Interview with Varg Vikernes
"Metal Hammer" Magazine Greece (March 2012), by Tolis Yovanitis

How did you first decide to dress the "Völuspā" in a metal costume?

It would be more correct to say that I decided to dress it in a Burzum costume, and I did whilst working with the translation of "Sorcery And Religion In Ancient Scandinavia". Burzum isn't only metal...

Do you agree with the term Skaldic Metal?

Yes. I came up with that term to make it clear that Burzum is not black metal.

Can you enlighten us on what are the characteristics of skaldic poetry (technical/stylistical)?

Skaldic poetry usually consists of alliterative verses, all in an eight line form. The syntax is special and the sentences contain kennings ("known") and heiti ("name").

The normal perception is that the skaldic poems were only spoken (and not sung), I may add.

Could it be said that skaldic poetry and the structure of metal music (as you play it) have things in common?

Well, yes. We have the repetitions of four (repeated twice), to complete a verse and chorus, and in skaldic poetry we have almost always two sentences in four lines each, making up the eight line skaldic verses. Other than that I think the message in at least my music is very often the same as in skaldic poetry, and with the same purpose...

You have in the past spoken about the use of "kennings" in Burzum lyrics. Can you tell us about this use of kennings it's connection to skaldic poetry?

A kenning is a normal word (such as "boat") replaced by a more abstract compound word (such as "sea horse" or "wave rider" or similar). It was used in skaldic poetry to make it possible for the poet to use alliteration throughout the poem and also to make it more esoteric.

A heiti on the other hand is just a simple word for the same thing (such as "warrior" instead of "soldier"). A synonym.

In what ways exactly can the knowledge of our past be a critique towards our present?

Well, when you know what happened before and you see it happening again, and again, and again, and again, then you will understand better what is happening and why it is. You can also use this knowledge to point at the mistakes made by others in your present. We already know what will come from certain actions. We really don't need to repeat the mistakes to find out.

I may add that "Umskiptar" is not a critique towards our present. The title can be seen as such, but the album is just a poem, from a lost world.

The vocals are even more impressive this time. I wonder didn't you feel tempted to ditch the shriek vocals and work solely on the clean ones?

Yes and no. On some tracks the shrieks are necessary, but on others it isn't and I did use only "clean" (a relative term...) vocals only on a few tracks.

How many characters (so to speak) do the vocals consist of in "Umskiptar" ? Would you care to give us a brief description of each one?

Oh! There are as many "characters" as there are tracks, I think, and several different ones on some tracks, but I did not build this album like I did with "Belus" using one type of vocals for the deities and one for...the sorcerer. "Umskiptar" is just a story, with different moods and atmospheres. Hence different "characters".

Is that an Arbo painting on the cover? How did you pick it?

Yes, that's an Arbo painting. As you might know this is a Norwegian painter, and I decided to use his Natt ("Night") painting after spending much time trying to find the right one. I first wanted to use Slindrebirken by another Norwegian painter (Johannes Flintoe), but we were unable to find a version of the painting with high resolution, so I used Natt instead. I must add that I am glad I did. Maybe the next time I will use Dag ("Day"), also by Arbo.

"Umskiptar" is connected to your, recently translated in English, book. Do you suggest it's reading by listening to "Umskiptar" ?

Ha ha. Well, I could, but I think any music you like will be just as good.

Concerning the book. One of its most refreshing aspects is the explanation of the God's names. What were your main sources for that?

Mainly dictionaries. In particular etymological dictionaries. I also used my Norse grammars book, which includes rules for reconstruction of proto-Nordic words based on Norse words, and proto-Germanic words based on proto-Nordic words. So I could find out that e.g. Norwegian Odin came from Norse Óðinn, and Norse Óðinn from young proto-Nordic *WoðanaR, and young proto-Nordic *WoðanaR from old proto-Nordic *WoþanaR, and old proto-Nordic *WoþanaR from proto-Germanic *Woþanaz, and proto-Germanic *Woþanaz from the proto-Indo-European root word *Wot, meaning "spirit", "fury", "mind". I did this for all the names, often several times, because I sometimes failed to find the true meaning right away.

One of the most difficult names to unveil in this manner was the assumed goddess Skaði, who originally was actually a god seen by the masculine name. The masculine name is treated grammatically in the Norse grammar books as a feminine word, because Skaði is after all seen as a goddess and not a god, but the true meaning of the word is not seen until you realize that it is actually a masculine name for a god and that you need to treat the word as a masculine word.

What language is used in the album? Is this the old Norse or Icelandic?

All the lyrics are in Norse. Technically it is defined as "Western Norse" (Old Norwegian/Old Danish. I can add that Old Swedish is defined as "Eastern Norse"). I am sure some Icelanders would call it Old Icelandic, but Iceland was a part of Norway until 1450 and they spoke Old Norwegian (which of course is identical to Old Danish; "Western Norse"), so...

Old Norwegian is quite different from modern Norwegian and also different from modern Icelandic, I may add.

Have you done any personal research on how old Norse/Viking music might have sounded? Are you using any of its patterns on "Umskiptar" ?

Not much no, but we still know that unlike "primitive" music from other parts of the world "primitive" European music was quite advanced, and included the use of very sophisticated instruments, such as string instruments and flutes.

The ancient Scandinavian music was spiritual, and I intended "Umskiptar" to be as well.

Do you consider "Umskiptar" for Burzum to be what the "Twilight Of The Gods" LP was for Bathory?

Well, if I only knew what "Twilight of the Gods" was for Bathory...

That's all ,thank you very much! End this as you like.

Thank you, my friend, for you interest, and good luck to you. Long live Hellas!

Author: Tolis Yovanitis (© 2012 "Metal Hammer" Magazine Greece)

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