Interview: Varg Vikernes - Burzum
10 Feb 2010
How much did the experience of spending 16 years in prison change you as a person and an artist?
16 years anywhere would have changed me per se. My time in prison was not particularly problematic. I was not a rat, nor a rapist, a Muslim or paedophile, so the others prisoners had no problem with me. I was not a junkie or a drunk, and I had no mental problems, so I had no personal demons to fight whilst there. I was anti-Christian, anti-American and had killed a guy with a knife, so the Muslims had no problem with me. I was polite and reasonable, so the guards had no problem with me. I was treated like radioactive shit by the authorities, so pretty much all the other prisoners thought very well of me. To me this was like a walk in the park. It was like a 16 year long stay in a monastery, only I could get weekly and private visits from up to three persons at the time, and it enabled me to read books I otherwise would not have read – and of course it kept me physically fit. The isolation – I spent 10 of the 16 years in partial (23 hours a day) or full (24 hours a day) solitary confinement – strengthened my traits, so to speak, making me more extreme, both as an artist and as a person, both in a good way, and I guess – alas! – in a bad way.
16 years with a 8:00 to 16:00 job and a life in that filthy sewer they call Oslo would have changed me more... Not having defended my life would have changed me more too. I did the right thing, served 16 years for it, grew stronger and wiser, and that was it. No big deal.
Do you have any regrets about not being able to fully pursue your artistic career during that time?
Yes and no. "Yes" because I could have made more music, at least one album every year. "No" because I did other meaningful and interesting things instead. Had I been able to make music I would not have been able to learn so much about, for instance, mythology. On a personal level I value my knowledge about mythology alone more than my ability to make music. I would not exchange that knowledge for any number of Burzum albums.
Have you always intended to bring Burzum back and to make more music?
No. Not sure if I will continue after this record either. If I enjoy the recording process and the album is not perfect I think I might continue. If it's perfect I don't need to make another one...
What do you think that Burzum represents (and provides on a musical level) that no one else can emulate?
My personality mixed with a complete contempt for conformity. I abide by no rules, and generate music oblivious to what is going on in the music world, so I am not influenced by others (I haven't heard a new album since Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, in 1996, and don't want to either). My music is not as much tainted by alien influences. It is pure Burzum. In a sense I left the music world in the year 1993, to live in oblivion, and I re-entered the music world in 2009, so musically I am still in 1993. My music was never exposed to the blight of time. Burzum today is in many ways an anachronism, and I think at least some of you might think that is a good thing.
You have stated that Belus will feature some songs that date back to the late ‘80s and early ’90…how do the old songs fit into the overall concept of the record?
Only the music is old. The lyrics are new. Anyhow, I still make music as if it was 1993, so... The Uruk-Hai track is musically very different from the others, though, being made in 1988 and sounding more like Ea! Lord of the Depths than any of my other tracks, so I might just publish it as a free download or something. Not sure what to do yet. We'll find out.
You have also stated that the new album is “a musical and lyrical description of the White God and the annual events of his life”. Why did you choose this particular theme for your first post-prison album?
Mythology is what I know best. Death, the mystic visit to the realm of the dead and the magnificent return from the realm of the dead is a subject that has fascinated man for ages. The White God, Belus, stays white, i.e. innocent and pure, because he does this every year, and every time he travels across the river of forgetfulness. He dies and is rejuvenated and reborn over and over again, indefinitely – as is everything else in nature. My main focus is the pre-mythology sorcerer and his approach to this problem, his personal symbolic death and journey into the realm of the dead, and his symbolic “rebirth”. I place the myth alongside the sorcerer's journey, and show the origin of the myth. Nobody has done that before.
The fact that this is my first post-prison album is completely irrelevant, by the way. The original work title for this album was Baldurs Tilbakekomst (“The Return of Baldur”), but I really did not want all those trolls out there to ruin the atmosphere for everyone by claiming I had delusions about being Baldur myself, because I had just returned from prison. My next work title, Den Hvite Guden (“The White God”), did not work well either, because so many out there only focused on the word “white”, as if it was a terrible curse, a taboo or something. “He said the W-word! Somebody call the f***ing police!” So I settled with the fairly neutral and hard-to-attack yet descriptive name Belus. The album theme never changed. It was the same all along – and I came up with the idea some time after my release from prison.
How would you describe the music on Belus? Will loyal Burzum fans be surprised by the music you’re making now?
The music is mostly melodic, melancholic and monotonous. If you have heard the first two and a half tracks on Hvis Lyset tar Oss and the first three tracks on Filosofem I don't think you will be surprised by the music on Belus. I "cherry pick" on Belus, so to speak, like I should have done on all the previous albums, and make a more thorough and consistent album this time.
Do you still consider what you do to be Black Metal?
Not really. I think the term Black Metal was hijacked as early as in 1992, and has since then been used by a number of bands, mainly from Norway, for commercial purposes. Today the term has a different meaning and does not work well to describe Burzum.
For a short while I flirted with the idea of using a new term, but ended up ignoring the subject altogether. When forced to take a stand I say today that it’s metal music. Metal with roots in classical music. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you run a record store and wish to place the new Burzum album in the Black Metal category feel free to do so, though. If you wish to place it in any other metal category instead that's okay too. I don't care.
You have made some very strong statements against the contemporary Black Metal “scene”. Is there anyone in the Black Metal world that you respect or admire?
Now, I guess I should have stressed that my contempt for Black Metallers is first and foremost directed at some of the Norwegian Black Metallers I knew or had at least heard about before my incarceration. I really don't know anything about the rest of the contemporary Black Metal world, in Norway or abroad. I've just paid some attention to the Ratti Norvegici.
I am sure there are many brilliant individuals in the contemporary Black Metal world outside of Norway worthy of our respect and admiration, but I don't know any of them. Not sure if I even know a single individual in the contemporary Black Metal world, actually, nor is there any reason for me to do so.
How do you feel about the way you are portrayed in the media? Do you think you have ever been correctly represented?
Not much of what is written about me is true from an objective point of view, and certainly not from my point of view. Some of the lies are not clever at all, but others are, and it is hard for me to disclose them as lies when those who know I am right don't have the moral fibre or courage to step up and say so in public. Another problem is that only a few are interested in the truth. Even when the evidence is there, they refuse to look at it. Most human beings just want to live their lives in ignorance. That's why the Judeo-Christian religions (including Islam) are so successful in the first place, you know.
The biggest problem is not even the lies -- because they can be disclosed as such -- but the incompetence of certain journalists. Like in one interview I gave in late 2009, the journalist was too over-worked and tired to notice that he made mistakes like leaving out the word "not" when quoting me having said that "the plan was not to kill". Instead he managed to write "the plan was to kill", and if I hadn't noticed and made him correct this before the newspaper was printed, it would have been rather catastrophic. Such mistakes happen all the time. I know the journalists don't always do it on purpose, but it is still very frustrating. Also, friendly characters, with the best intentions in the world, make similar mistakes, in their attempts to "help" me. I am accused of having said or done this or that, when I really haven't, and in the end nobody knows what on Earth is true.
Once, I think in 1995 or 1996, I even read a newspaper article about a guy and thought to myself that "this guy is a complete idiot", only to notice a few seconds later that the article was about me. It was so far from reality I had to read half a page to even realise it was about me (and the headline didn't tell)!
Now, before I continue, I can add that I don't think there is some huge conspiracy against me in particular. I just say that this is how the media works. It works like that in relation to me and other controversial figures, and it works like that in relation to just about everything and everyone else as well. It is worthless as a source of reliable information and should be shunned at all cost.
Do you feel that any of the negative things that are written about you are justified?
If you have the wits you can justify just about anything, including lies, so I don't worry too much about what seems fair and what doesn't.
Besides... I am an arrogant, intolerant, judgemental, ultraconservative, (at times) cruel, brutal, insensitive and egocentric anti-conformist. But is that really negative?
Do you enjoy being a controversial and notorious figure or is it a source of irritation for you?
Because of my arrogance, intolerance et cetera I have always been a controversial and even -- on different levels -- a notorious figure; in kindergarten, in school, in the neighbourhood and everywhere else. I am used to it. Whether I enjoy it or not, I cannot tell, because sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Generally speaking, and from nature's point of view, being controversial and notorious is stupid and even dangerous, but it can also open many doors – and we are all going to die from something one day anyway. Who dares wins, right?
You recently issued a statement that caused a great deal of media hype and accusations of racism and homophobia…did that response genuinely surprise you? Or was there an element of deliberate mischief and antagonism behind the statement?
It did genuinely surprise me, because it's not like I have been careful about what I have said before. Why this reaction and why now?
I think what we really should discuss here is that most of you seem to think it is okay to worship the (fictional) devil, to be evil (whatever that means) for the sake of evil, to hate human beings because they are human beings, and so forth, but the moment some guy shows up telling you that he does not despise all human beings, only some of them, then it's all of a sudden a major problem to you. Or even worse; a guy shows up and has the nerve to say that he does not hate anyone, but prefers one group to the other! Dear God! How dare he?!
Deliberate mischief and antagonism? Indeed, but like I have said already; I was talking about and to the rats of the Norwegian Black Metal scene. I'll be sure to put some clothes on the next time I open my big mouth, knowing you are all watching me -- and running errands for Big Brother.
Hey! I was incarcerated in 1993 and was released in 1984. Now, that genuinely surprised me.
What do you want to achieve with Belus? Do you want your audience to grow?
Frankly, I am quite satisfied with the audience I already have, bigger is not always better, you know, but if it should grow in size after the release of Belus that would be very nice indeed. I don't expect that though, mainly because I don't make commercial music or discuss popular subjects in my lyrics.
The main objective with Belus is to make something exceptional, musically, of course, but also when it comes to overall atmosphere. It is supposed to be primitive, dreamlike, unreal, fantastic and different. A window into a reconstructed past, and also a source of inspiration to those who are attracted to the barbarian Antiquity. Being “incurably anti-conformist” I also challenge the accepted truths when it comes to mythology, and go even further back in time, to ages preceding the age of mythology – and of course I present a more complete picture of what I have found in the hitherto (because I am translating it into English) unpublished book Religion and Sorcery in Ancient Scandinavia.
Do you have any future plans, either personal or creative?
Before anything else I will complete the translation of Religion and Sorcery in Ancient Scandinavia, and then publish it, complete Belus and perhaps make a music video to promote it. Not sure if I will say much more than that, with Big Brother watching us and all... You can always keep yourself up-to-date on Burzum matters on www.burzum.org.
with Richard Christ - Mochvara
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THERION, GRAVE DIGGER, SABATON
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