DATE OF INTERVIEW:
20th April 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: Since being released from prison, you’ve been very prolific in your creative output and there’s been a very quick turnaround between albums from ‘Belus’ through to ‘Umskiptar’. Does this mean that there will be regular releases from Burzum?
VARG: In theory yes, but you never know what will happen in the future, so I cannot guarantee anything. May I also remind you of the fact that I made 4 albums and an EP in about 1,5 years in the early 90s, so you shouldn't be surprised if I make (only...) one album each year these days.
(Varg Vikernes on recording the vocals for new Burzum album 'Umskiptar')
"Old Norwegian is so much more beautiful, poetic and powerful than Norwegian is, and my voice changed (metamorphosed...) because of this...It felt as if it wasn't my voice singing or speaking, but like a voice from the past..."
Interview by Jason Guest
Whenever anyone talks about topics of controversy and notoriety within the history of metal, one name is almost always guaranteed to come to the fore in such discussions, that of Varg Vikernes and his one-man musical vision, Burzum. With a new album entitled ‘Umskiptar’ (which translates as ‘Metamorphoses’) soon to be released, Varg took time out to discuss with Metal Discovery such subjects as the influence of his early music on his post-prison recordings, the creative process behind his latest album, the poem that it is based on, 'Voluspå', and what it signifies in the evolution of Burzum, as well as what lies ahead for Burzum and its music…
Varg Vikernes - promo shot
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Darren Toms; copyright © 2012 M.C.
MD: Did the recording of the tracks chosen for ‘From the Depths of Darkness’ mark a particular point in the development of your musical career? Was its purpose to reacquaint yourself with the early Burzum? If so, what does this era hold for you? Did re-recording the tracks for ‘From the Depths of Darkness’ have any impact on the writing for ‘Umskiptar’?
VARG: The main purpose of the re-recording was to make it possible for me to listen to these old tracks again. I couldn't stand the original vocals on the first album, so I never listened to the first album. The vocal was okay on ‘Det som engang var’ but the technical quality of the album was too bad (meaning I did a poor job back then) for me to really appreciate it. I also wanted to make this music – which I am still very proud of – available to a new audience, not necessarily made up of hard-core metal heads (who are able to appreciate the original recordings anyhow), and therefore saw a good reason to release the re-recordings as an album.
Even though the purpose was not to reacquaint myself with the early Burzum this was indeed a very positive side effect and, yes, I do believe this has influenced ‘Umskiptar’. I can add that ‘From the Depths of Darkness’ was recorded long before ‘Fallen’ as well, and thus also influenced ‘Fallen’, probably more than it did ‘Umskiptar’.
The era you refer to was an era of despair and confusion, and I walked as a wolf amongst sheep in wolves' clothing, so to say. I have never before or after been more lonely than I was then.
MD: What differences are there between ‘Umskiptar’ and ‘Fallen’ and ‘Belus’?
VARG: The language used for the lyrics is different, being Old Norwegian on ‘Umskiptar’ and Norwegian on the two others. The pace is somewhat slower on ‘Umskiptar’ compared to the others. The vocals are different too, both in quality and in quantity on ‘Umskiptar’ compared to the others. Finally, the lyrics on ‘Umskiptar’ are all taken from the ‘Voluspå’ poem, and I have written them myself on the other two albums.
MD: Where does ‘Umskiptar’ fit in to the development of Burzum?
VARG: If the two first albums were expressions of my anger and rebellious will, and the next two my melancholy and despair, and the next two my wandering about in the vast fog of the distant past, and then the next two my return from the fog, then ‘Umskiptar’ is my life in the Sun light and the zenith of my life, and we can only hope the next album will follow this line, before I fall back down and return to anger and a rebellious will.... and the cycle starts all over again; the metamorphoses of Burzum... :-)
MD: For this album, you have said that the vocals are the most important aspect of the album. Is this the writer in you making its way to the fore?
VARG: Not really; you should differentiate between the vocals and the lyrics. The vocals are indeed very important on this album, but I didn't write the lyrics myself; they are all taken from the ‘Voluspå’ poem, so even though they are no less important because of that, it doesn't say much about me as a writer. The entire poem is used as lyrics, and I see the album as a musical interpretation of ‘Voluspå’. The vocals are important because there are so much lyrics, 66 stanzas in all, some of them even repeated a few times, and what I think made a huge difference was the language itself. Old Norwegian is so much more beautiful, poetic and powerful than Norwegian is, and my voice changed (metamorphosed...) because of this, and it lifted the entire production. It felt as if it wasn't my voice singing or speaking, but like a voice from the past, a voice of the forefathers, speaking to us today in his own ancient language using his own ancient poetry.
MD: With ‘Voluspå’ at the centre of the album, what was the writing process for ‘Umskiptar’? What did you want to achieve with ‘Umskiptar’?
VARG: I wanted to use ‘Voluspå’ because I believed it deserved the attention, and another type of attention as well. It has been misinterpreted so much that its true meaning has been lost, and I wanted to show to all those interested what it really means. The album in itself might not enlighten too many, but it is released as a musical companion of my book ‘Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia’, and will be understood in context with that book by many.
MD: The concept of the album is "a deeply rooted European (i.e. Pagan) Stoic concept of changes” that “can therefore also be seen as critique of all the popular political movements of our age of lies”. Does this also reflect a change in yourself?
VARG: Not as such, no. Of course I change too, we all do, but I have not dramatically changed my world view or perception of reality, or anything like that, if that is what you mean.
MD: For the cover of ‘Umskiptar’, you have chosen a work by the Norwegian historical painter Peter Nicolai Arbo. It’s understandable why you would choose this artist, but why this particular piece?
VARG: This particular piece, ‘Natt’, was chosen because it is a romantic image of the personified Night, as she rides across the sky, followed by ‘Dagr’, the personified Day. This too is a natural and mythical metamorphosis, so it fits the concept like a hand in a glove.
MD: 'Fallen' was mastered like a classical album. Did you take the same approach with 'Umskiptar'?
VARG: Aye, I did, and I can add that I have done for all the other albums too, save ‘Belus’ which was unfortunately mastered by one with a typical metal philosophy.