For the purpose of this discussion we asked that there be no political rants or whatever beyond our scope, which is metal. We extracted the artist behind the myth, the metalhead beyond the medieval warrior. For instance, who in the bloody Earth would suppose that one of the most famous heavy metal bands in the world and one of the most respected American death metal acts would be among his faves? Ladies and gentlemen, here it goes - Burzum as you have possibly never read before! We present to you, metal buffs and connoisseurs, the artiste: Varg Vikernes…
Hello Mr. Vikernes, I’m glad to talk to you. First of all I want to say I found Umskiptar a great masterpiece; What are your expectations about how it will be received? "Hello Daniel Death, and thank you for your interest. I am glad to hear you like Umskiptar; I don't expect everyone to do so. Burzum is of course not intended for everyone, it is a music only some will appreciate, and that is all fine."
In which formats will it be released? I know Byelobog will distribute it throughout Europe, but will it receive a proper distribution in North America and the rest of the world, or will people have to buy the imports? "To my knowledge it will be released as a CD (some fancy box edition and a normal box) and as an LP. If I am recalling correctly Candlelight will be doing the distribution in the Americas. Plastichead is responsible for the rest of the world."
You know you are one of the greatest (if not the greatest) name in black metal in general for good or for bad, and a new Burzum release will always be coveted by pirates worldwide. What do you think about the great leak the happened to your work Umskiptar, months ahead of the release? Being back in the music business, what do you think about this unstoppable exchange of musical files, including those of your own band? "The great leak happened because my former PR agent sent my entire album digitally to outspoken enemies of Burzum, and they of course leaked it as soon as possible to harm Burzum. Having an album leaked a short time before it is released doesn't matter much, other than it gives those with an interest in it a chance to listen to it for some time before they decide whether to buy it or not. Those who want to illegally download an album will do so after it has been released just as well as two months before it has been released, so I don't spend any time worrying about them, but having an album leaked almost two months before release date is extremely unprofessional, I think. The next time I will not let anyone send out promo copies of my album until after it has been released (if ever). The magazines can wait with their reviews until after it has been released. They have to, when they leak the unreleased albums we send to them again, and again, and again. Not all of them can be trusted."
Was it hard to transform Völuspá into music? I know you made some adaptations here and there to fit your compositions, but was it (the music per se) inspired by other artists? "The music was inspired by European traditional music and classical music in general – and not by any single composer or music group in particular. No, it wasn't hard to transform Voluspå into music, and the adaptations you refer to weren't really necessary as such. I repeated a few stanzas to extend a track or two or simply to have the effect of repetition where I wanted it."
As being an advocate against the modern way of life do you consider yourself a kind of neo-romantic? Or do you reject such labels? "No, I am fine being labeled a neo-romantic (although I am sure a whole band of fools will start complaining and claiming I have “changed my opinion again” if I say I am). Note though, that I am not anti-technology per se, or anti-progress (or rather anti so-called progress). I just think it is most of the time used in a very bad way, and that it threatens our natural selection greatly – which eventually will weaken mankind, and possibly even destroy us all."
I know that in the beginning of the 1990’s you were somewhat connected to electronic music, but what were the metallic influences of Varg Vikernes and Burzum? For example, were you into thrash, the NWOBHM, or any form of what people nowadays call heavy metal or rock music? "Yes, I liked the two first Kreator albums Endless Pain, and Pleasure to Kill a lot, as well as Iron Maiden up til and including Powerslave, I liked Destruction's Infernal Overkill, Celtic Frost's Morbid Tales, Bathory's Hammerheart, Slayer's Reign in Blood, and I also liked some death metal music, such as Pestilence's Malleus Malifecarum, the self titled Deicide album, the Von Satanic Blood demo and probably some other metal music too, that I cannot recall right now."
Seeing your new photoset, I couldn’t help but notice that in the section Wargar you are wearing clothes very similar to that wore by Graveland’s Rob Darken. Did you have (or do you have) some contact with that guy? What was the type of contact you had with bands outside Norway in the 1990’s? If any, who, and where did they come from? "Sorry, but I don't know Rob Darken, and I have never heard Graveland either. I wouldn't know who that was or that Graveland even existed either if it hadn't been for questions like this... But yes, I had contact with others in the death metal underground in the early 90's, from all over Europe, but I cannot recall any names or anything. Ah, well, actually I remember I had contact with one guy in Rotting Christ, who was by the way a great guy (in a great band). Ah, so you can add Rotting Christ to the list above, with death metal bands I liked and listened to in the early 1990’s! But alas! All that has been forgotten..."
What the heck is a Wargar? "It is my first name in proto-Nordic. Used in this context to give a clue to what time period the warrior is from. (From the time before the Viking Age, in case you wonder...)
Norwegian: Varg (Icelandic Vargur)
Middle Norwegian: Vargr
Old Norwegian/Norse: Vargr (Old English: Wearg)
The asterisk shows that the word has been re-constructed using known grammatical rules for word re-construction."
Sometimes Burzum is synonymous with ambient music, serving as a portal for people to enter into this kind of eerie world. Do you consider your ambient albums something original, or were they influenced by someone else? For example I started to like “trippy” music, ambient, progressive rock, noise and so on, because of Burzum… "The ambient tracks on the Burzum metal albums are pretty un-original as ambient music, I guess; they are similar in style to other ambient music, but the ambient Burzum albums (Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjalf) are rather original, or at least I cannot recall any specific influences, though. I was in prison, rather isolated from the rest of the world, so I didn't have access to much else other than my own ideas, so to say."
What do you think about the black metal scene in general, do you listen to any of the bands formed by kids who were influenced by Burzum? "No, I left that train ages ago, in early 1993 when it turned into a silly trend. I haven't looked back since – and I spend no time thinking about black metal. If others like this thing, then fine by me, but I have [left]."
I know you live in the remote past of your Norwegian roots and the last tracks of your albums (Fallen and Umskiptar) attest to this primitive and tribal, say, way of life. Have you ever thought about recording something entirely in that way, with acoustic instruments and such? "Yes, I have, and I might in fact do that some time."
Is Umskiptar a new idea or you have been planning it for years? Do you have more projects/songs to be released, or is nothing planned yet? "There are no plans for new projects yet. Umskiptar as an album was a fairly new idea the year I made it, but I had been working with the subject for many years already when I decided to use it for an album."
I don’t know if you have that perception, but once Burzum was back in the business the imitators disappeared. What do you think about a whole generation of kids who think Varg Vikernes is a great idol? I know it sounds utterly ridiculous, but judging by your popularity, do you consider yourself a rock star? "Not at all, no. I don't even see Burzum as “rock n'roll”. Actually I have very little to say about this topic because I never think about it, and really don't find it very interesting either."
What gives you more pleasure to write music or books? Are they correlated or are they different demons? "They are different angels."
Do you consider yourself a good musician? "I can play whatever I want to, and if I don't I only need a little practice before I can, so I am perfectly satisfied with my musician skills."
Do you produce your own music, or you do have people behind it helping you, turning the knobs? "If you mean in the studio, when recording the music, then yes, I have a technician with me turning the knobs. I cannot afford my own studio (or a computer powerful enough to do it all home), so I bloody well have to do it like that."
Once I heard Umskiptar, I felt in love for Alfadanz. What is your favorite song of the album? "Probably Alfadanz..."
That’s it Mr. Vikernes, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to Metal As Fuck - have a nice week! "Thank you very much for your interest Mr. Daniel Death.*