How do you interview Varg Vikernes? You do it yourself, because three of your favourite metal writers don’t want to for various legitimate reasons, like…. he’s a racist, homophobic, self-professed neo-nazi who’s notoriously vitriolic towards the so-called ’Jew-press’ and he’s just done major time on the Norwegian prison circuit for murdering his ex-bandmate.
And, you do it over email, because that’s how he rolls – and while he’s a huge dweeb, he has also punctured someone to death with a tiny knife, which kind of eclipses the obvious appeal of face-time.
Which then begs the next question: Why interview him at all? What kind of funtimescentral magazine gives pages of play to a guy whose bad-vibe emissions can be seen from outer space?
Because, like you, we’re a bunch of sickos. And, we’re even sicker of boring interviews with BK buzzbands. Varg Vikernes is more interesting than your average frontman. He is also, like a lot of extreme dudes who lurk on the moral fringes of decent society, more intelligent than your average frontman.
And, we wanted to see if we could shelve our moral convictions and produce a first: an objective, well-researched interview with him that’s neither a hysterical liberal press witchhunt, a flippant cash-in on his infamy, or a metal fanzine love-in. But maybe most of all, we wanted to speak to him because, while Varg gets sent to the naughty step by the press and public, a lot of pussies like us find they can’t throw his musical output out with the weird-smelling bathwater.
Kristian Larsson Vikernes/ Varg Vikernes/ Count Grishnack, whatever you want to call him, the guy’s a musical innovator. His contribution to Mayhem and Darkthrone, but especially to Burzum, his one-man black metal concept vehicle for his own weird mythology, slots him deep into the metal canon, somewhere near the top of the black metal chapter (not least because the guy re-invented the corpse paint look beloved by chubby suburban virgins and nu-metal creeps everywhere) .
So: Varg Vikernes is an unrepentant racist, homophobic, anti-semitic chauvinist who if you know only one cheat note about him – it’s that he was directly or indirectly involved in numerous church burnings in his native Norway – and that he killed his ex-Mayhem bandmate Euronymous, real name: Øystein Aarseth. Vikernes was released from jail last year after serving almost 16 years. He has been living life and making music in a number of Norwegian jail cells since he was 19 years old. He recorded two Burzum albums, 1999’s Hliðskjálf 2010 and 2010’s Belus, while incarcerated. In October 2003, Vikernes failed to return to his low-security jail after having been granted a short leave. He was found riding in a stolen Volvo car, which, apparently contained an unloaded AG3 automatic rifle, a handgun, numerous large knives, a gas mask, camos, a laptop, a compass, a GPS, maps and a fake passport (it is thought that Vikernes came to be in possession of this equipment by means of a military barracks). This makes him the Jack Bauer of black metal. Fallen, his latest Burzum record is a departure in terms of cover art, but retains the almost anarchic lo-fi approach of previous Burzum output. Vikernes denounces slick production techniques, preferring to record entire albums in hours, using the shittiest equipment – mics, drumkits, amps – money can’t buy.
He is a huge fanboy of fantasy worlds created by Tolkien, Norse mythology, Dungeons and Dragons, white label techno and military theory. He is also deep into flirty emoticons. Here’s the interview – not a word has been changed or tweaked. We’ve been warned.
J & A
You’ve expressed a fascination with RPGs – D&D, MERP etc – is this still something that captures your imagination and influences Burzum?
It did in the past, when I spent most of my teenage years playing these games with my friends. I was still a teenager when I started up Burzum, you might know…
Do you play any of the newer MMORPG games like Ultima Online, Fable, Oblivion or World Of Warcraft?
No, and I don’t think I will either. I understand why so many play such games, but they – the games – are really just (often fantastic and brilliant) entertainment produced, distributed and sold by an industry doing its best to make sure none of us pays any attention to what is happening to our world. While we play they take over the world behind our backs. Now, I am not talking only about the gaming industry here, but about all entertainment industries in our world: TV, the film industry, the press, magazines, news, games and not least sports contests – like football. It is all owned and controlled by the same tiny group of filthy rich pigs, who do their best to enslave the rest of us, using Panem et circenses as means to achieve this.
Are you looking forward to the release of the movie The Hobbit? And are you a fan of the Hollywood LOTR interpretation?
No, I am not a fan of the Hollywood LotR films. The actors are terrible (save Christopher Lee), the creatures exaggerated to ridicules [sic] extremes, the story is commercialized, all the elves and many of the Rohirrim look like homosexuals, I find the (mostly dwarf-) humour childish and destructive to the whole atmosphere of the film. Rohan doesn’t look like Tolkien’s Rohan at all, the fighting is ludicrous (like all Hollywood fighting), with huge creatures in heavy armour being killed by one tiny stroke from one of the heroes hitting the best protected part of the creature’s entire body, and so forth. And why are [sic]everyone filthy all the time (save Legolas)? Does Hollywood think Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a Christian medieval Europe where nobody even clean their hands? Shall I go on or have I made my opinion clear by now? Hollywood ruined Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings story, as they do with all stories they come across. Ah well, I should be looking forward to the movie The Hobbit, but I expect to be terribly bored by it and will regret it if I spent any money on it – and I am so tired of Hollywood.
You’ve said you’d rather die fighting for what you believe in than live for anything else – what are the beliefs you fight for in 2011?
In one word Europe; as a genetic term, as a set of virtues and ideals, values and ideas. So about exactly the same as before, I guess. Only I guess didn’t always use these terms then, and also I knew less about it than I do now.
You abhor ‘trendiness’ in general – do you find it ironic that Burzum has become a very ‘cool’ thing for hipsters to reference casually?
Well, I would have to trust your word, as I have not heard that before. Anyway, I have no idea what a hipster is. I am Googling as we speak… Okay… Dictionary.com says «hipster» is «a person who is hip». I am now looking up the word hip and Dictionary.com says hip means «familiar with or informed about the latest ideas, styles, developments, etc.» (So now I can at least abandon all hope of ever making you think I am «hip»…:-/)
It doesn’t really matter though. If Burzum is «cool» to some, that’s fine by me. I am still me and will not change because of that. It doesn’t concern me.
You could describe Burzum as a concept band. A vehicle for a fantastical ideology steeped in magic and a contrary vision of darkness or ‘evil’. Is this where the misunderstanding of Burzum as a ‘satanic’ band came from or would you class yourself as a modern or postmodern Satanist for ease of reference when speaking to people with little or no knowledge of fantasy or Scandinavian fairy tales?
No, today I would never use a Hebrew term such as «Satan» (Heb. adversary) to describe me in any way. I could use the term adversary, but never «Satanist». If you, dear Lucy, need to speak about me to others I suggest you – for ease of reference – use the term dissident, or (true) European, or Stoic, or – if you like to shock the boring-as-Hell individuals you will be speaking to about this – you can use terms such as «fascist» or «male-chauvenist»[sic], or why not go all the way and use the term «neo-Nazi»? I’d love to be defined as such if the alternative is «Satanist» – or «feminist», or «socialist», or «liberalist» or something else really horrible.
Fantasy? Fairy tales? Are you talking about the Scandinavian mythology, Missy?
Do you see yourself as having any magical powers or gifts? You’ve described Burzum as a magic weapon and a ‘spell’. Do you practice occult and how would a spell or incantation penetrate an album for example? What kind of effect would the spell have?
Nope. Sorry to disappoint you, Lucy; I don’t believe I have any magical powers or gifts. My description of Burzum came for the simple reason that I see art as the only true magic of our world, be it the written word, paintings, music or whatever. And of course; the beauty of nature falls into the same category. I certainly don’t practise any form or religion or sorcery of any type. I am not sufficiently stupid or ignorant to do something like that…
Is there a place in your worldview for racial integration and liberal values where homosexuality and such are concerned? You’ve been attacked extensively in the media for being anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic – and you’ve not been shy about courting controversy. How do you feel about this reputation?
Well, I am glad to hear I am known for something honourable as well, and not just for making music.
You have varied taste in music. What did you enjoy about the techno clubs? Did you ever indulge in the very un-metal drug ecstacy or mdma?
No, I don’t do and never did any type of drugs – and I see drugs as something for subhumans only, and I have no respect whatsoever for those who take drugs. I enjoyed the underground house and techno music of a club in Bergen, Klubb Fønix (closed down dome time in the 90s, and in spite of the name, it didn’t rise from it’s ashes…), and of course the nice ladies…
Your honest and graphic account of your killing of Euronymous is pretty straight-up – it’s quite cold – referring to his dead body as ‘a sack of potatoes’ and detailing the ineffectual knife etc. You were purportedly acting in self-defence, but have you ever regretted your actions or felt conflicted about the event? It has come to define you rather than your music to a lot of people…
No, I have no regrets whatsoever. He planned to knock me out with a shock gun, tie me up, put me in the trunk of a car, drive me to the forest, tie me to a tree and then torture me to death over several days whilst filming everything. He was absolute scum and I did you all a favour by killing him.
Cold? Well, when dealing with low-life such as him I am cold, indeed. And we should all be. With that said, I think it is pathetic that so many think this is so special. Killing others is not a big deal, and even today many of those who walk around in your streets, talk to you and deal with you every day are killers. I have a friend, the ex-drummer of Uruk-Hai (old name for Burzum) by the way, who has as many as twelve registered kills as a sniper in Afghanistan. Killing is still a part of modern life too. Whether we like to admit it or not. We kill for our own survival, or because we have other values than those we kill. C’est la vie. Deal with it.
No, I am not conflicted about the event at all, and if some arseholes step on my lawn with weapons in their hands some time in the future I can assure you I will kill again. Easily. And if there are too many of them for me to handle I will simply call my ex-drummer for some assistance.
Your jury was interesting. Why do you think a Christian healer, a holocaust survivor and several freemasons were selected as jurors for your case?
To make sure I would be found guilty and get the maximum penalty in Norway, which was 12 to 21 years in prison at the time when I was convicted (today it is 14 to 21 years).
You’ve been called a nazi (sometimes by yourself). Obviously associating your beliefs with atrocities like the Holocaust has added to your enfant terrible status. Now you use the term ‘odalism’ to describe your beliefs – can you outline this belief?
You’ve described the media as the Jew-press – can you elaborate? Are you referring to the Western/US media or local Norwegian press?
I am referring to the media all over Europe and USA, and other similar places. Why I call it the Jew-press? Well, why don’t you look at the names of those who own the press in these countries? Why don’t you ask them if they are Jews or not, or if at least one of their parents were Jews or not? When you discover that they are almost all Jews, then what will you say? Am I not right then, when I call it the Jew-press?
You were a teenaged boy when you went to prison, with all the ideological fervour and mentality that being a young man entails. More than 20 years down the line – have you mellowed or changed?
Sure, I’ve changed, but you know; just take a look at trees, and you will know that young means soft, weak and flexible, and old means hard, strong and inflexible. So I wouldn’t say I have mellowed too much.
How did you cope in prison? How did you find ways to be creative? And how did you get along with other inmates – did your reputation precede you and were there any Burzum fans (or enemies) inside?
Sure, I met a few Burzum fans inside, but only a few. My reputation in prison was that I had kept my mouth shut when all the others in my case didn’t, and that I was convicted solely because of those others who didn’t shut their mouths. So I met a lot of sympathy. Most of the prisoners in Norwegian prisons are Muslims, and I had killed a guy with a knife, so they thought I was something like a hero. Apparently they think killing others with a gun is coward [sic], but when you kill with a blade that’s all good. So they didn’t give me much trouble at all either. Generally speaking I had a few friends in each prison I was in, and got along with everybody just fine most of the time. The little trouble I had with others was nothing I couldn’t handle.
I may add that Norwegian prisons are not very hard to cope with. Sure, we had our deaths and stabbings, overdoses, fires and fights and all that, and especially foreigners had problems dealing with the heavy use of isolation or «semi-isolation» by the prison authorities, and committed suicide more often than Norwegians (many prisoners spend at least 23 hours a day inside a cell on their own, and all prisoners do that at least for a few weeks time before being transferred to a normal prison block), but it is really not a very dangerous environment and most inmates are pretty well behaved and relaxed – and the guards too. I am sure there are far more dangerous individuals on the outside than on the inside, so to speak. I may also add that during my 16 years in prison I never even heard about anyone being raped. We don’t behave like that in Norway, or elsewhere in Scandinavia for that sake [sic]. Not even the lowest of the low amongst us. We at least are not animals.
The theme of this issue is IMAGE. Your image has been very innovative – even though it was kind of an anti-image, it was still a potent, considered and influential one – the corpse paint etc. Where did Burzum’s image come from?
It comes from many things. One thing was the wish to remain anonymous (and yeah, we might agree that I failed miserably in that context), much like the «white label» house and techno music artists at the time. The use of corpse paint, as you call it, was a romantic idea about being able to see the spirits of the past by putting on a mask. This might sound odd, but in Antiquity this was common knowledge; in order to see the spirits you need to first put on a mask. This is of course why we dress up on Halloween as well. The wish to look like a dead person is also the same as the reason why we do the same on Halloween; you need to look like a dead person in order to gain access to the realm of the dead, to the realm of the spirits. The Burzum corpse paint (and I say so because other bands had other reasons to use corpse paint) was in others words a romantic idea, about being able to bring the past back to life, by putting on a mask so that the spirits of Antiquity could be seen and be brought back to life – for some time, anyhow, and only in the imagination, of course. This was the only way to reconstruct the past, so to speak. Now, I may add that I don’t believe in spirits or anything like that. Doing things like that might still fuel the imagination and satisfy the more romantic sides of man.
I stopped doing this in 1992 when the use of corpse paint became a trend in black metal, even though none of the bands knew why it was originally done. To them it was just a show, much like when done by Alice Cooper (the first one to do this in heavy metal) – although I may add that perhaps he too originally had a deeper reason for doing so. To the black metallers it was only done because they believed it was a part of the «black metal package», and for no other reason. Ah, well, I guess they did because they liked to dress up as well… Funny creatures, those human beings…
The new Burzum album is a departure in terms of cover art and logo – could you tell me a bit about the cover art?
Well, Burzum has no logo… and to stress this I just typed Burzum using the Times New Roman font this time. I want the focus to be on the music and cover art, and not some «fancy» logo. The painting, Élégie, was used because it fits perfectly for the theme of the album, because it is romantic and because the artist, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, painting it was exceptionally skillful.
Thanks very much for your time.
Thank you for the interest, Lucy.
By Lucy Stehlik [For JUKE Vol.03]