Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with Varg Vikernes of BURZUM

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...



  1. I don't understand why everyone still keeps asking varg questions about the overall black metal when it's clear that he doesnt want to speak much on that topic.

    Still there is a bit of interesting information here

  2. As a journalist I am going to ask pertinent questions, whether he claims he is interested or not. This interview was not tailor made for him, nor was it for you.


  3. I don't care if Varg likes questions or not, but interview is meant to be interesting and yield some unrevealed information, either the process is a waste of time and result is a pollution of aether ^)

    It's rather boring to read "I don't care for Black metal it's of no interest to me" over and over again throughout all these interviews. You keep asking him the same question = he keeps giving you the same answer.

    I don't ask you to tailor interview for someone, just try to avoid some everyone-should-ask-that default questions. The less of those = the more interesting the interview is. Thats simple ^)

  4. You get an interview with Varg and get back to me. Thanks!


  5. As a journalist, your job is to ask engaging questions. Knowing that Varg doesn't want to answer that question, is exactly why you SHOULD ask that question. You know it provokes a response. One day, he might stop giving that half-assed answer. Unfortunately, this wasn't that day, but you wrote the questions, not the answers. You've got a real talent for interesting interviews, Jon.

  6. Oh, come on. The reason of half-assed answer isn't Varg doesn't want to answer, but he has nothing to answer. Varg hardly will start to listen to modern black metal music just to please journalists. You shaln't get any different answer, but you can result him to stop having any interviews at all instead.

    >> You get an interview with Varg and get back to me. Thanks!

    Haha. "To criticize me polluting aether you should learn to poop out more than I do at first", right?

    Well, you are just proud or your own fancy new interview and don't want to listen anyway so I'd scram.

    Good luck anyway.

  7. You guys sure get mad about black metal. I figure I should let you know that the sun still in fact comes out during the day - I know how dark it can get in basements.


  8. I think some of these comments are totally undeserved. You're only focusing on two questions out of 10+, and the rest of the questions are well thought out. Good interview Jon, keep up the good work!

  9. I see you do not respond well to honest constructive criticism (the first comment), that is sad though not too surprising since you don't seem to care very much about your interviewing nor about metal. I was going to scan some of the past material but I just don't care anymore.

  10. That last comment translates to "If you are a false, do not entry." I write about music and ask questions that will get answers. I care immensely about everything I write about, but all I hear is "would haves," "could haves" and "should haves" from everyone, and, as Shel Silverstein's poem goes, they were all scared off by one little "did" (which I did). I work my goddamn ass off here to please no one but the musicians and myself, and, as far as I'm concerned, I'm doing okay. This wasn't for you.


  11. Good interview. It's nice to see where Varg's music direction is going now and in the future, as well as how his heritage and culture have shaped him so profoundly.
    Also, I appreciate his description of the recording process.

    Personally, his saying that one should not care what the world thinks and just make the art you want, has actually really helped me get over my fear of what other artists will think of my art. I gotta just tell myself "just do what you want to do, and don't give a rat's ass what others might have to say about it. Don't want to be on my deathbed someday wishing I did this and that". I know that's an obvious thing to think, but it's easier to say it than do it.

    I thank ye, Jon and Varg, for this offering.


  12. What people need to understand is that, when you conduct an e-mail interview, take a risk when you ask a couple of questions about the same subject. If the interviewee bites, you might get some continuing depth to the answers. If the interviewee doesn't, well...then you get a couple of "...doesn't interest me..." type answers. Again, it's the risk you take with an e-mail interview.

    But hey, Varg's still an interesting musician to me, even if he doesn't always interview easily. One thing I've noticed is that he does open up more with questions about the actual musical creation and recording process. Good call on those questions.

    Looking forward to more interviews.


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