Jesse Malin talks about covering The Pogues for charity with longtime pal Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello
As war rages in Ukraine, Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz and singer-songwriter Jesse Malin have teamed up for a spirited cover of The Pogues classic “If I Should Fall from Grace with God,” with proceeds to benefit the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. Released on April 29 via Velvet Elk Records, the track will be exclusively available on BandCamp.
Hütz was born in Ukraine, but he moved with his family to Vermont when he was a teenager. As a young man, he made his way to New York City, where the “gypsy punk” music he began making with Gogol Bordello made a big impression on Malin.
“He was doing something really different – punk rock, but with this whole other gypsy world music kind of thing,” Malin says of Hütz. “The way he was able to merge the two really impressed me. It reminded me how The Pogues took punk rock and traditional Irish music and merged the two to create something new.”
VIDEO: The Pogues “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”
Malin helped Gogol Bordello get their first record deal, and the band returned the favor by inviting Malin to tour across Europe with them, with the first show in Moscow. “I’d never been to Russia, and it really opened my eyes to see how small the world is, how connected we are,” Malin says. “I started to realize I grew up in this cold war mentality. We were fed garbage of hating Russia, all this fear-mongering stuff. Of course there’s good and bad everywhere. The Russians [at the concerts] were just people that liked music. Music would unite us, outside of the politics or religion, which divides people.”
During that tour, Malin watched Hütz serve as something of a Pied Piper. “He was singing with his nylon guitar through the airports, and Gogol Bordello would have these big meals after the shows and he’d get everybody together drinking wine and vodka and singing songs,” Malin says. “He really understood taking care of the crew and the community and people, and it really made me very impressed with him.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Hütz used his charismatic leadership to organize a benefit concert at New York City’s City Winery venue. Besides Gogol Bordello, the all-star lineup also included Malin, Patti Smith, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, and many other artists. At that show, Malin and Hütz performed “If I Should Fall from Grace with God,” a Pogues song that referenced the conflict between the U.K. and Ireland and which seemed to parallel the struggle that Ukraine now faces. The song went over so well that they decided to record it as a charity single.
“Eugene comes from Ukraine and understands the fight. I really commend that he is using all his platforms and his music to help,” Malin says, adding, “It’s always fun to sing with him. He’s got a great, great energy. He’s got the positive mental attitude, and he’s fearless.”
Malin hopes that listeners will be similarly inspired by this single and donate what they can. “We have a voice,” he says. “Music is there to entertain, but it’s also to shake things up and awaken people and to help. Now, Ukraine is a country that’s fighting for their freedom, and that’s something I think many people can really relate to and want to help out after everything we’ve been through these past couple of years. This is something that resonates.”
VIDEO: Jesse Malin and Eugene Hütz “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”