Interview with Varg Vikernes
"Subbacultcha" Magazine (June 2012), by Ben Bland

Since your release from prison in 2009 you have been rather prolific in producing new material under the Burzum name. "Umskiptar" is the third album in as many years from you. Is it as easy and natural as ever for you to create Burzum music?

Yes it is, but I really don't have as much time these days to make music as I did in the past, so until now I have only been able to make one new record each year.

You've spoken numerous times about your dissatisfaction with the black metal scene of today. What is it about your music that is definitively black metal, in your view?

Well, Burzum is definitely not black metal at all. For fear of being identified as a black metal band I have even gone to the length of calling it by another name, scaldic metal, in the press release of this album.

How much of black metal's musical aesthetic do you feel is defined by atmosphere and how much by instrumentation? I ask this partly because I noted the use of the piano on "Alfadanz", which somewhat surprised me.

Well, I wouldn't know as I don't play black metal and have no interest in the genre either... but speaking for myself and my own band I must say I don't think there are or should be any restrictions on how to do things or what instruments to use. I never try to make my music fit into a certain mould or to follow any rules whatsoever. Personally I like the piano a lot, and at least in this context the "Umskiptar" album it felt right to use it. (It was actually a grand piano, by the way.)

Come to think of it, I did decide to only use analogue instruments from now on, so I guess I do follow some rules after all (but on the other hand I make the rules myself and break them as I see fit, so...)

In many ways the piano is my favourite instrument and I think it's enormously diverse in the way it can reflect both darkness and light. As such I think it could be just as at home in your music as in that of singer-songwriters the world over, for example. Can you conceive at all the idea of making a Burzum record with frequent and predominant use of the piano?

Absolutely. Or even an album with piano and vocals only! I am actually working on some ideas for something like this, but in a world of thieves and copy-cats I should not say too much.

This album and "Fallen" have both had the Burzum name and the album title written in standard Roman type. Is this a reaction to the over importance many, well metal fans in particular I suppose, seem to attach to completely irrelevant aspects of a band's image?

Yes, definitely. I mean, they all seem to think of themselves as being so very rebellious and different from the rest (I guess they first and foremost mean from all non-metal bands), living "as lions amongst sheep", but they are really no less uniform and conform than all the rest of us. They all look the same, say the same, play the same music, play the same instruments, wear the same silly clown make-up and clothes, use the same vocal style, have the same logo style, and so forth, and they all have a very strong notion of how "metal" (or even worse "black metal") should be like. If you are any different they bloody hate you!

The funny thing is that I revolted against this even in 1993, when I made the Burzum album called "Filosofem". I did everything different at that point, intentionally, but of course nobody understood that it was a revolt in particular not those I revolted against. Instead they just took off their old costume only to put on a new costume, so to speak, all identical to the customes of the others in the scene, of course. And from then on they all sounded like that album instead, and called their music "black metal" (failing miserably to understand that "Filosofem" was actually a revolt against "black metal").

I really gave up on them a long time ago, but I still do care a little bit, and do things like use Times New Roman as font for all the text on the album, including the band's name, to show others that these things really don't matter. You don't have to use some "cool" logo with inverted crosses, pentagrams and dead men's skulls to play metal music. And I happen to like Times New Roman, I may add.

Now, with all that said, I have to make it clear that I don't think I am so bloody original or special either. I just think it is okay to tell others that I don't think it is very important to be. Just like I think it is okay not to fit into any particular mould no matter what you do. Just do what you want and think is right. I can add that if Burzum did fit perfectly into a mould that would be fine too, as long as I liked it.

What are your views on the increasingly digitalised nature of music production? Has that had a major impact upon the way you make your music?

Not really. I still record one instrument at the time, as I have always done. It is easier to cut and paste when the recording is digital, so I often record shorter pieces than I used to, and cut and paste them together, but other than that there is not much of a difference. I still use a natural reverb from the building I record in and record using analogue equipment.

Because of the complexity of the digital music recording software I actually spend more time in studio than I used to, so it is more time consuming and thus more expensive to record music digitally.

"Filosofem" too was recorded digitally, by the way, only we used an analogue mixing table and did everything exactly like we had done when we recorded the older albums (when we were using only analogue equipment).

Referring back to the music you made in prison, obviously those records became "ambient" records, in essence, due to the constraints of your situation. However, over a decade later, your music still seems to feature influences from "ambient" music. Have you at all considered making another full-length "ambient" album since your release?

"At all" yes. I have thought about it, but I am more inclined to do something new instead, like e. g. make an album with piano (and vocals) only. I am easily bored by things I have already done before...

Some people seem to hold the impression that your music is too self-indulgent at times, yet surely it is an artist's prerogative to be self-indulgent. What are your thoughts on this?

You know, to find inspiration artists are always depending on the reactions they get for their art from others, and this is actually a serious problem to many. If they get too little positive feedback they might lose all their inspiration and even the ability to create anything at all, but if they get too much positive feedback they risk turning into complete pricks, so to speak, so self-indulgent and full of themselves that the rest of the world just want to throw up every time they see them or even hear about them.

The probably best example of just how wrong this can go would of course be Bono from U2, who I am sure is only one step away from turning himself into a world religion (of peace, of course).

Now, some handle the positive feedback better than others, and those who dislike an artist will always think he (unless he is either dead and buried or locked up in some dark and forgotten cellar somewhere) is too self-indulgent no matter what. Thinking so says more about them than it actually does about him, though. I might not be very good at many things, but I am indeed very good at pissing others off, and I think that is at least the main reason why I am or my music is perceived as too self-indulgent by some.

I can end this by saying that I think everyone is free to think whatever they want, to like or dislike, to enjoy or ignore, whatever they like. We all live in suppressive oligarchies claiming to be "democracies", all rights, but at least our minds are free. For now anyway... (I can hear the shackles of Zion being prepared in the background as we speak).

Your vocal performances have become more diverse over the years and are noticeably so varied on this album. Why exactly is this?

Most likely I managed to practise what I have preached for so long, more and more as time passed by. I actually also did things differently, more and more, for each album I made, rather than just talk about it. I guess I successfully freed my mind from the constraints of conformity, but only step by step.

You've said in interviews before that you want your music to be judged on its content rather than by the fact it was made by you. Musically speaking, what is it about this new record, and indeed your entire discography, that you think makes what you have created of real artistic importance?

From what I have been told there is a certain atmosphere on each Burzum album that you cannot find on other albums, and at least some appreciates this atmosphere. Burzum is not loved by the millions, so to speak, so I am not under the impressions that I manage to impress you all, so to speak, but I do believe that all individuals (after all) are different from all others, and some of them appreciates this particular atmosphere. And of course I am glad they do, or else I would have to find a real job....and I am pretty much useless for everything else tolerated in this modern world.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Lastly, if you have any idea at all, what would you say we should expect from future Burzum releases?

You can probably expect music with the same "appreciated-by-some" atmosphere as can be found on the other Burzum albums. The music might be different, and some music might speak to fewer individuals or to other individuals, or to more individuals, but the atmosphere at least will probably be the same.

Thank you for your interest.

Author: Ben Bland (© 2012 "Subbacultcha" Magazine, Netherlands)

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