Burzum Unbound: Varg Vikernes Speaks To The Quietus
, April 1st, 2010 07:29
Black metal's most notorious son refused to talk murder, racism and arson, but did give us a track-by-track rundown of the influences behind his new album
Since his release from the low-secturity Tønsberg prison in southern Norway, Varg Vikernes has refused to keep the low profile that many expected. During his sentence, Vikernes had hinted that he wished to author books under an assumed name, or perhaps take up farming. Instead, Burzum have a new album, Belus, and Vikernes has appeared in some of the world's major heavy metal magazines. The Quietus, in Norway for the annual By:Larm music conference, managed to persuade the former Mayhem member that he should speak to us – though the granting of this request came with one condition. We were not to discuss the murder of Euronymous, church burnings, or his musical past. Instead, we were told: no photographs, no bullshit; we could visit Vikernes' home to get the exclusive, unexpurgated playback of the music that inspired Belus - his first post incarceration musical statement.
The winter of 2009 to 2010 has been the coldest in recent Norwegian memory. Vikernes insists that we undertake the journey at night so as to be unable to trace the location of his rural retreat and, after a few hours of driving through the white landscape, the car steered by a taciturn employee of Burzum's label Byelobog Productions arrives at a low, single storey house, isolated on top of a small hill, nearly a metre of snow on its roof. And there, on the veranda, arms folded into an authentic Norwegian minke whaler's jerkin, stands one of the most notorious musicians on the planet.
"Look! Mordor!" laughs Vikernes humorously, gesturing towards the horizon, where a strange light that perhaps emanates from an airport glows behind a dark line of pine trees. He ushers us into a large, light and airy open plan room. A cast-iron stove burns against one wall, four enormous speakers take up the corners. Vikernes' record player has been moved to the centre of the room, five records laid out on a pouffe beside it.
I'm ushered to a chair, handed a glass of water – Vikernes is teetotal – and he sits down opposite me to explain what I'm about to hear.
"It was around eight years into my incarceration that I realised that I had to stand apart from the so-called black metal scene, which, in my absence, had become a Shakespearian parody of the original, pure and noble form which we founded anno 1991," Vikernes says. "I noticed from my pine and ash-lined jail cell that members of the scene were busy hanging out with their friends, having sex with hot chicks and in some cases hot dudes, getting tattoos, going fishing, watching Richard Curtis comedies, visiting their mothers with flowers, helping out with community outreach programmes, learning conversational French at nightschool and other sordid pastimes that one would normally associate with the negro savage.
"It was almost as if everyone suddenly relaxed and started having a good time the second I got banged up!"
Word reached Vikernes of what, to him, seemed like a distressing development in the scene that he had helped to create. "When I was sent down, some of them even started walking, talking, acting, dancing and dressing like homosexuals," he sputters. "Once truly proud Norse warriors started attending Sing A Long A Sound Of Music, working on their upper body muscle definition, taking saunas, wearing extravagant scarves and openly discussing Dancing On Ice in Starbucks. Once we proudly adorned our stages with strings of Nordic sausages covered in Ribena, designed to represent the chainsaw gutfuck of the traitor Christ. Now it is impossible to stage a black metal gathering without hearing the chthonic, parched, deathly scream of: 'Look at the mess in here! Would you shut that door! I'm bloody freezing! There's Ribena all over my favourite Xsathur T-shirt! This will never come out!'"
"Homosexuality has no place in black metal," he thunders, jabbing the air with the stem of his pipe. "It has been scientifically proven that gay men cannot read black metal logos and cannot pronounce the words 'Inn i de dype skogers favn'."
The clearly agitated Vikernes has leapt up from his chair, and stands tall and proud in front of me, staring at some point on the far wall. I hardly dare glance to see what exactly he's looking at. The label minion shuffles nervously in the background.
"Now as everyone knows Norwegian jail is no picnic," he sighs as he settles back into his chair, the moment passed. "You can have a guitar and an amp or a PC with cubase and Pro Tools but under no circumstances are you allowed a drum kit in your cell! The fascists! I opted to get rid of my futon for being 'too black' and got it replaced with a selection of goat pelts from IKEA. One day while reclining on my Easy Boy, supping a Citron Presse and trying to tease myself into a state of arousal while watching Trisha on my portable television, I realized that it was a blessing for me to be in jail. Only from this amount of solitude in my austere monk-like cell, could the true creative impulse come. It was only in this prison of the tainted Norwegian state that I could truly pursue my belief in what I term Odalism."
At this point he drops the bombshell: "Because the once pure black metal has become infected and diluted, I have had to retreat even further into splendid isolation; taking refuge amongst the white, noble, proud strains of New Orleans jazz, hip hop, freebase funk, crunkcore and South African R&B."
New Orleans jazz is something that is obviously close to the murdering racist's heart: "While in prison, one of the distressing tidings I received written on the inside of the lid of a jar of sild was that members of the Norwegian metal brotherhood traitorously collaborating with the dilettantish free jazz scene that the gullible people of my country have accepted wholesale. As is well known, I have spurned my former Nazi beliefs – this, I can reveal to you now, is entirely due to the Nazis' mixing of ceremonial music played upon brass instruments, and the false destruction and chaos wrought in Europe during the middle of the twentieth century. This, my reading led me to realize, was further evidence that the Norwegian black metal scene were being led blindly into following Judeo-Christian beliefs – what brought down the walls of Jericho? The brutal honking of trumpet not a thousand miles from impure Swede Mats Gustaffson. I found solace in the music of New Orleans, played on horns as pure of that of a hunter in the wastes of the North."
Vikernes rises once again, and walks across the room to stand behind his record player. He reaches down, picks up an album from the pouffe, and slips the black vinyl from its sleeve. "Allowed only one record a month, this is what I discovered. This is the music of Purity. This is the music of Belus"
Public Enemy 'Bring The Noise'
Wicked Witch 'Fancy Dancer'
Letta MBulu 'What Is Wrong Grooving'
Andrew Blakeney, Louis Nelson, Rudi Balliu, Alton Purnell, Ed Garland and Barry Martyn 'Hindustan'
Ohio Players 'Funky Worm'