Published Apr 06, 2010The long awaited return of one-man black metal pioneer Varg Vikernes to guitar-based music has been rife with predictable, yet somewhat legitimate, controversy. Convicted in 1994 of murdering friend and Mayhem main man Euronymous, as well as being involved in several well-documented cases of church arson, Varg has spent over a decade serving time in his home country of Norway. Throughout his incarceration, he was forbidden from utilizing any instruments except for synthesizers, which led to two ambient releases that sharply divided his fan base. Now, with his legal woes behind him and a resurgence of interest in his work, Varg has unleashed Belus upon the public, his first metal release since 1996's Filosofem. Well known for his controversial racial, political and religious views, this highly influential figure set some time aside recently to answer a handful of questions for Exclaim!.
Has your experience in prison influenced your musical output at all?
[No] not at all.
How do you view the recent wave of U.S. black metal artists that have drawn clear influence from your work?
Due to my total ignorance on the subject there is not much I can say about this. I don't even know any U.S. black metal bands. I have not listened to black metal since 1996 and have never paid any attention to the so-called "black metal" scene.
Reflecting on Daudi Baldrs and Hildsjalf, do you feel these are albums you would have made were you not incarcerated, and how would you have changed them if you had access to a broader range of materials at the time?
They were all I could do from a prison cell, and I don't think I would have made them if I hadn't been incarcerated. The "Dauði Baldrs" track would have sounded exactly like "Belus' Død." I made the latter first.
Do you see Burzum participating in any non-musical extensions of its thematic content anytime soon, political, cultural or otherwise?
How do you feel the move to digital production for Belus affected Burzum's sound, and do you prefer it to recording in analog?
It did not affect the sound, but the recording process was affected. It took longer, but required less effort. If we disregard my general distrust for everything digital, and my strong dislike for the digitization of our world, I have to say the digital recording process is much better in all but one way: you really need either an education to use the equipment properly or the assistance of a technician.
What is your reasoning behind not touring with a band for Burzum?
Because I have better things to do with my life. I dislike travelling, I dislike everything that is not home, I dislike people in general and especially meeting people I don't already know. I dislike playing live, I dislike rehearsing, I dislike musicians other than myself. I dislike fixed plans and so forth. No thank you. I'll stay home instead.
The recent rise in the popularity of black metal has led to a number of documentaries and other media documenting its history. Do you feel there has been an accurate representation thus far of the spirit, intent and factual aspects of the genre, and if not, what would you see as being essential to accomplishing this?
I have only seen Satan Rir Media ("Satan Rides the Media"), and that was about the media's role more than anything else. I don't know the others, but from what I have been told, only Until the Light Takes Us is worth seeing at all. I am not sure it would serve a purpose to make a documentary about this in the first place. The scene was never a homogenous or uniform entity, and there is no one truth. You could make a documentary about Fenris of Darkthrone. That would suffice. Let him tell you what this was about to him, and then you have it.
What are your thoughts on hardcore's influence on the black metal genre, and how it has interacted with metal throughout its history, as well as its current relevance to popular heavy music?
Well, you're asking the wrong person. I barely know what hardcore is. My own musical background lies not in metal music, or any other form of rock'n'roll music, but in classical music. Tchaikovsky, in particular.
Why did you choose to reduce the keyboard presence on Belus so dramatically?
It was not a choice; it just turned out that way.
Do you still harbour similar feelings towards Christianity in Norway as you did when you participated in the church burnings, and do you see yourself being motivated to express your views or rejoin the fray on an activism level?
Well, I never participated in any church burnings. I thought I had made that perfectly clear on burzum.org. Anyways, yes: I still see Christianity as a tool created by Romans and Jews to destroy the Europeans' pride, strength and will to resist their rule.
What do you feel separates Belus from your prior releases, conceptually and execution-wise?
It is a more thorough and consistent production and it contains no poor tracks, like all the other albums did. I took my time on this one, for the first time in my musical history.