The close-up: Eugene Hütz, musician

Eugene Hütz, musician

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm having time off from my band Gogol Bordello. I'm from Ukraine but I live in New York and I've come to the UK to show a film at the ICA. It's a documentary called The Pied Piper of Hützovina; it's about my meeting Sasha Kolpakov, one of my musical gurus.

What are you wearing today?

A Captain Beefheart T-shirt from Search & Destroy which is a Japanese punk store in New York. I cut all the arms and necks off my T-shirts, I feel like I'm suffocating in a normal T-shirt. It's some sort of paranoia I suppose. I designed the patches on my shirt myself. If you look, they are inaccurate - the Jamaican flag says Romania on the bottom. The jeans were free from a shoot, and I call these Slayer shoes because they have Slayer patches on. I could never wear anything unless it was restructured a little.

Describe your style.

For me fashion is nothing more than a spontaneous antidepressant.

Do you always wear jewellery?

Basically, yes. Maybe I'm genetically programmed to love gold. There is something about gold in Roma culture, we will always have some silly passion for it. It will never leave the Romany fashion chart.

How long have you had your moustache?

I'm 34 and I've had it since I was 22. It was never a fashion thing. The New York perception is that everything is a fashion statement. The irony is that for me it was the least radical thing I've ever done. It's a tradition thing - my father and uncles all sport one, so I grew one as soon as I could. There is a saying in Ukraine that a man without a moustache is like a woman with one. I strongly stand behind that theory.

When did you get your gold tooth?

I got it for free when I was in the movie Everything Is Illuminated. I wanted one sooner or later anyway, but I suggested it for the character so I could get it. Free gold teeth - sign me up for that role.

Are you vain?

Not really. You don't end up a performer if you are a hermit so I do have some exhibitionist compulsions, but I don't spend that much time thinking about looks.

How did your style develop?

It probably took root in my grandmother's tailoring lab. In 1953 in Ukraine gypsies were forbidden from travelling around, so my family settled down in Kiev. My granny, Babushka Shura, became a neighbourhood tailor. She got hold of different fabrics and her house was always full of girls trying stuff on. The atmosphere had a big influence on me. I grew up next to a sewing machine and I learned how to use it. That was very helpful in the punk-rock scene when I was 14; a lot of kids came to me to get patches sewn on. I could take something apart and re-sew it. It's basically the same now. If I need to sew something or combine two things it is easy for me to do it at home.

Do you dress differently on stage from the way you do at home

No, I dress spontaneously. Everything I wear on stage disappears - either somebody steals it or I get too excited and throw something I've just bought into the crowd. Many times I've regretted it; every picture I see from my tours I think, "Damn, I wish I still had what I'm wearing there."

Do you think people have certain perceptions about you because of the way you dress?

I don't know. I know my look doesn't serve me well with anyone in a uniform.

Who are your style icons?

There's no such things as external style without internal style. Not for me at least. It all comes from personality.

Since you travel so much, have you perfected the art of packing?

I travel pretty light. The key is to pack 20 seconds before you leave. My grandmother always told me that if you do that, then you are young at heart.


Interview by Imogen Fox

The GuardianTramp

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