E-mail interview with Varg Vikernes from BURZUM
By Tyler Crooks
February 23rd Los Angeles CA
Tyler: Your new album "Fallen", from what I've heard so far, seems to be a drastic departure from the traditional Burzum sound. The mix on "Fallen" is much clearer than your previous releases, and the music itself seems to have a more mature sound, while still retaining the classic Burzum ambiance. What caused such a huge change in your writing and general style of playing?
Varg: Well, I am not sure if I agree with you. To me this is just another Burzum album, made and recorded the same was as the others (save the ambient albums). It is more melodic and varied than the older albums, and I use several different vocal styles this time, but apart from that ...
Tyler: Seeing as how a good portion of your fans are unfamiliar with the Norwegian language, what is the general theme or message within "Fallen?" Your previous release, "Belus" dealt with the Norse life-death-rebirth diety of the same name. Does "Fallen" deal with anything in particular?
Varg: It deals with the fallen ... and you are free to interpret that any way you want, or to ignore any meanig I put into it or that you or others may find and just enjoy the music. I will not try to shove some original message down anyone's throat.
Tyler: Going through your entire catalogue, you seemed to find a great balance between pure black metal and dark, ambient tracks. Where did your interest in ambient music begin?
Varg: Probably some time in the 80ies, with Jean-Michelle Jarre and a German band called Software.
Tyler: You have a unique style of playing and an even more unique sound which really helped to define true black metal. Tell us a little bit about your writing process, where you draw your inspiration from, and basically how you get your classic sound.
Varg: There is not much to tell. I am an individual different from all other individuals. We all are. When I make music it will be marked by me. Other bands suffer (and some times benefits) from having several band members, who all provide some of their colour to the music. I am alone, so I think the product is often more .... wholehearted. Some like that. Other don't. And that's all good.
Tyler: You've been a key player in black metal virtually since its inception. In the 20+ years black metal has existed, it has seen some drastic changes (going from lo-fi to hi-fi, up to complete re-definitions of the genre). How do you feel about the current state of black metal, assuming that you've heard some of the newer bands?
Varg: Sorry, but I have not heard any of the newer black metal bands. When I have the time to listen to other music I listen to The Cure mostly. Good music never grow old ... Their Disintegration album is fantastic!
Tyler: Here in the states, black metal has become somewhat of a mainstream phenomenon, while still managing to stay underground. Popular culture stores sell black metal merchandise alongside merchandise catered to the 12-16 year old age groups (examples: Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber, etc…) Does it bother you that black metal is becoming a fashion statement, rather than legitimate self-expression?
Varg: Legitimate self-expression? I think even the black metal bands forming in 1992 where made up of sheep; weak followers who just did their best to sound like and look like their idols in Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum. Joining a sub-culture, any sub-culture, for whatever reason, is as I see it never a legitimate self-expression. It is always a result of sheep mentality; a wish to belong somewhere. A legitimate self-expression is never something you do because others have done it before you and you want to be like them. Now, with that said, I am not saying it is a bad thing to be a follower. Maybe that is just how human beings are? All of us, to some extent. Anyway; we all like to be so very special and different from the rest, because we know that we really aren't, so we join different sub-cultures, to get a feeling we really are. Blah! Just listen to whatever music you like, dress in whatever clothes you like, and don't care about what others think or feel about that. Personally I listen to The Cure, and sometimes also Future Sounds of London and classical music, and even balalaika, I usually wear worn-out jogging pants with paint stains all over, single-coloured cotton t-shirts that I bought for 0.49 cent a piece in some super marked, and a Russian army cap that was worn out about a decade ago. Does it matter? What sub-culture do I belong to then? Classical techno-melancholic balalaika bum-look-a-likes?
Tyler: Burzum aside, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? You announced in 2009 that you were going to settle on a small farm in Telemark with your family. Do you enjoy farming, or is it simply a way for you to have your own time away from the public eye to be with your loved ones?
Varg: It's just a home to me, and I do no farming. Privacy equals freedom to me. I'de rather be a nomadic hunter-gatherer than a farmer, by the way ... In my free time? I don't know. The same as most others I guess; watch a DVD that supposed to be good, but wasn't at all, do some research on a subject using the Internett, work out, go jogging, vacuum and wash the 4*4 .... and re-paint the 4*4 in camouflage, sharpen the seax, improve my staff-sling skills, shoot with my traditional longbow and arrows, oil the mail, take my cool Russian 4*4 for a drive through the forest ... stuff like that. Oh, and I work a lot with my own tabletop RPG. The latter seems to be real Sisyphean task, and I'll probably never finish it. Maybe one day I will even grow up ...
Tyler: In order to not take up anymore of your time, I'll end the interview with one final question. is there anything you'd like to say to your fans who have stayed loyal to the name of Burzum?
Varg: Well, I think I should say thanks a lot to all of them; without them I'de be robbing banks for a living now, or something like that. ;-) I hope I have given them something positive with Burzum, and I hope I am able to do that in the future as well. An artist – even a simple musician like myself – grows from positive feedback, and although he tends to turn into some egocentric prick, like U2's Bono, to use the most obvious example, it does help him create more and better music.
Check out Burzum's official website.