Interview: Varg Vikernes

varg_vikernes-sol_austan_mani_vestanAmong metal’s legions are many for whom society is not a fit. Society tries to find rules to make everyone get along; metalheads, who “think outside of the box,” tend to look toward what they see as right, not socially compatible. As a result there are many in metal who stand above the crowd and are impossibly iconic for their unique worldviews. One such man is Burzum’s Varg Vikernes.

After creating in the course of four early albums an impressive body of art that essentially ended black metal as it was by raising the bar beyond what others could easily participate in, Vikernes was imprisoned for sixteen years for his alleged role in church arson and murder. During the time he was in prison, he put out two more impressive keyboard-based albums and several books’ worth of writings before falling silent around the turn of the millennium.

Upon his release, he didn’t slack off, either, but pushed out two new albums influenced by the rising drone-NSBM trend from Eastern Europe, and has released a film, is currently working on a role-playing game, and continues to produce numerous writings and a new theory of history. Since he is an object of interest as well as such a strong personality that he cannot escape notice, he has continued to use interviews and other public talking points to advance his ideas.

Whether we agree or disagree with the man, it’s hard to argue that his back catalog is anything but on the whole impressive, or that he isn’t articulate and forceful about his beliefs. Recently, he released his first post-prison ambient album, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which in the words of our review is a “vivid journey from start to finish…Vikernes has returned, and has found his natural voice.” was fortunate to catch Mr. Vikernes in a rare un-busy moment between his many projects, where he answered a few of our questions.

With Sôl austan, Mâni vestan you have left metal behind, and yet this work has as much identifiable personality as your earliest works. What do you think makes this style so adapted to where you are now, and what you want to express?

This type of music has always been a part of Burzum, from the very first album and all the way to Umskiptar, so I think those who appreciated the old non-metal music will perfectly well be able to appreciate this non-metal music as well. In a sense I keep making music in the same style, only I have left out the metal parts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the influences on this album? Were these influences instrumental to achieving this new sound?

I know where you want to go, but the truth is that I didn’t listen to any other music whilst making this whatsoever; I didn’t seek inspiration in any other music and I did not even think of any particular music whilst making this. However, upon completion I did think it reminded me a bit of a calm version of Tangerine Dream.

This album is made for the ForeBears film, and I guess it is correct to say that I was inspired by the concept of that film.

In your writing on Thulean Perspective called “Shadows of the Mind,” you mention how black metal can be a gateway to the Divine Light. What is the Divine Light?

That question is best answered with a link.

Your work seems to have been guided since its earliest forms by a sense of the “poetry” of existence, and a purpose to the human experience, while others were busy disclaiming this. What shaped your thoughts in this regard?

I think it is simply due to the fact that I knew instinctively that it was better before. I missed what once was. I longed for the past that I felt was better. I dreamt of things that had been but were no longer.

After Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, where do you see yourself going artistically? Will you continue to make albums in this ambient style, or re-invent music in another form?

I can dream of the past, but I never make artistic plans for the future. I just follow where my spirits takes me, so to speak.

What is the purpose of art? What habits or activities do you find most crucial to the spirit that drives your art?

It’s the spirit of the past trying to break free and influence the world we live in today. That’s the purpose and driving force too.

What do you think black metal had to contribute? Do you think your earlier aggressive work, and your newer more mellow work, come from the same place?

They do, and I think black metal is just a expression and (for fans) appreciation of the despair most men feel from living in a world that is not built for them. When you grow up, so to speak, or perhaps just grow wiser (many young men are wise too), you move on and instead of whining about the world we live in you do something about it instead. Black metal has woken up many good anti-Jewish Pagan Europeans and has thus lead them on the right course.

The lyrics to “Dunkelheit” suggest a natural mysticism to your work. Do you see this in the ancients as well? Do you think this knowledge changes people in such a way that they cannot be part of modern society? How do you see this as different from the Christian spirituality?

Christian spirituality? They have none.

I think the natural mysticism will wake up Europeans; the Pagan spirit is like embers waiting under the ashes. All it needs is some dry wood and it will turn into a flaming fire again, burning, warming and lighting up. Natural mysticism is, amongst other things, that dry wood.

Do you think history is cyclic, meaning that similar events lead to similar outcomes and thus, people eventually return to the same eternal truths? What do you imagine those would be? Is there a way to express such truths in art?

Yes, similar events lead to similar outcomes, and truth prevails in the end, always, so when they are blurred, distorted, hidden or spat upon they will always return to glory. There is no unversal truth in this context, becuase man is not universal, just like animals are not. I am part of the European species, and the eternal truth to us is Honour, and we will return to that for sure.

Is there a way to express such truths in art?

Yes, but it might not be understood by all.

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7 thoughts on “Interview: Varg Vikernes”

  1. bitterman says:

    What’s disappointing is the fact that this man, who is seen as a paragon for Pagan Europeans and a “symbol of honor”, killed a man because of money. All that viking worship and revisionism doesn’t disguise the fact that vikings went around killing and raping other cultures en masse because their dingy mud and snow covered lands were running out of resources, doing so after warring against rival tribes gave them nothing in return. Sounds a lot like the “African” cultures Varg seems to abhor. Now, Norwegian metalheads should cry because Christianity overtook their lands long ago? Sounds like natural selection and just desserts. Sure, it’s bad, but Varg’s “cry for Europe” stuff is no better than crossover bands crying about Reagan, and just as ephemeral. Old Burzum has a timeless quality, his new material sounds like a nostalgia derived afterthought in between political rants and RPG making. Varg is just taking motifs from previous ambient works and making an hours worth of non-dynamic ambiance that never breaks free from one aspect of something that was covered in a previous recording. Remember, he claimed metal had ties to African music, so he chose to disown it, and then chose to make 3 metal albums post prison. This new album is his wife’s movie soundtrack being passed off as a Burzum album for the sake of making money. Considering Burzum’s clout in the metal market, this was a wise business decision, but shows a lack of character considering he blames Kerrang articles and record labels for making his music trendy or Emperor and Satyricon for trendifying black metal and signing to majors even though he will pass this off to Candlelight without hesitation. I really tried to like this album, but it just shows me that maybe our heroes should die young, at their most idealistic and imaginative. If Euronymous was still alive today, for example, Dark Silence Productions would become the NWN board. The greatest of the black ambient works was Neptune Towers, which sounded just like it’s packaging suggested: space music, which carries more spiritual weight than this album which, for all the concept behind it, offers very little in terms of content. I really wanted a follow up to Hliðskjálf, but this is hardly a worthy successor, and a real shame.

    1. I can’t agree here.

      First, I’m not sure Euronymous was killed for money. I see it as an honor killing because, as Varg saw it, Euronymous was delaying Burzum releases in order to claim Euronymous/Mayhem as the innovator of much of what Burzum pioneered. Also, if Euronymous did indeed make a threat against him, Varg was probably not taking the legal course of action but a perfectly legitimate one per old Norse culture in dispatching the threat.

      Second, I like this album. It is not intended to be black metal on keyboards. It’s the first true ambient album by Burzum.

      1. The smiling footage of Varg in the courtroom is immortalized.

  2. Blake Jugg says:

    I like this interview. I hope Varg furthers the concept into something truly unique.

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