They've been around for more than two decades, but if there were ever a band perfect for right now, it might just be international punks Gogol Bordello.
New album Solidaritine is out on September 16 via Casa Gogol/Cooking Vinyl, and features contributions from Nobel Prize nominated Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan and Ukrainian electro-folk band Kazka, while frontman Eugene Hütz – himself born in Ukraine – is more than willing to talk politics, but can still rhapsodise about the healing power of rock'n'roll.
“Our music was always about perseverance,” Hütz explains. “Rock‘n'roll comes out of a real place. Take a group of people who have endured immigrant traumas and dislocation. They create music, get successful together, become more baroque and experimental, and experience some years of relative calm.
"All of a sudden, humankind encounters these problems like the pandemic and the war. This is when rock‘n’roll is the most necessary and where we perform the best."
Gogol Bordello's North American tour will run through October and November (tickets are on sale now). Last month they played a one-off show in The UK, raising money for care.org’s Ukrainian Crisis Response .
You’ve lived in Italy, New York and Brazil, but you were born and raised in Ukraine, so this cause must be intensely personal.
It’s much more than a political thing. For too long, the Ukrainian people have struggled to choose their own destiny. They’ve had to fight for their safety many, many times. Now they are fighting for their lives.
You have also joined forces with Les Claypool of Primus on a charity song called The Man With The Iron Balls in tribute of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. What a leader that guy has been.
Absolutely. Talk about rising to the occasion. Some have compared Zelensky to Churchill, and I understand why. He understands how crucial it is to provide verbal and thoughtful focus, and that has kept the country unified.
There’s also a collaboration with American punk stalwart Jesse Malin on a version of The Pogues’ If I Should Fall From Grace With God on Bandcamp, again with proceeds going to the US-Ukraine Foundation.
Jesse and I go back for decades. As tour mates over the years we have connected on many different topics, bonded in the aesthetic of punk and hardcore. Those things are a cultural humanitarian corridor, so our thoughts are pretty much coded.
Getting back to the war – is the outside world doing enough to help Ukraine?
Yes and no. The solidarity has been truly moving. Each night when we play shows the sense of solidarity charges me up. Culturally speaking, the Pink Floyd single [Hey Hey Rise Up] with one of the great guys from Ukraine, Andriy Khlyvnyuk [of the band Boombox], really helped. But at the same time, things could have been done much faster. That delay is very distressing. If only the world hadn’t shoved the whole conflict with Russia under the carpet when it escalated eight years ago, things could have been avoided.
Regrettably, it feels like the conflict could go on for years.
Actually, I disagree. Ukraine will win this war. The resources [of the Russians] are running dry, plus their cause is absolutely lost. So is the morale [of their troops]. Those are facts, not wishes that I’m projecting. It will be over soon.
A few years ago you told Classic Rock that yours is a band for “lovers of musical martial arts”. Can you explain that?
There are multiple interpretations. The music is a martial art of its own, especially now that information has become like combat. There’s no break from that – it feels like a constant state of warfare. The only way forward is for people to become their own information analyst. They must stay sharp and alert at all times. Exercise your own intelligence, because the tactics employed in politics and by the media are just warped.