any region of the world that is left to be tapped into by the band?
OK: Siberia, let's go!
nthWORD: There have been so many descriptions and definitions of the band over the years. What is the true essence and message behind Gogol Bordello?
OK: Definitely indestructible, spelled wrong: "undestructible!". nth.