At one time, Gogol Bordello's albums got shuffled into the world-music section of record stores -- a shelving notion that isn't too far off-base, since the band creates a bastardized gypsy tradition laced with punk PCP and cut with chunks of reggae, dub and salsa. But to Ukrainian band leader Eugene Hutz, Gogol is a key to cultural revolution.
B-Sides: On the latest record, Gypsy Punks, the band is bringing in new musical elements, like reggae and salsa. How do you make sure you remain true to your roots?
Eugene Hutz: I know that the main legs on which Gogol horse does its drunk gallop always will be Eastern Gypsy European two-step. As far as drifting away from our roots, I don't think that will ever happen. First thing when I pick up guitar or if I have three shots of Cognac and start dancing, that will be exactly in that manner.
Are there many radio stations that play your music?
It's usually college radio. When we started, the first five years straight the only thing we heard was [that] it was completely unmarketable and completely un-commercial, and how this is completely un-American and how can this possibly make any road in American audience? But you know how much fuck we give about these people? And five years later, what do we have? New York Times, and London Times and Moscow Times writing: Gogol Bordello, leaders of Gypsy-punk revolution.
A lot of America's culture is mass-produced; is that why Gogol's originality has become so attractive?
I think a lot of American kids who are not ruined yet latch onto us and music like us because, you know, they are starving for authenticity. Subconsciously they know what is promoted on TV and the radio is not real rock & roll. Even if you fool people's minds, their guttural feeling still knows better.
Which would foster better international relations: cross-cultural music or cross-cultural bedroom relations?
Both. As a matter of fact, this is something I have been recently obsessed with. A lot of my time is taken up by DJing. I've been making mixes to screw to. Word went around that this is the fucking bomb to have in your bedroom. Now I'm a bit overwhelmed from requests to make a mix to screw to for just about everyone I know. But you know, I guess that's part of my mission.
You seem to almost defiantly keep many of your lyrics grammatically incorrect -- do you do that on purpose?
Well, I just don't see the necessity in it. What am I going to do, hire an editor who is going to sit with me every morning from the minute I wake up, 'til usually the first two, three hours of the day when I work on all the literary aspects of Gogol or my own writing? What am I gonna do, hire somebody who is going to stop my train of thought all the time? Fuck this. I've gotta deliver the message more than anything, and if my voice find itself expressed the best in the broken English, so be it. -- Andrea Noble
Words and Guitar
Drummer Janet Weiss detonates Sleater-Kinney with her mind-bending banging. In lieu of the routine riot-grrl roast, B-Sides opted to ask her questions based on song titles from the trio's kickass new album, The Woods.
B-Sides: What's your feminist take on the "Wilderness"-set fable "Little Red Riding Hood"?
Janet Weiss: I've never read any political overtones into it, but hopefully Paris Hilton will never play Little Red Riding Hood. That would be very upsetting.
What's the fascination with "Modern Girls" like Paris and Avril?
The desire to revel in this clichéd dumb girl is a model I've never subscribed to. It keeps women looking stupid. If society could accept women making important, scary, vital music, it would be revolutionary.
Do you have a "What's Mine Is Yours" relationship with listeners?
There's nothing I can say in an interview that couldn't be figured out by listening to the body of work. It gets across our love for music, community and each other. People become attached to music because it makes them understand things about others. The music says it all.
What's with the resurgence of "Jumpers" in pop culture?
That song is based on a New York Times article. What's striking is that people who survived jumping off a bridge said they regretted it the minute they stepped off the landing. Regret, sadness, loss, fear -- this is what I mean about music saying best what needs to be said. A conversation couldn't move you the same way that a song would.
Why's it been so long since you've been to "Entertain" St. Louis?
It's absolutely nothing personal -- it's whatever works out in the routing. We're making a point to go back because we haven't been in so long. There are a few places we have a poor relationship with, like Detroit. But St. Louis isn't like that.
"Rollercoaster" or Tilt-A-Whirl?
Neither. I get extremely motion-sick, so I just play in the arcade. I love all shooting games. I would never go on a Tilt-A-Whirl in a million years. I'm scared of roller coasters, but I'd say they're far superior to the twisty-turny, make-you-throw-up, whirly thing.
"Let's Call It Love" in five words.
Everything between birth and death.
Did you ever need a "Night Light"?
Oh, sure. I wasn't scared of the dark, but the idea that there might be something unknown -- that's what's frightening. But it's not a debilitating fear. Like roller coasters. -- Kristyn Pomranz
From the Desk of Jesus
As someone known for a dramatic resurrection, I can appreciate the comeback impulse, as manifested in your concert at Pop's tomorrow night. Still, I must admit to feeling untold dread when I gazed upon the cover of your latest album, Reborn, and saw your members shirtless and slathered in paint. Not since Creed's Scott Stapp bared his oiled-up chest on the cover of Spin has an alleged fan of mine displayed such disturbing immodesty. Even worse, though, was the music contained within this frightful package. Hark, I hear an unnecessary remake of "Amazing Grace" and many presumptuous phrases about my divine intentions. "I want what You want for me," you sing. Well, I want you to stop.
Even in the '80s, you embarrassed Me, first by selecting the most unwieldy acronym in history (Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness) and secondly by writing words that were not inspired by my divine hand. "Jesus, king, King of Kings/Jesus makes me wanna sing"? I desire disciples, not cheerleaders. Also, it was deeply distressing how you kept implicating me in your music's creation, with lines like "I feel his strength come into me." I play no interventionist role in any of mankind's disasters, including the platinum status of your 1985 album, Soldiers Under Command, yet you continually posit me as your benefactor-slash-muse. Normally, them's smiting words. But I endured your ostentatious support, because you were the best I had at the time. Christian metal still struck many as oxymoronic.
In 2005, groups such as Norma Jean and As I Lay Dying praise me without gaudy, bumblebee-esque wardrobes or love-song-template lyrics containing only a capitalized "Your" to differentiate them from maudlin prom ballads. Normally, I don't ask artists to bury their talents in the ground, but in your case I'll make an exception. If you lay down your instruments and quietly conduct Bible study courses in your communities instead, I promise to give you the prodigal-son welcome. If not, you shall join many other '80s Headbangers Ball regulars in Hell, where you'll both endure and dispense profound agony as the eternal entertainment for sinful fans of quality music.
Jesus H. Christ