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Global Beat: Gogol Bordello

Matt Inman | October 11, 2017

When Eugene Hütz arrived in the United States under less than ideal circumstances, he didn’t waste any time using the experience to expand his musical horizons. The first day that he and his family were placed in refugee housing in Burlington, Vt., the teenage Ukrainian and future frontman for Gogol Bordello took a walk that would end up changing his life.

“As soon as I arrived to Vermont, I walked out on the porch of the small wooden house and saw something that looked like Kingston, Jamaica,” Hütz says, describing the “rundown and beat-up” appearance of his new surroundings. The musician, who had formed a band and already released two albums back in Ukraine, then stumbled upon some new friends.

“I saw just right over the fence, two Rastafarian guys,” Hütz continues. “Two Jamaican guys with full on dreadlocks—something I only saw in pictures before. I saw three of them lighting up a spliff, and they invited me to share this with them. It was very strong—nothing that I was prepared for—but 10 minutes later, I was upstairs in Paul’s apartment listening to reggae.”

Paul, a DJ who became a lifelong friend of Hütz’s, introduced him to a swath of Anglo-American punk-rock acts that Hütz had never encountered before—The Fall, Gang of Four, Black Flag and, maybe most important, Fugazi, who Hütz ended up seeing multiple times in Vermont. Their music, he says, made him feel at home after the move to a new country. “I was like, ‘It’s going to be alright,’” he says. From there, Hütz fell in with a crowd that was into New York and D.C. hardcore— Gorilla Biscuits, Cro-Mags, Bad Brains—and, as he puts it, he “heard that music nonstop for the next two years. All of it.”