You probably know all about Eugene Hutz, the comically mustachioed and colourful ringleader of the New York-based gypsy punk circus known as Gogol Bordello. But how much do you known Evgeny Aleksandrovitch Nikolaev, Ukrainian refugee, part Romany ‘liberated spirit’, voracious reader, teenager inhabitant of gypsy camps and defender of the insane? Let’s find out…
With Gogol Bordello your intention was to mix gypsy culture with punk rock. Do you think you’ve succeeded in breaking negative stereotypes?
To an extent. There is still negativity towards gypsies in certain places –
What were your school days like in
School is set up in such a motherfucking idiotic way, it made no sense to me. I was raised with a lot of help by my great-grandparents, and I think a lot of my liberated spirit came from them. When you’re exposed to their day-to-day wisdom it’s hard have any time for school. As a teenager I was notorious for skipping school for months. Of course, the evacuation from
Do you think being of part Romany and gypsy descent has prepared you well for life in a touring band?
Sure. If you talked to my grandparents they’d tell you that they would travel seven hundred miles to follow the work – whether that was blacksmithery, fortune telling, playing music or trading shit. Incidentally,
What is your tip for keeping fit on the road?
Drinking, smoking and screwing all night long. We have built up our immune systems on the frontline very well.
What is your greatest phobia?
It used to be a fear of incarceration in a mental asylum. It was a reaction to the restrained Soviet environment I grew up in. The Soviets were known for terrorizing individuals through psychiatry – I had friends who were put in the asylum purely for being punk rockers. Very scary. That changed when I moved to the
Do you have any crazy stalkers?
Yes, and we know them quite well. At one point they were in every aspect of our lives. There are some bizarre stories.
Well, this is Bizarre magazine.
Of course. Unfortunately however we are still dealing with some of these issues right now…
What superpower would you like have?
To appear entirely normal when I need to. Just because any security or immigration situation always seems to take ten times longer than the person next to me. I try to act normal, but it’s still not enough. I’ve been turned away from countries, deported from countries…
When were you last starstruck?
I’ve never been starstruck because that’s not the way I look at things. But I have become great friends with Manu Chao, who is the real deal. He’s a musical Che Guevera in every way. To become close to my hero is one of the most fantastic things in my life. Manu all the fucking way, man.
Are you ever going to write your life story down?
What am I – a fucking soccer player? Those guys write their autobiographies at 27. I actually did have a nice offer from a publisher, but it’s not time. When I feel like getting it all off my chest I will, but I haven’t even reached my peak yet, man...