Well, at long last, here it is - our interview with the infamous Varg Quisling Vikernes of the one and only Burzum. This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would like to extend my thanks to Liz and Dave of Earsplit PR and to all of you who contributed questions, but enough of my banter - here you go:
Thank you for the interview, Varg. It is truly an honor and a privilege.
Thank you for the interest.
In the past you have chosen some catching and interesting artwork for your albums. At one time you used the work of Theodor Kittelsen and now you are using a piece by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. What was the reasoning behind the choice of the Bouguereau piece for the cover of Fallen?
First of all it was used because it fits the theme of the album perfectly, Further, it reminds us of a more romantic era, and is also of exceptional quality. Bouguereau was really a very skilled artist.
What inspires you to use random and unconventional elements of “found sound” on your recordings (the electric kettle, for instance)? Is there something in your creative process that causes you to notice the potential of everyday things as “instruments”?
Possibly, or perhaps probably. Every time I record something I try to improvise one or more tracks, usually the introductions and conclusions, and this time I used – amongst other things – the electric kettle you refer to in this context. I figured it would sound much like a spring if we recorded it as it boiled water – and it did.
Do you have any plans to reintroduce keyboards in the future?
Yes, and the only reason we haven't seen any keyboard on post-prison Burzum yet is the fact that I haven't set up my own keyboard home yet, and the fact that there was no keyboard in Pytten's studio when I recorded any of the post-prison albums. In the past I used “free time” in the studio to make music on “new” instruments which happened to be there, and I may add that a track like “Tomhet”, for example, was actually improvised in the studio when recording the album. All you need is some spare time in an inspired moment and an unfamiliar instrument, the stranger the better, and new music will come to you...
Do you feel your musical voice has evolved or changed since your first wave of albums in the early '90s? If yes, how so?
It changed because I wanted it to change; I wasn't happy with it as it was. It changed a lot (for the better) from the début album to “Det som engang var”, and from “Hvis Lyset tar oss” to “Filosofem”, and also a lot from “Filosofem” to “Belus” and “Fallen”.
When you write an album or a song, which comes first as far as maybe a handful of riffs or a concept? What is your recording process like?
The first to come are the riffs, then songs, and when all the songs are there I find a concept and write the lyrics. When I record I record one instrument at the time, then the vocals, and finally we mix it. I make the introductions and conclusions after I have recorded all the other tracks, and then mix it all.
When did Norse mythology and Asatru become a part of your life? How has it affected your life overall?
Well, I am not religious, so I wouldn't say Asatru is a part of my life, but Norse mythology has always been a part of my life. I am Norwegian, you know, and I grew up in Odinsvei (“Odin's Road”). The Norse culture is very much a part of me, as are the Norse values and virtues, ideals and ideas, and this has affected my life greatly I think .
What is your opinion on the new wave of American black metal bands? Are there any metal bands or current music groups/composers that you find to have merit?
I don't know any of them, so I cannot answer this questions any better than telling you that I have no opinion on any of them, in any way. Black metal is of no interest to me.
What sort of crops do you cultivate on your farm? How has this newfound seclusion affected you as a musician and songwriter, if it has at all?
No crops at all. The farm is located in the mountains and is surrounded by heavy forest. It used to be a goat farm. The seclusion isn't really newfound either, as I have always managed to “seclude” myself from bad influences no matter where I have been. So I don't think this has influenced me much at all as a musician and songwriter.
The drums on your past 2 albums have had a rather unique tone. How did you record them?
We recorded bits and parts of the drum tracks, and then did a whole lot of “cutting and pasting” to complete the tracks. We recorded everything digitally, on ProTools. It was recorded in a very un-metal way, so to speak, but I did play everything myself and did not use a drum-machine, as so many seem to believe. I did it like this because I wanted a specific sound, a more monotonous and transcendental feel, and believe I achieved what I wanted in this context. We did this for both “Belus” and “Fallen”, and I may add that we didn't add samples to the drums with one exception; there is a sample on the kick on the slow parts of “Fallen”. As far as I remember we had samples on both the kick and the snare on all parts of “Belus”.
How did you view the expectations your fans had upon your release of prison? Did you feel you could live up to them or were Fallen and Belus more personal endeavors without thought towards the outside world's expectations?
I wouldn't know about the expectations my fans had upon my release. That's not something I had any knowledge about at the time, and I wasn't too concerned with this either, so to say. It is best to ignore the outside world's expectation and just make the music you like, and that's what I try to do. I am happy though, if old Burzum fans still like my new music and if new Burzum fans like it too. It's always nice to be appreciated.
As an individual and artist, you have had a profound influence on black metal as a genre. How does Black Metal in the early 90's compare to Black Metal now in 2011? What impact will your most current/future work have on Black Metal?
I don't know black metal anno 2011, and I have no interest in it. Burzum is not black metal, and I don't care what influence it might or might not have on black metal.
Last I heard, you hadn't watched "Until The Light Takes Us" yet, have you changed that?
Nope. I'm not sure when it will reach Europe, or if it ever will. I am not too interested either, for that sake, and would not mind if it never arrived. The whole subject is a waste of time, and I wish I hadn't participated in the first place.
With the constant out-of-context quotes and the way you have been portrayed by the media over the years, do you feel you have been misunderstood as a person? Why or why not?
Yes, but I don't really care anymore. Why? Because somebody wanted me to be misunderstood, and because I have been intentionally ambiguous at times.
What are your thoughts on music overall at this point in time?
It's an art form, like other art forms, and can be used to give something to many individuals who seek just what you give them. Music is a form of communication, between the musician and the listener, and music is the language they use.
How many more albums do you think Burzum has left before "calling it a day"? Where do you see yourself artistically in the next few years?
Well, I can always imagine myself working with Burzum until I think I either make the perfect album or no longer make good albums, and when this happens I will probably start making other types of music. Some sort of alternative ambient music, most likely. I call it a day when I die. At least I expect to...