With his handlebar mustache, unbuttoned shirts, and gold chains, Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz is impossible to miss. And now, all of America’s about to come under a double-edged Hutz attack. On August 9, the band released its third album, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike. In September, Hutz is starring as Alex in Everything Is Illuminated, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel, directed by Liev Schreiber, and co-starring Elijah Wood and famed Russian actor Boris Leskin. We are not far from seeing Us Weekly and Star headlines like “Hollywood Damsels Fall for Lusty Ukrainian Musician!” Until then we can catch him DJ’ing Thursday nights (on the rare weeks he’s in town) at Mehanata (a/k/a the “Bulgarian bar”).
How did you get the part? I got a call one day [because] they wanted a modern Eastern European soundtrack. Maybe like five minutes into the conversation, they were like, you, my friend, have you done any acting work before, by any chance?
So is acting like your mistress? Yeah, let’s put it this way. I don’t have that American worship of celebrities in me. The status itself don’t mean shit. However, meeting badass, interesting people with an amazing body of work is different.
Once, Liev asked me who my favorite actors are—I named him a few. And he
said, “Well, they all have one thing in common—they are all drug addicts.” That’s also true for all the musicians I like. But me, myself, actually it’s funny: I have never done any drugs at all. So I don’t know how that exactly works.
Maybe you’re just naturally crazy. What is a record that you never want to hear again? Panjabi MC. I overplayed that shit in Berlin like four years ago. I already killed that. And then fucking three years later it becomes a mega-hit.
You recorded your new record with Steve Albini. How was that? He’s not very kind to vocals, is he? Yeah, the guy fucking didn’t do shit for me. The band sounded phenomenal—it’s like two carats for everybody in the band. I think he had some problem with the lead singer.
He’s notorious. Well, I quickly realized that. The band sounds fantastic. I was doing vocals, and I realized this guy’s not working for me.
If you were not a performer, you would be? A shaman.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Exactly what I am right now.
If you have a day off in New York City, what do you do? Get the fuck out of here.
You prefer touring? Of course I prefer touring. You have to understand I am a Roma. My family comes from thousands of years of a nomadic lifestyle. And when I was younger, I thought, I’m being a rebel by accepting a Gypsy lifestyle and being always on the road and traveling, touring, going fucking crazy. But now I basically have come to terms that it is only a continuation of the tradition of Roma people.
You’re also working on a documentary? I just came back from Siberia. It was about my trip through Gypsy camps in Eastern Europe. I was going on this trip, and this girl was a fan and said she would like to come and document it. In America no one knows anything about Roma. It is a culture that is thousands and thousands of years old. And it’s a nomadic ethnicity that came from India and spread throughout the world. But every country shows an incredible discrimination against Gypsies. They are basically the most discriminated [against] minority in the world.
Where do you imagine yourself 10 years from now? Hopefully, I’ll discover a brand-new country where I can move all my friends and [do] everything I ever wanted to do.
Is the United States a bummer? Yeah, but I don’t want to think in these grounded terms. Hopefully, I’ll not be gone, but just have a residency there. In my own country. [Laughter.]