Interview Burzum – Varg Vikernes
By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
The notoriety surrounding Varg Vikernes casts quite a long shadow, underneath which his foremost role as a musician is perhaps sidelined by some. Yet in the years following his release from prison, Varg has remained as prolific as ever with his one-man project Burzum, including upcoming new album Umskiptar. Whilst it’s possible that Burzum may scorch the fingers of some, in discussing the album and other works it is apparent that the creative fire of Varg Vikernes continues to burn on…
Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me!
Varg Vikernes – Thank you very much for your interest.
At this time we’re talking ahead of the release of your new album Umskiptar – is this still very clearly what people know as a Burzum album, or are there some notable differences?
Varg – It is very clear that this is a Burzum album, but there are notable differences as well. The language (of the lyrics) is no longer Norwegian but Old Norwegian, and there are more lyrics than before. Much more. Also the pace is somewhat slower, more similar to “Filosofem” than any of the other albums.
What is the focus behind the album?
Varg – The annual metamorphoses of nature, as perceived by our Pagan forefathers in pre-historic times. (The poem itself was recorded in the Middle Ages, but it is obvious from the contents that it is much older.)
I understand that all of the lyrics are taken from a Norse poem, Völuspá – what was it about this poem in particular that attracted you?
Varg – Mainly the fact that it has been misunderstood for so long, as some sort of Scandinavian creation story. When you study the poem you understand that it obviously isn’t, and you understand that those who think it is are all approaching the poem from a Christian perspective. They use their linear way of thinking when analysing this and this was a very alien idea to our Pagan forebears. The Pagans had a more circular thinking, as seen in Sir James Frazer’s myth of eternal return (widely discredited by Christian scholars, ‘of course’). So I wanted to use Völuspå to make others to see this and understand the true beauty of the poem – and the true beauty of our European culture.
Given the political landscape and dissent amongst people at present, I think it’s interesting that you’ve looked instead to the past for inspiration?
Varg – Oh, I always do. When we live in a cesspool the only place to find widespread beauty and harmony is in the (romanticized) past.
The album artwork is more in keeping with the style of previous release Fallen – is this a continuing theme?
Varg – Possibly, but I don’t know yet, because I haven’t started working on the next album. I like romantic art (and on a side note also think it is good to show modern women how a healthy woman looks like…).
At the end of last year a new Burzum compilation From The Depths Of Darkness – how did it feel to revisit older material?
Varg – It was nice, but also a bit sad – knowing how much time has passed since the first time I recorded these tracks. I remember vividly where I was when I made this music, what clothes I wore, how I felt about the world and life in general, what my worries were, and so forth. Alas! If I only knew then what I know today… *sigh*.
Did the songs still have a strong impact for you even years on? Have your feelings towards them, or perception of them, changed at all?
Varg – Well, I really like these tracks, and they still have an emotional effect on me, and I re-recorded them because I just couldn’t stand the original shrieking vocals. In order for me to be able to listen to these tracks I had to re-record them with less annoying vocals, so to speak. So I did, and released the music in case others too had the same experiences in this context. As I see it the re-recordings made the music more available, enabling more to enjoy it – and not just the hard-core metal heads.
Was it a conscious decision to follow this revisitation of older material with something new?
Varg – Not really. It is always good to show the fans that I didn’t record the older material because I didn’t have any new material, but that is really not the reason why I followed the revisitation with something new.
Maybe I am just one of those lights who burn very intense for a short while and then die out very fast, but in any case my work pace is quite fast. When I can make music (i. e. when I am not locked up in prison or something like that…) I do make a lot of music, fast. I made four albums and an EP in a 1.5 year period in the early 90ies, so nobody should be surprised if I made one album each year today and in the future. Until the light burns out, that is.
Post-prison you’ve been very prolific musically with three new albums in three years, as well as the compilation – is this the result of a need for a creative outlet?
Varg – Well, most likely I make music because I live in a dis-harmonic world, and I care so I try to make it more harmonious by making music. And by writing books and articles. And by resisting the dissolution and destruction of the beautiful Europe (as a biological term).
Do you have any other long-term plans, either for Burzum or otherwise, in the pipeline?
Varg – Yes, I do, but I think I better keep quiet about all of it. I should have done with ‘Umskiptar’ as well… Well, I can tell that I am working on a role-playing game (a book), and that I do plan to publish it someday. I do mostly for the love of RPGs, and it might take forever to finish it (the process of making it is the most fun part…), but anyway. We will see what happens with that.
Just to round things off then, how would you recommend listening to new album Umskiptar when it drops?
Varg – However you feel like, Kirsty