Who better to fight the “prowling big bear” of Russia than Volodymyr Zelensky, “the man with the iron balls.” At least that’s what Primus’ Les Claypool and Gogol Bordello‘s Eugene Hütz sing about on their irreverent new track about Ukraine’s president.
“As soon as Russian aggression broke out, Les and I connected to address the catastrophe ASAP,” Hütz, who is from Ukraine, tells Rolling Stone about making the song. “We jumped on creating affirmative music that calls for unity and pays respect to the real doers in Ukrainian defense, such as President Zelensky, who demonstrated previously unheard of stamina and heroism.”
The duo also got a group of other musical greats to join them on the track supporting Ukraine. The Police’s Stewart Copeland plays drums, Sean Lennon sings and aids on guitar, Hütz’ bandmate Sergey Ryabtsev plays the fiddle, and Billy Strings joins on the acoustic guitar.
“An unlikely man grabbed the microphone/To tell the world what most would not dare/Determination made the world a difference,” they sing on the track. “To go beyond what duty calls/The world now knows Zelensky/As the man with the iron balls.” The song also makes reference to the “revolution of dignity,” referring to the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas War.
The entire proceeds of the track are set to benefit Nova Ukraine, a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian relief to the people of Ukraine. “It is our way to show that heavyweights like Les, Stewart, Billy, and Sean stand with the people of Ukraine and the country’s sovereignty from the very start of Russian-led terror,” Hütz adds.
Claypool said he learned of the Russian invasion while sharing a meal with some Polish friends before he decided to contact Hütz to work on a song. “In that vodka-laced dialogue, we started mutually praising Zelensky for his surprisingly epic display of courage,” Claypool says. ” ‘Zelensky has balls of steel!’ we agreed. It was then that we decided that some freaky ‘East meets West’ art needed to be thrown that way.”
Claypool is clear that the track “is not intended to be a song of condemnation” but instead one of “unity.” He says, “We now have a recording to help rally support for a bullied country, and a David versus Goliath-type man who stood up for their liberty, freedom, and homeland… [We’re] giving praise to a man who stepped up for his people beyond anything I’ve seen in my tenure on this planet. This unlikely fellow has grabbed the reins of leadership and held fast in such a way that the world is now galvanized in support.”
Ukraine and Russia have been at war for nearly two months since Vladimir Putin launched an attack on the country in late February. Since then, the music community has pulled out of tour stops in both countries, with many pledging their support for Ukraine.
Zelensky even made an appearance during this month’s Grammys calling for unity. “We defend our freedom to live, to love, to sound,” he said. “On our land, we are fighting Russia which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today. To tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks on TV.”