Has anything been particularly inspiring for you with this new record? What are you tackling?
I guess I have some unresolvable addictions, such as going through space and time (laughs). Every record kind of captured a certain environment. Not only time but also a geographical environment. These past two years, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time and to reside in a country of my dreams, Brazil. Not only living in Rio, but traveling throughout Brazil and its different musical pockets.
That has been a major inspiration for me, just working with some Brazilian musicians and playing live and living and soaking in a street culture and a music that is so vibrant and is so high quality and is so heartfelt. I think it is the most musically alive region in the world, from what I’ve seen. So of course stories of Brazil and stories of the people that I met in Brazil went on the new album, but in the larger sense, it’s more of a deeper musical study of connection between Eastern Europe and Latin America, actually. Already when living there I was able to see what kindred spirits Latin America and Eastern Europe are. It all came step by step.
In the States, half of our fans are people from Argentina and Mexico and Brazil. My love for that didn’t fall out of the sky yesterday. Even living in New York, seven or eight years ago, we were already doing collaborations with Brazilian musicians and playing with samba groups. As you know, there’s a lot of powerful Carneval spirit behind Gogol Bordello. But that’s the thing about Carneval. On the surface, it’s just a party. When you look at what it actually is, in the context of culture, you see it’s a major, profound social therapy.
Being part of it and witnessing it has really put my head in a special place. Being able to see music the way people play it in favelas is so similar to the way they do it in gypsy ghettos in Eastern Europe. The central inspiration of the new record is actually the idea that the whole aristocratic bohemian spirit that was claimed by the elite is actually not located in the elite at all. It’s moved to the outskirts of town, to the favelas, to the ghettos, to mahalas. And that’s where it lives. That’s where you see real poets, real music.
You see that same authenticity that you felt in gypsy music in Brazil?
Oh absolutely. I would not bring such attention to it. Going to samba school in favela, it’s a life changing experience. It’s so powerful, it will bring your head and your heart into a different understanding of what music is all about and what it’s for. It’s not a luxury or a hobby by any means. It’s the engine of survival. It’s a natural, normal state of being. It’s just expression of love and solidarity, and communal unity.
It’s so tribal, deep within. It’s been definitely interesting to bounce between New York and Rio, and that’s what it boiled down to me. Now I’m between these two towns that I can’t live without. Can’t live without fucking New York, can’t live without fucking Rio either. Also, we just played and did a whole run through Ukraine and Lithuania and Greece and Romania, and those were just the greatest fans for the band. We’re going back there this fall.
Is that like going to yet another home, I suppose?
Well, the funny thing is that things are changing so rapidly that I feel more at home in Brazil now than Ukraine. But I was very proud this time when we went, what happened. For the first time I was proud that I was from Ukraine actually, you know. People kicked it up quite a notch and got together. It was a really good show. The whole organization was punk rock and very good. Everything seemed to fall into the right place and everybody had a good time. And it was impressive because that’s my only experience in Ukraine when shit worked (laughs).
I’m looking forward to going back and start to bring back all the sack of music I’ve been carrying with me back home. Just even as a DJ, it still remains to be such an addiction for me, you know. That’s my main addiction, go as far away as I fucking can and bring my whole sack of music with me and just start rocking.
Gogol Bordello perform day two, Aug. 1, of the All Points West festival in Jersey City. gogolbordello.com.