by Jenny Mudarri | photography by Ben Sarle
Eugene Hutz, Ukrainian-born singer, former Vermonter, and frontman of Gogol Bordello, sat down with Thread before the last of three performances in Burlington over the past two weeks. Hutz was as engaging and charismatic in person as his vibrant clothes and stage presence would leave one to believe. We covered the whole gamut – everything from chocolate candies to idol competitions – and Hutz revealed it all.
Did you have fun performing last night at Occupy Burlington?
It was a lot of fun – it was full on rock and roll, full on womp ba-ba loom bomp ba womp bam boom! And, uh, tooty fruity and uh, wooly booly.
It’s impressive that you didn’t fall off the fountain or anything – it was slippery up there.
Eugene Hutz performing an acoustic set at Occupy City Hall Park, Burlington.
I know, I am familiar with that kind of condition. It’s just like playing, and in the back of my mind, once in a while there’s a thought going, there’s no way I could have done this without a guitar and going bananas. Like if I had just been completely sober and alert I would have completely fallen.
You had 500 people show up for a show last night that wasn’t even announced, I think that speaks to the kind of fans that you have here which is just so cool to see.
Twitter baby. Sometimes, on a lay over, there’s a lot of flying in like festival season so in the summertime, in Europe you’re often times different country every day, and sometimes I’ll be on a lay over somewhere, in Copenhagen or in Rome, Twitter out, ‘yo! We’ll be playing or DeeJaying in this place, and a couple hundred people show up. In my mind I invented Twitter a long time ago. I wish I had it ten years ago when I was mostly living from no money DeeJaying, that would be the shit. I used to carry a fucking printer with me and print out flyers, pay the girl to pass it around, and the party was starting in two hours.
These parties were in Burlington, right? Where did you live when you moved here?
I moved here when I was 17, I was actually almost 18, but I lived downtown, originally I lived in um, there was an area, to me that was like the fucking cool area, right behind the food shelf, like where there are a lot of colored houses, there’s where you get a lot of like, multi-cultural activities going on. That’s where I used to hang out, and I used to work at the food shelf. Ya know the homeless shelter, this was down there, we used to rehearse there with [the band called] The Fags. I worked as a dishwasher in the food shelf and they let us practice there, because the drummer was also working there.
That’s the kind of stuff people in Burlington want to know about you.
Yeah but I worked in a lot of shit-shacks here. I was always fired on the second day.
Where else have you worked in town? I heard you worked at Pure Pop at one point in time.
Oh really? Yeah, I worked at Pure Pop…they fired me too. I worked at a chocolate…little store, uh, candy chocolate store on church street. Which was great.
Did you get a lot of free samples?
No you get free girls. You get a constant stream. It was good for practicing English flirting.
So when you weren’t selling music or enticing women with your accent, were you at the bars? What’s the one bar you always go to when you come back to Vermont?
Uh, sure. Um, it’s Esox. No, I’ve actually never been there in my life. It’s a legendary place. Well, when I return, ya know, it’s usually part of the decompression process, and visiting my parents and old friends, so I go where the friends are, and that would be Radio Bean.
Speaking of old friends, do you ever see any of the former members of The Fags around town at all? One of them is a bartender at the OP, right?
I was just playing with him on stage. Yeah, which is also why I go there. We used to make fun of that place, as ya know, kind of a… it wasn’t our hang back then. Like I was gone from Burlington for a long time, and my visits here were extremely short, when I lived in New York. But now I live in Brazil, and when I come it’s like, I’m not going to come here for two days. So, that accumulated in more family time, and more time with friends. It’s great, I mean, I’m kind of like that everywhere I go. There’s just my hangs and my pockets, and uh, I usually know every guy that sells, ya know, every bodega, and every corner where they have coco water in Brazil, and you know, it’s the same here. It’s just always around.
So you live in Brazil now, and your bandmates are from all over the world. How did you guys all end up coming together?
Everyone is a winner of idol competition. Pedro is the Ecuadorian idol. Tomas is a winner of Ethiopian idol competition. Elizabeth is a Scottish-Chinese idol champion. And then uh, came along a producer who put us all together, and say why don’t we make a million bucks? I am a Ukranian idol competition winner, obviously.
And some of you ‘idol winners’ acted in the film Everything is Illuminated a couple years back. Do you think you’d ever want to get into some more acting or directing of your own in the future?
I have done more acting. You’re right I’m more interested in directing. Essentially, acting is fun, and like every creative medium it has it’s own joys, and flops like waking up at 6 in the morning all the time. That’s what actors do. Do you think they ever fucking party? They don’t. Not until the movies are done, and the movies are done for a long fucking time. Of course there are guys like Gary Allman, who are different. But uh, the general lifestyle of that is very different from a musician’s lifestyle, which I pretty much love. The cool thing about it, is that at this point, I have met, and even become friends with my favorite directors, so whether I have an agent or not, it doesn’t even matter because none of my roles came from my agent. It’s just like, a director usually calls me. So, the fact that my favorite directors like Jim Jarmusch, and Jonathan Demme, it’s fans of Gogol Bordello, ya know, that’s pretty much all I need to know for now to stay optimistic.
Is there anything else you want to share with all your fans who are going to be reading this?
I guess it’s really uplifting to come back and rediscover Burlington, and to see that that kind of special energy of it hasn’t vanished, ya know. It’s really cool, and it’s double cool because my energy hasn’t vanished from here either apparently. We’ve been here for two weeks now, doing a special residency for…we’re doing our pre-production for our next album. So we have a charity barn, up in the boonies, which is a fantastic place, you know the place right? It’s the barn. Everybody knows this. So I thought to myself, why the fuck do I need to go down to California to rehearse…it’s time to spend some to spend some quality time in Burlington, and fucking crash the honky tonk party. Which we mercilessly did. And I love it, it’s like these little pockets in Burlington, for such a small town…I’ve been to equivalents to this town, Madison, Wisconsin, or Charlottesville, Virginia, it’s very similar. They don’t have jack going on compared to Burlington. It’s very cool from my prospective and in a lot of ways it was inspired by our local fans. I would just run into people and be like ‘man don’t ever forget that here your fans are from way fucking back in the day, it’s a different kind of fans.’ This ain’t no Charlottesville or Wisconsin.