12 QUESTIONS FOR VARG VIKERNES OF BURZUM
There are myths. There are legends. There are those things in between. Varg Vikernes has become a larger than life figure in the underground music scene for the better part of two decades now, and those stories have all been told. And told. And told. I was given both the privilege and the pleasure of interviewing Vikernes for Forbidden Magazine, and let me tell you, opportunities like this don’t arise every day. So I figured I wouldn’t waste both of our times asking about the trite and the obvious, and instead I would utilize it a bit more wisely. Below is what I gleaned. (Click HERE to read Fatherland Almighty’s review of Burzum’s Fallen!)
It isn’t the early-90s anymore. You are considered one of the forefathers of a spectacular yet troubled musical movement that left a mark perhaps like no other. What’s different now? What’s better, what’s worse?
Sorry, but I left that sinking ship a long time ago, and I never looked back. I know neither what’s different nor what’s better or worse. I only know that I don’t want to know about this sub-culture. There are better things in life to spend time on than this so-called musical movement.
Your sound has remained pretty consistent; the same really can’t be said about many of your countrymates. Why do you think this is?
Well, I cannot know anything about the others or why they changed their sound, but I guess time has that effect, whether we like it or not. My sound probably never changed because I am too conservative (id est narrow minded) to change just about anything… or perhaps because it’s still me, and only me, making music, the same way I always did. Not sure if I could change the musical part of me even if I wanted to.
The cover for “Fallen” has been getting much attention. Tell us a little bit about it. And why an English word for the album’s title, for the first time ever?
Actually the title is Norwegian. It just happens to be the same in English. We do have many words in common you know. The pronunciation on the other hand is almost always different.
The cover…what to say about this? It was the best front cover art for an album with this concept.
Do you intend to continue writing books? Has this been as much of a passion of yours as writing music?
It was a passion, but I don’t think I have the time or will to keep it up. I am a musician and I don’t have time for much else. I will do my best to have a book about Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia published though, perhaps even later this year or early next year. We will see. I worked on it for many years and finished it around 2007, but I didn’t finish the translation until recently.
Would you ever even entertain the idea of using a full band?
Could it work to your benefit in any way that you can foresee?
How about a Burzum tour? Do you get requests for one often, from labels or fans? Would it even be feasible?
Performing live is of no interest to me whatsoever. Yes, I get requests for live performances, but I always turn them down. Maybe I will change my mind some time in the future, but I don’t think so. I have better things to do with my life.
Knowledge is power. We are all well aware of historical figures and philosophers who have influenced you over the years, so we’ll leave those alone. However, I can’t say I’ve ever really read anywhere about who some of your greatest musical influences are, outside of VON, who has returned to the realm of the underground lately. Who else?
Well, I heard VON after releasing the début album, and after recording all the early metal albums, save perhaps “Filosofem”, so I don’t think it is right to list them as my “greatest musical influence”. Anyway, if you want a name for the greatest musical influence I will say Tchaikovsky, a Russian classical music composer. He’s my biggest musical influence, for sure. In metal music I think Iron Maiden must be the band I listened to the longest and the most, up until and including “Powerslave”, and early Kreator. Id est “Endless Pain” and “Pleasure to Kill”.
I see Burzum as an amalgamation of many different forms of art, not just “evil music”, in such mundane terms for lay folk. It was (and to a certain extent, still is) commonplace to be influenced by films as a black metal band. I for one am a big fan of film samples in my metal. If you were, well, I reckon you’d probably have used some by now. Does film influence your art at all?
Not really. In the 90ies I hardly ever watched films, and I didn’t even have a TV, but I could list one film as a great influence on me, if not on my music; “Stalker” (from 1979) by Andrei Tarkovksy is without doubt the best film I have ever seen, and some times I prefer to see it over again rather than watch new films. Now, I do watch new films as well, every now and then, but they tend to be a waste of my time all of them. Unfortunately.
Photos of you for press purposes are always black and white and your face is always serious and almost wraith-like, with no obnoxious mouth or hand gestures. What are you trying to convey with each photo? Is there a sort of “transition”, so to speak, between the famous photo of you with the spiked club from a generation ago to the current photos of you with the hoodie for “Fallen”?
What am trying to convey? That is up to you to decide, isn’t it? You should consider the photos as a form of art, and appreciate it for what it is.
The documentary film “Until The Light Takes Us” was quite the production, and I really laud the efforts the filmmakers went to so they could tell their story. Describe the process to us and why you agreed to participate, please. Were you satisfied with the outcome of your own efforts as well as the overall product?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to see this film yet, and without considering if it is any good or not, I really do wish I never participated in the first place. I very reluctantly agreed to participate after a long time of arguing, and from what I can remember I finally did because Aron – and his assistant – were already there, in Norway, and their whole project would go down the drain if I had not participated – and they would be in huge financial difficulties. Now, today I wish I had not been this considerate. The whole subject (black metal) is meaningless to discuss and a waste of our time, and we should really just all let it pass away into oblivion. It deserves no attention from anyone.
What do you REALLY get excited about these days? What equals a happy Varg?
Well, I think silence is underrated, and so is the relative calm of the forest. I am not sure if this really is making me “happy” though. Events in my private life makes me happy, but they play no role in Burzum‘s life and is of no concern to the public.
I would like to dedicate this interview to the memory of my friend, Beth Gallagher (aka Sitri The 12th). Mother, daughter, sister, friend and Burzum fan. As long I live and breathe, so shall your memory remain immortal!