GOGOL BORDELLO with DUB TRIO at Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay), Tuesday (October 9), 8 pm. $20. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Being the world's most famous "Gypsy punk" carries with it a certain amount of political baggage, something that Eugene Hütz, the feral face of roving Eastern European-influenced rock caravan Gogol Bordello, could do without.
He's more interested in creating a universal party wherever the band "drops anchor," he says.
Despite Gogol's now legendary live shows, Hütz's Roma heritage and Ukrainian immigrant backstory continue to be focal points of media attention.
He's not entirely comfortable as an involuntary cultural ambassador.
"I have been forced to be an educator about it all the time," says Hütz from his parents' place in Vermont, a pre-tour "decompression zone" he escapes to from his New York home base. "The more I was on the road, the more I realized how clueless people are about Gypsies and their history and music. So I had to do quite a bit of work turning our whole activity into 'edutainment. '"
Gypsy punk's political impact was forcing Hütz to become a representative of an entire country, the Ukraine, and to speak about the politics there. "It's not what I want to do. I don't live there, and there's a reason for that," he says. "I'm much more interested in what goes on in the world as a whole. I'm not interested in just one village."
Besides, Gogol Bordello, an octet, is the UN General Assembly of bands. Members hail from all over the world, including Russia (violin, accordion), Ecuador (percussion), Scotland (dance), the United States (drums), Ethiopia (bass) and Israel (guitar), all adding to the thrash metal, reggae, dub, flamenco, Gypsy two-step stew that is Gogol's unmistakable sound on their new record, Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy).
It's a record that comes loaded with expectations after the breakout performance of 2005's Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike. The Steve Albini-produced gem turned critical heads, shot Gogol to headline-tour-level status and gave Hütz the all-time stamp of success: Madonna's digits. (They collabed at the London Live Earth concert.)
But Hütz is cool to the suggestion that he felt pressured to make a follow-up whose impact would equal Gypsy Punk's.
"For me, the most important thing is uncorrupted creativity," he says. "I don't worry about the next step - I just do it. I'm a non-stop songwriter. I've been writing songs since I was 14 - it's my main occupation. It's how I think.
"The record before this one was our first real step in the outer world, and for this one I felt the anticipation was of course massive. But [the band] had reached another spiritual plateau by that time. Whether anticipation was there or not wouldn't matter, because it would still be a massive record."
It isn't necessarily hyperbolic to describe Super Taranta! as "massive." It's a raucous, rebellious record overflowing with instrumentation and biting humour that rarely slows down - much like the group's world-touring wanderlust.
There's an uproarious indictment of the dullness of North American wedding ritual (compared to three-day-long Euro Gypsy parties); a bottle-of-vodka-can-solve-any-cultural-difference stomp called Supertheory Of Supereverything; and, most notably, the Pogues-meet-Balkan-punk-with-a-dub-pulse track called Ultimate, which encapsulates Hütz's trans-cultural mission statement despite his reluctant-diplomat claims.
"I wrote that song in Siberia," says Hütz, who recently returned to Ukraine and Russia for an upcoming documentary titled Pied Piper Of Hützovina. "When you're in Siberia, you experience otherworldly feelings. Just looking at the thousand of miles of wilderness that surround you, thinking how people could conquer this territory and live here when it's completely brutal and unfriendly. I just think they must've had one hell of a good song to conquer it with.
"And Ultimate, this is my idea of the song you can conquer Siberia with." And maybe North American audiences, too.
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On being a multicultural band
On upcoming documentary
On American weddings