EXCLUSIVE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW: BURZUM’S VARG VIKERNES
When word spread that Burzum only-man Varg Vikernes was doing a limited number of interviews — via email only — to support his latest work Fallen (out on March 7th), we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “Grim” Kim Kelly took charge and put together a batch of thoughtful questions about Burzum’s legacy, the lyrical and musical themes of Fallen, the current black metal scene, Varg’s relationship with classical music and more. Vikernes’ answers are, well… you’ll have to read them to find out.
Hey there, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure you’ve been absolutely inundated with requests since word of the new album spread. Are you surprised at all that new Burzum material has received so much attention, first with the release of Belus and now with Fallen? It must be satisfying to see that your work has not been forgotten.
Hello to you. Yeah, it’s nice to see that interest in Burzum remains. I guess illegal downloading, bootleggers, burzum.org and a very slow worldwide distribution kept the name hot through the years. Oh, and a number of worthless book releases about black metal and talk about black metal films has too, of course.
Every song is new, if we can agree that material written between November 2009 and December 2010 qualifies as new material.
After waiting so long for Belus, it came as almost a shock to your fans to hear that Fallen was already on its way. How has post-prison life affected your creative process? One must imagine that it’s much easier to compose and create music nowadays.
Well, I made the first four albums (and Aske too) in about 18 months, so you shouldn’t be too surprised by this. In fact I see this as rather slow work, and I do it intentionally. I take my time, do a proper job, I think, and don’t work as if the end of the world comes tomorrow. Now, I do still think our world will go down the train [sic] soon, but I no longer work as if it matters…
On Fallen, the lyrics are dark, but the message is strong, at times even triumphant. There is a great emphasis on nature, death, and pagan imagery, concepts you’ve often interwoven throughout Burzum’s career. Are the songs here purely poetry, or do they have relevance to your own life as well? Lyrics like, “I am not cold anymore, I am warmed by the moonlight” sounds like a pagan awakening, and the entirety of “The Message” reads like a battle cry.
“The Message” is a battle cry, and I even censored myself a bit there in order not to be too politically incorrect (you know: there is no real freedom of speech anywhere), but the rest of the tracks deal with more personal subjects. I dare say it’s a more personal and self-focusing version of the Belus concept, really.
In the song of the same name, your personification of madness – as a pale, beautiful, lonesome but deadly maiden – was intriguing. Was this purely a poetic image, or did you base the song/character on some existing concept or person/being?
The image is purely poetic, but at the same time strongly suggests that our mixed neanderthal-human origin is what makes us – id est the Europeans and to a lesser degree the Asians – innovative and creative. Innovation, creativity and lunacy goes hand in hand.
The cover image is striking. Why did you chose this particular part of ‘Élégie’ to grace the cover of Fallen? Have you been a fan of William Adolphe Bougereau for long?
A fan? I don’t know. I like his art, and he is a very skilled painter, but I only used Élégie because it fit the concept of the album perfectly.
You’ve sought to distance Burzum from the majority of black metal bands (and metal in general), and aesthetically at least, you seem to have achieved it with Fallen. At a glance, the album looks more like a CD of classical music or a soundtrack – definitely not the typical gory Satanic imagery upon which black metal feeds. Was this your intent?
Very much so. I am happy to hear the message got through… It never did with Filosofem you know, an album I made to be an anti-black metal album, the same way the début album had been an anti-death metal album. That message never got through…
You’ve said that you consider your songwriting and influences with Burzum to be more classical than anything. Do you think the compositions on Fallen would appeal to a fan of the classical genre, or to a composer?
Perhaps. Probably. If that be one with an open mind. Besides; I am a fan of the classical genre and I like it…
Stylistically speaking, Fallen marries the feral spirit of your earliest recordings with a new, modern, almost enlightened feeling. You’re not the same man who wrote the Aske EP now, and it’s fitting that your music has matured as well. How do you feel when you see people ignoring all logic and complaining because your newer material doesn’t sound exactly like what you did in the nineties?
Actually I don’t feel much when I hear of them. Or maybe I feel pity, but only for a brief moment – and I guess you know that pity is contempt? I don’t waste any more energy or time on them than I have to though. They exist. I know. Then I ignore them. As simple as that.
With that said, I think the metal community is extremely conservative. For example; about 1/4th of all Belus albums sold had the LP/vinyl format. Less than 1/10th was digital sales, and the rest was CDs.
What are your long-term plans for Burzum? Are you working on new music already, or engaging in other pursuits?
Well, I just make music and release an album when I have enough material to do so. Right now I am too busy promoting Fallen to make music… I am trying to get a book, Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia, published, but I guess that has nothing to do with Burzum…
Thanks very much, the last words are yours.
Thank you for the interest. If you want an English translation of the Fallen lyrics you can visit the only official Burzum website; www.burzum.org.