GOODFest: Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz On How To Not Be A Pretentious Artist

If you see only one Dadaist Spaghetti Western ballet this year...

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing editorial coverage of GOODFest, we’ll be chatting with an artist from each of our five shows about the intersections of music and activism as it pertains to them. Check out our complete GOODFest coverage here.

Eugene Hütz, frontman of NYC-based indie gypsy-rock band Gogol Bordello, has spent almost two decades fusing art, literature, and history into a raucous, experimental sound. He extends his creativity to acting, art, and activist projects as well, all while maintaining a level of sardonic wit about his work and an appreciation for his musical idols. He also extends an open invitation for anyone and everyone to come join the party.

Today, in New Orleans’ Music Box Village, a community built to explore the sounds hidden all around us, Eugene will join Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and other creative friends to perform a musical tribute to Dadaism, all in the name of humanity.

To see Gogol Bordello’s performance tonight, tune in to for the livestream and follow us on Facebook.

GOODFest: How has your approach to philanthropy changed over time as your prominence and influence has grown over the years?

Eugene Hütz: Really, over the years, the only change has been that we went from playing to dozens of sparkling eyes and wide smiles, and now it’s thousands of them. It remains as it started.

So is there any feeling of personal responsibility as more and more of those sparkling eyes end up on you?

If you go into the actual meaning of responsibility—an ability to respond, not necessarily dragging something on your shoulders—in that sense, yes. We are the propeller. We propel that energy. And (sarcastically) once you have a microphone in your hand, it is a sensible thing to propel a good energy, because that’s exactly what you’re gonna get back. That’s a huuuge secret.

But this so-called secret is the engine of our longevity. Thousands of different performers get up on stage every night around the world and do their thing according to their method, the results greatly varying, for many reasons.

Our method, which is the only method I’m gonna speak up for, is more of a dialogue with the audience, rather than a monologue. A monologue is a one-way street and it’s draining. Your energy just runs out. Dialogue is that two-way exchange of energy.

Are there any specific instances of communication coming from the audience side that have impacted you?

Aside from general, traditional spirited fan response, we do have quite a few people who have suffered through something devastating in their lives, and the response from people like that … it’s a more significant point. These people who share that they appreciate our music for its uplifting quality, when I receive that kind of feedback, or have those people at our shows, that is pretty powerful and uplifting back to me.

I love to learn that our music has that sort of healing power that we intended it to have. Essentially music is self-therapy. It’s all self-medicating.

Do you subscribe to the philosophy then that, as an artist, your intent is less important than the audience’s interpretation?

I don’t think I even have too much of a fully formulated intention, honestly. That would be a pretty pretentious thing to talk about.

In fact, I think the job of an artist is to translate the voice of the so-called soul. We largely live in a society that’s interpreted by brains and logical operation. But this is only half of the picture. In the metaphysical sense, maybe not even half. The artist is less friends with logic and more of a receptor of all the rest of the energies. And to interpret them and translate them into human language is really all he does. Therefore, to have intention is silly. The channeling is already enough.

If you’re in a particular situation and it has a vacuum or void that needs to be filled with cathartic joy, that’s what we do.

What’s the primary energy you’re channeling in your new album?

I was hoping for it to be more introspective and composed, but of course, it turned out to be the exact opposite. Completely buck wild rocking and firing on all cylinders. I really did not see this coming. Went in thinking it’d be a nice collection of tunes, very meditative, and next thing you know, I’m bouncing off the fucking ceiling.

And the show at The Music Box will be another energy entirely?

Yes, this is not a rock show. It’s a collaboration between several artists and friends that is mostly a tribute to the art movement of Dada. It’s called “Dada Western.” As history has it, it’s been exactly 100 years since Dada took place in Zurich and New York.

Dada is the most important influence on Gogol Bordello, obviously. The earliest shows all being basically Dadaist exhibits. Eventually our band was playing the gallery and museum circuit, only later going to clubs and on tour.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less