An Interview with Varg Vikernes
By Dan Capp
Varg Vikernes — the mind and soul behind one of extreme metal’s most unique acts in Burzum — remains as controversial today as he was during the early years of his prison sentence. In fact, depending on who you ask, he is a man whose music and views are also as interesting as ever. There aren’t many magazines who will give the man a fair report, trying as they do to put Varg on the back foot at all times, so it seemed prudent – nay, dutiful – for Heathen Harvest to take up that quest.
So on behalf of Heathen Harvest I grasped the opportunity to speak to Varg about a variety of topics, including his religious convictions, his social duties, his written musings and the new Burzum album Sôl austan, Mâni vestan. As a new member of the writing team here at Heathen Harvest, it would be worth mentioning to regular readers that I have a professional relationship with Varg, having worked as designer and illustrator on the last few Burzum releases. Perhaps this enabled a trust that would have otherwise, and understandably, been lacking (given previous treatment of Varg by the press).
Heathen Harvest upholds the principle of free speech, and so Varg was invited to speak frankly. For an insight into a man at odds with modern society, who happens to carry a fairly extensive artistic and sensational legacy, read on…
Heathen Harvest: You’ve indicated, in the past, that your time in prison was a period of personal growth, and after your release you continued your work with great determination but little drama. In many ways there seems to have been more change since your release – you’ve relocated, you’ve begun to interact publicly with like-minded people, you’ve produced a film and you’ve just recorded possibly Burzum’s most experimental album yet. Would you say that ‘life on the outside’ has seen personal growth, or is it more accurate to say that the modern World has moved yet further away from you?
Varg Vikernes: Well, I’d say the modern world has moved yet further away from me, and I don’t think whether or not I am incarcerated has had much to say in this context. Living with your family changes you, for the better, and that would be the reason for the accelerated growth in the post-prison period, so to say. A man can only grow to a certain point when alone; to grow further you need some “irrational shocks”, like a wife and children; a dramatic change to your own life.
HH: Yes. Many of the great philosophers and alchemists believed that civilisation is subject to evolutionary triggers at appropriate moments in time. This reflects on an individual, as well as group level — as above, so below. Do you feel as though your own growth is part of a group evolution or do you still feel very much isolated, ideologically and spiritually? How much further do you see the divide between yourself and modern World growing?
VV: My own growth is a part of a group evolution, definitely. It does feel as if the changes in the group are meant to be, and that I am not as much a catalyst, so to say, but rather a result of this. My own growth comes not (just) individually, but mainly as part of a greater change for the better.
The divide between me and the modern world is growing further because I to a larger degree manage to rid myself of my dependence on the modern world. If the modern world collapsed tomorrow I would be fine, and I see so many others who would not be.
HH: As some readers may by now know, you have lately been busy cultivating a very successful blog of your own called ‘Thulean Perspective’. This very much seems to exemplify the “greater change” that you speak of in that the blog is a way for you to reach out to like-minded people who are disenchanted with the modern age and may also be preparing for major social changes. Could you explain what drove you to conceive the blog? Did you intend to reach out to Burzum fans, and how does it feel to be more sociable than you have perhaps been before?
VV: Being a man with a conscience I simply felt that I had to do something – anything! – about the world we live in. Our nations are run by absolute worthless scum, our streets are taken over by sub-humans, the food we eat and the water we drink contains poison, our cultures are systematically replaced by “anti-culture”, history is a big lie, et cetera et cetera. Of all the options I chose to start this blog, to spread dissent, to tell others – yes Burzum fans too – that there is an alternative to all of this. My “drop in the ocean” will contribute to the enlightenment of Europe, so to speak. Europe really needs to wake up, cast aside the lies and get rid of the Jewish yoke we live under – once and for all.
Being sociable is a sacrifice, as I see it. I really don’t like to be, but it is necessary and worth it.
HH: And would you say that this social conscience has become more important than your creation of art? What motivates you more these days – improving the World through words and ideas, or through the music of Burzum? You’ve talked about your music as a kind of ‘spell’ – what effect do you think that spell has had on those exposed to it, overall?
VV: Music and improving the world are two sides of the same coin. Words and ideas can change or influence the mind just like music can – yes, like a spell. Regarding the effect of my “spells” I think it varies; my music communicates with some, and I think it has had a positive influence on the minds of those who like it. I hope it helped them see the world from a different perspective.
HH: Yes. Your music has been a powerful vehicle for your philosophies. One spell that your music certainly has cast over many a young Burzum fan is to introduce them to the ancient religion of their forefathers. Was this always intentional or have your Pagan beliefs become more important to you in recent years? Do you feel that there is a global ‘Pagan awakening’ and, if so, why is that important? Do you foresee a widespread return to pre-Judæo-Christian beliefs and practices?
VV: Initially it was a fascination for Tolkienesque Fantasy, and role-playing games, in particular MERP, but as you know there is much mythology in Tolkien and some RPGs, and with time I realised that it was the mythological elements that fascinated me the most, so I moved more and more in that direction.
Being a Pagan without knowing much about Paganism is a bit silly, in the sense that you would probably have been a Pagan had you known more, but you could not really be because you only knew so much about it. The more I got to knew about Paganism the more Pagan I became, so to say, but I didn’t really know enough until after the creation of Burzum. The “Pagan Intention” thus naturally also came later on, and more and more with time.
Yes, I do feel we live through what I like to call The 2nd Renaissance, but although I foresee a widespread return to the European religion I don’t foresee a return to the past. The world has changed, everything is different today, and so will Paganism be. We pick up the lost bits and pieces, from the grass where we left them, and bring them with us into a future that will be made up of so much more as well.
HH: And do you see room for organised Pagan religion? Your blog ‘Thulean Perspective’ makes frequent mention of ‘Ôðalism’ as a name for a modern Pagan movement. In the past you had a very loose affiliation with the ‘Norwegian Heathen Front’ – can you see yourself ever working with a more formal organisation?
VV: Possibly. Doing so would be a great personal sacrifice, but I might very well do so, if the opportunity arises.
HH: Whilst you may be reluctant to engage in organised religion, you do have some definite ideas about the Pagan religion – many of which are detailed on your latest book ‘Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia’. Was writing that book a personal ambition, or did you hope to influence the wider understanding of European religion?
VV: Later this year I plan on publishing my RPG, MYFAROG, which by the way contains many corrections to the material presented in Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia, and in that sense is actually a better book than SRAS for understanding the European religion (although it is actually an RPG), but apart from that no. For now I survive on the income I have, so I don’t need to publish anything to make a living, so to speak, and I think it is much more important to spread information about our European religion than it is to make money from doing so. If I had the money I’d pay people to have them read accurate books or posts about our own religion. It is very important not only for their self-image, but also for the future of Europe – as a biological term.
HH: Beyond writing, you’ve also made a recent foray into the World of film. You and your wife have just recently produced and self-released an artistic, documentative film called ‘ForeBears’. How do you find time to juggle music, writing, film-projects, family-life and the kind of self-sufficient lifestyle you’ve begun to promote on your blog? And what led you to squeeze this film-project into an already-busy schedule?
VV: Ah, good question. I just had to sacrifice all free time and sleep less… although I have to say my wife did most of the work with the film (so she too sacrificed all her free time and slept less). On a more serious note, I think the more you set yourself to do the more efficient you learn to become.
HH: Yes. Laziness begets laziness I suppose. So could you tell us a bit more about ‘ForeBears’ and what message you intended to get across with the film? Having seen it myself, it is clearly a religious work, but – if you don’t mind me saying – asks more questions than it answers. Are you and your wife pleased with how it turned out, and what has the reaction been like so far?
VV: The reactions have been very positive, although it’s not a very ordinary or if you like typical film. The point with the film is to suggest there is something else to our ancient religion than what has been suggested hitherto, by “scholars”. It is also, in a sense, an introduction to the Ancestral Cult website.
HH: So with all of this extensive research and pondering, you are clearly more passionate about sound philosophies, religion and preservationism than ever before. Let’s talk further about the relevance of Burzum today, as a musical entity. Do you still have the same passion for creating music as you did when you released ‘Belus’, post-prison, and did you still have the same passion then that you did prior to and during your prison term?
VV: Yes, but I have less time for music now than I did before. In the past it was my only occupation, but today I have so much else too; like family, the blog and gardens to tend to. I am not worried about Burzum not being “relevant” any more. Some will always try to argue that it isn’t, but they do mainly because they don’t like what I stand for personally, and why would I care what such individuals say anyhow? They have no relevance. I don’t make music for any other reason than me enjoying music, and I am also glad that I am able to make a living of this. If I like the music then at least some others will too, and that is all that matters in this context.
HH: With that in mind, it’s of particular interest to Burzum fans that your new album ‘Sôl austan, Mâni vestan’ is entirely electronic, with no Metal element to it at all. Obviously this is nothing new for Burzum, with previous albums being partly or entirely electronic in this vein. What was your inspiration behind this? Do you find the urge to take a break from Metal every now and then, or is there something more to it this time?
VV: Generally speaking I… detest the metal sub-culture(s). There is nothing to it that I like. To a large degree I don’t even like most metal music I hear. Sure, I like Iron Maiden and a few other bands, but by and large I don’t like metal music. Most of it simply put reeks. This meant that it was no great loss for me to drop the metal music altogether. I grew up with classical music, and to a lesser extent electronic music, and that’s where I belong, so to speak.
Further, it just became too much of an effort to record metal albums. I am too conservative to use another studio than the one I am used to, so I “had” to travel all the way from France to Norway every time I wanted to record an album. That was about 3,500 km each way in a Lada Niva with a cruising speed of 90 kph. Naturally I don’t like hotels or the like either, so I slept in the car on the way, and spent about 20 hours driving each day… Not very safe, not very fun. And bloody expensive too.
PS. Taking the plane has never been an option. The last time I tried to order a plane ticket in Norway they refused to sell me one, because my name was “Varg Vikernes”.
Making electronic music is thus also something I did this time because it is something I can do at home, on my wife’s computer. We did master the album this time, but in fact I think I might drop that the next time and just use the version I make on my (wife’s) computer.
HH: So it’s unlikely the World will ever hear another Metal Burzum album again? It seems that you feel liberated by this move away from Metal, as though Burzum fans could in fact see your music take on a new life, with entirely new ideas on the horizon. Do you feel that ‘Sôl austan, Mâni vestan’ represents the dawning of a new era for Burzum?
VV: My musical ambitions are not that great. I make music I like, and thankfully – for my ability to make an (fairly…) honest living – at least some others like the music too. I think the “dawning of a new era” sounds a bit pretentious, and to me it’s simply a step closer to my roots, and thus yes – I do feel liberated by this. I know many dislike this move, and I suspect that it is not really the dawning of a new era, but rather a move to a style which sells less records…
HH: That may be true, and such honesty is what Burzum fans have come to expect. I have actually heard many people express excitement over the release of a new Ambient Burzum album, and in particular many regular readers of Heathen Harvest will be excited by this prospect. Are you still being approached by the Metal press with regards to the new album, and do you even have any interest in speaking to the Metal press these days?
VV: I told the press agent to not send out any promo copies until the last week – and he made me accept the last two weeks – before release, so there is not much press being done right now. The problem is that mainly the metal press has an interest in Burzum, and the rest of the world… probably hardly even know Burzum exists, and those who do shy away due to my fairly (:-)) politically incorrect musings. Personally I don’t understand why the metal press even bother, but I guess it is good they do… I think most of them just want to ridicule me and have an excuse to express their dislike for Burzum.
HH: Well it does seem that many have positioned themselves in opposition to you, including people in positions which are meant to be impartial – such as certain factions of the metal press. But it could be argued that by doing so they have harmed their own reputation more than they have harmed yours. Most musicians ‘rise’ from the Underground, but could it be said that Burzum – by contrast – might dig its way further Underground? You now record your own albums and publish your own musing (online, on your blog). Can you see this DIY trend continuing, and is it a path you would encourage others to take?
VV: As you know already I am actually rather privileged; I have a fairly well known name, so for me to do things my way is not that hard. Unless you already have a name well known in at least one stratum of society, I don’t think trying to do things yourself will be easy – if at all possible. I wish I could say differently, but I really don’t think so. There are too many musicians already for probably anyone to be noticed without some sort of commercial support. Even the most talented ones drown in a sea of mediocrity, and only the politically correct ones will ever be promoted (willingly…) by the press anyhow.
The metal press has a certain type of audience, and I think most of them support the magazines’ negative focus on me, but certainly not everyone does, and they often actually think better of me when the “sheeple” in the metal press throw shit at me, so to speak. They also think worse of the metal press, naturally. With the risk of being accused of quoting the wrong person I can say that Hitler wrote that “the more the press attacks a person the closer he is to us”. Being attacked by the press is not something I see as a problem, but rather a confirmation that I am on the right track. It is even better when they ignore me completely, like the Norwegian press does; that means they are really afraid…
I can add that the metal press seems to have no problems with self-proclaimed Satanists, bands idolizing cannibalism, rape, homosexuality, paedophilia and sadistic torture, but the moment you say you are proud of your European race, or express any nationalistic or racist sentiments whatsoever, they viciously attack you, boycott you and put you on their “most hated” list. It makes at least me wonder what their agenda is. I guess they are only cowards though. Most men today are.
HH: Well Satanism has long been a trend for the mainstream to ‘flirt’ with, yet no-one feigns beliefs such as yours. Whether people share your worldview or not, it cannot be said that you are insincere. The World needs sincerity and so Heathen Harvest salutes you and thanks you for your time. Is there anything you’d like to add?
VV: Thank you very much for you interest, and for caring no whit about the political correctness of your interviewees. The world needs such magazines, and I salute you for that. Best of luck to you and of course; HailaR WôðanaR!