Eugene Hütz: Controlled Chaos

The “gypsy punk” music of Gogol Bordello may sound improvised, but it’s informed by classical sensibilities.

Since 1999, Eugene Hütz's gypsy punk band, Gogol Bordello, has been captivating surprisingly diverse crowds all over the world with their super high energy performances. But the wild concerts shouldn't suggest that Gogol Bordello's music isn't carefully composed.

Eugene Hütz: What people see on stage is really a very recklessly performed, initially very crafted, material.

Hütz is a founding father of the gypsy punk genre, combining the punk scene he loved as a teenager with the "gypsy music" he connected to through his own Romani heritage. But the two styles weren't a natural fit.

Hütz: Punk is kind of a democratic way to approach art and music, and gypsy music requires virtuosity. If there's any kind of misconception that it doesn't, that has to be demolished right away. It’s musical virtuosos. Three musicians in my band are classically trained—you know, finished conservatory. And that's really what allowed for creation of gypsy punk. It wasn't any kind of a "jamming in a park" kind of thing.

The self-trained front man spent years studying gypsy music in its numerous regional forms. A 2007 documentary chronicles his trek through Eastern Europe, exploring those folk roots. But Hütz says he also looked to more traditional sources.

Hütz: I listened to a lot of classical music, and how classical composers made use out of folklore, so...Brahms, and Dvorák, chiefly Béla Bartók, of course. They all made huge use of folkloric tunes, and magnified them, and made them really, really into bombastic pieces. I'm pretty sure that people threw around chairs around the concert halls when those things were performed. They just had this huge symphonic “oom-pah” to them. I was just really actually listening to that, and thinking that that's kind of time to do something with that in a context of rock music.

Gogol Bordello's membership has been fluid over the years, but always unified in the pursuit of a deep, visceral connection among its audiences.

Hütz: Maybe people really derive a lot of comfort and self-healing from being in this kind of a well-spirited, diverse crowd. And I think soul just loves that kind of vitamin.