Interview with Varg Vikernes
"Zero Tolerance" magazine (15.04.2012) by William Pinfold

Even to a non-Norwegian speaker, the use of the old Norwegian language makes a difference to the sound and atmosphere of "Umskiptar", to me it feels more solemn and in a way less emotional, do you find it a very different experience to sing in this language than in a modern dialect?

Very much so. Old Norwegian (alias Norse) is very different from Norwegian. It is more poetic and I think also more beautiful, and more powerful as well. I think it changed both the atmosphere of the album and my voice as well (for the better). The vocals on "Umskiptar" are more commanding, and I guess because of that less emotional.

There has been a lot of academic debate about "Völuspá" (when I read the "Edda" at University the view we were given was the compromise that "Völuspá" was probably written by a heathen writer but was strongly influenced by Celtic Christianity), what are your thoughts? Do you see it as essentially an optimistic or pessimistic poem?

Well, I think the commonly accepted interpretations of "Völuspá" are pardon my arrogance all pretty worthless. The scholars always seem to approach the poem as if it is some sort of Scandinavian creation story, but they forget a few very important factors. The most important being that they forget to take into account that the Europeans i. e. the Pagans in ancient Europe didn't have the Judeo-Christian linear thinking they (the scholars) have, thinking that everything has a beginning and an end. The Pagans regarded everything from a more circular perspective, so to speak, and there is no beginning and no end to a circle! So there is no creation story in our mythology! And no end either, I can add. (Ragnarok is a yearly event.)

"Völuspá" translates as "the prophecy of the sorceress", because this poem was taught to the young noblemen who travelled into the realm of death on Halloween to learn the runes (secrets) by the Queen of Death (waiting inside the burial mound in form of a sorceress). She taught them these verses for them to be able to predict the future, and they needed to do that if they were to become Kings. They could because everything went in circles, and thus repeated itself. So when she taught them about the metamorphoses of nature, about how the deities fell in the Autumn and returned to life in the Spring, the young noblemen were able to make accurate predictions about the future. After Autumn comes Winter, after Winter comes Spring, after Spring comes Summer, after summer comes Autumn, and so it goes on forever. The poem was the passwords they needed to know to be able to challenge the May King and take his place, if they won the "bride's races" in the Spring.

There is no Christian influences in "Völuspá", none whatsoever, and those who think so are only mislead by their own ignorance and Judeo-Christian mentality.

As you might already know I have written a book about this subject, "Völuspá" and the metamorphoses of nature and the deities, the basis of the Pagan religion, and if you have an interest in this I strongly suggest you read it. It is called "Sorcery And Religion In Ancient Scandinavia" and should be available online, from amazon.co.uk and elsewhere.

Although the themes you are most identified with nowadays (and specifically on "Umskiptar") are mythological, the imagery you use for your albums is mostly from the XIXth century. What is it that draws you to these kind of romanticised pictures rather than, say, the drawing from ancient manuscripts or the decorations of the Viking era?

The romantic art of the XIXth century is more appropriate imagery, I think, for my albums. It is better technically and it is also more... romantic. I am in any case not very impressed by Medieval art, from the early period anyway, and I would have to go even further back in time to find anything of real quality. The pictures found in Lascaux, for instance.

I was initially surprised that "Belus" sounded as much like older Burzum as it did, but looking at your discography to date there is a strong sense of continuity, even with the ambient albums. Do you see yourself making any major changes musically in the future?

Yes and no. I can see it happening, but I have no concrete plans for it. Right now I enjoy analogue instruments, the older the better, and I think that will influence my next album too. After that? I don't know.

Your vocals seem so much stronger than they used to, do you consciously work on improving your sound or is it an organic kind of process?

It can best be described as an organic kind of process, and like I stated above the language itself this time made a difference.

Did the fact that you used "Völuspá" make "Umskiptar" an easier experience than writing your previous albums or did it make it harder to write appropriate music?

It was neither easier nor more difficult, but it was different, for sure.

From having read various things you've written over the years the fact that you have written "Sorcery And Religion (Witchcraft) In Ancient Scandinavia" seems much less surprising to me than that you have continued to make metal music. Are you still interested in metal outside of Burzum at all?

Not really, no. I still detest the stereotypical "metal sub-culture" and I just don't understand why it attracts anyone at all. I also notice with pleasure than more and more of those who listen to Burzum don't listen to other metal music. I don't think Burzum should be described as metal music at all. "Scaldic metal" should be replaced with "scaldic music". Burzum has very little in common with metal bands.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with metal or metal bands, but it is just not my cup of tea. I am not trying to make others think exactly like I do. We are all free to like and think whatever we want to.

What do you make of the vast number of Burzum-influenced black metal (and post-black metal, post-rock etc., etc., etc.) bands around these days?

Sorry, but I don't know them. They live in another world.

A lot of people seem to want you to record another "Filosofem", but I imagine everything about that album is related to the circumstances it was written and recorded in, can you listen to your older work in a detached way or is it as personal as it sounds?

It is probably as personal as it sounds. I can add that they also want me to use the same artist for cover art as if making the exact same album over again would serve any purpose whatsoever.

I am about the same age as you and personally I would hate to be judged on the things I did (positive or negative) when I was in my late teens, were you at all tempted to leave Burzum behind you altogether at any point?

Yes, I wanted to use another name after I started up again in 2009, but my manager and distributors talked me out of it. If they had tried to do that today they would have failed, but it is too late now. Or maybe not. We will see. Maybe I change it in the future.

Although it's only natural that people are interested in their heritage I find it odd that people choose which part of their heritage to identify with - the area where I live in Scotland was the centre of Pictland, as far as anyone can tell the oldest indigenous civilisation of Scotland, but most "patriotic" Scots identify much more with the Gaelic culture which was brought to the west coast from Ireland. The same is true in England with Anglo-Saxon versus indigenous "British" or Welsh culture (there are far more AS-themed black metal bands than Brittonic ones), so the question (finally) is - why do you think people are drawn more to one part of history than another? Obviously it isn't necessarily to do with being the most "authentic" or oldest version of one's national identity.

The most obvious explanation to this would probably be that some parts of history is more glamorous and glorious than the others. However, I think most of us base our identities mostly on ignorance, and because of that end up favouring this or that part of our ancestry often without even knowing about the other part(s); or wanting to know about them.

We can identify with our species, our race, our nation, our kin and ourselves, and I think it is important that we do on all levels. We should be truthful about this, though, and never base anything of what we say or do on ignorance.

Today we live in agricultural societies, and have a very geographic approach to the quest ion of race and people in general, and what most of us forget is that our forefathers didn't live like we do today. They lived in nomadic societies for tens of thousands of years, and moved about all over Europe, North and South as the different Ice Ages forced them to, and to the East and West as well.

Our nomadic lifestyle had to a large degree ended when the Romans and Greeks started to record history, but even after that we saw large migrations of tribes (peoples) in Europe, some of them moving from one end to the other, settling far away from their "original" homelands. The Goths and Vandals are perhaps the best known examples of this, and of course the Scots, who migrated from Ireland to Scotland, as mentioned by you.

Until some 4-5000 years ago we were probably all the same, though, with the same language, the same religion/tradition, the same culture and of course the same genetic make up. Then because of agriculture (i.e. less movement) we split into groups differing only slightly and with time more and more from the other groups, and we saw the coming of proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic, proto-Slavic, proto-Italic languages et cetera and slightly different Pagan religions and so forth, and later these too branched out, after we all settled down in different areas, leaving our nomadic lifestyle behind. Europe became more static, and because of that more diverse.

We should keep this in mind when we discuss these matters. We should also remember that the European race has 99,84% Neanderthal DNA and only 0,16% homo sapiens DNA, so in effect we are not even the same species as the other humans... See www.atala.fr for more about this.

Anyway, I don't think it is wrong to embrace this or that part of your past. It is also a matter of taste. Some just happen to like the Anglo-Saxon culture more than the British culture, for instance, and who are we to say that is wrong? Maybe they do because they know too little about the British culture to like it, but still.

I can add that I think the British culture (note; singularis!) is beautiful, interesting and simply wonderful (and by British that I mean all the cultures native to the British Isles). Pagan Europe is a wonderful place. We should protect it by all means.

Your music is so much a means of communicating the meaning and feeling of your lyrics, do you think much in mundane musical terms of tempo/heaviness/melody etc. when composing?

No. I base everything on atmosphere and think only about how to use the atmosphere as a means to "drive forward" and support the lyrics, or vice versa.

Although I don't personally think there is any virtue in cheap-sounding production values I was slightly dubious about "From the Depths of Darkness" before I heard it, because I think part of the special atmosphere of your early releases comes from the extremity of youth. Did you have any qualms about revisiting those songs?

Sure I had, but at the same time I really didn't like the vocals on the original recordings (the debut album, that is), and had not been able to listen to these otherwise great tracks for years because of that. The only way for me to appreciate my own music was to re-record these tracks. So I did.

Recording the songs on "From the Depths of Darkness", how close did you feel to the younger version of you who originally wrote and recorded them?

I didn't feel close to the younger version of me, but rather sad on my own behalf, so to speak. It would have been good to be able to go back in time starting over again knowing what I know today. Alas! Such thinking is futile.

A related (but slightly abstract) question; to me it seems like there is a lot of nostalgia in black metal generally, and I think often nostalgia is dismissed as something simple or even foolish but I think it's a complex and quite central human emotion or feeling - given that your work almost always has ancient Scandinavian history and myth at its heart, do you think that nostalgia is a key ingredient of your music?

Yes, I think it is. We all yearn for the Golden Age, and I believe that this Golden Age was real and that it is a description of our nomadic past, when we were free, happy and healthy. We have not been free since the introduction of agriculture. Everything bad we know of came as a direct result of agriculture; malnutrition, famine, tyranny, war, slavery, over-population and so forth. Before agriculture we had a more varied diet, we weren't depending on a good year for the crops to produce what we needed, nobody controlled the food supply, nobody had any reason to go to war against others, nobody had any use for slaves, only the best children survived, and so forth.

Then came what most know of as "the original sin", when our Neanderthal forefathers mixed with the newly arrived homo sapiens, and the hybridization of the two ruined our species, and we lost many of the Neanderthal's vastly superior mental abilities. Even though only 0,16% of our DNA is from homo sapiens this was enough to destroy so many good qualities in us. Most dramatic was the fact that we became less intelligent, and although we still managed to understand the world, we could no longer fathom it. Because of this we fell into despair, and all this despair caused us to try and create harmony in our now dis-harmonic world. And that was the birth of art, and later civilisation... You can read all about this on www.atala.fr in both French and English.

What do you think modern Europe would be like now if Christianity had not replaced the old ways of life? Christianized western/northern Europe nowadays is mainly pretty secular, do you think that would still be the case?

Christianity is 90% Paganism; all the Christian high festivals are just Christianized Pagan festivals, and we kept the Pagan idea of personal responsibility for your own happiness. You must still do something to be "saved", in contrast to the Jewish faith where you just have to wait for salvation to come to you. So, in a sense Christianity never really replaced anything, it only gave it a new content (and a new linear way of thinking), but of course it also added to us exceptionally destructive respect for the Jews and their truly Satanic religion. The problem is and has never been Christianity itself, but the Jews who pull the strings in the background. They still do, and they do because of Christianity, who claims these Satanic creatures are "God's chosen people", and who therefore make so many of us tolerate them, accept them and even give them special privileges. Right now they are bankrupting one European nation after the other, because they have been allowed to take control of all the banks, where they print money from nothing and then give loans with interest. So every single nation on Earth and almost all human beings alive owe them money. Like always they don't know when to stop, their greed is just too great for them to control it, so they will continue stealing everything we have until we have nothing left... Then we will see another massive pogrom, and the "poor" Jews will suffer again.

But be sure that some Christians will pity them, "God's chosen people", and let them into our countries once again, in the future, and the whole process starts all over again, as it has already so many times in history. They never learn from their mistakes.

If, in 1993, you and Øystein Aarseth had parted ways and simply not associated with each other again in any way, what point do you think Burzum would be at now? Do you think you would still be making metal music (or music at all) in 2012?

I leave the wild speculations to the "serious" mass media.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

Thank you for your interest.

Author: William Pinfold (© 2012 "Zero Tolerance" Magazine UK)

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