Interview with Varg Vikernes
"Metal Hammer" Magazine (January 1996)
No one really cared about the extreme music scene in Norway until 1993, when all hell broke loose - literally!
Churches were burned and murders were committed. Emperor's drummer, Faust, was charged with killing a homosexual man who was foolish enough to make advances towards him; and the man who is Burzum, COUNT GRISHNACKH, was charged with killing Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. Others within the scene went down for arson. In 1995 the rivalry between bands anxious for notoriety has subsided, as the most activists lay behind bars. In an exclusive interview, Robyn Doreian travels to Norway to talk to convicted murderer Grishnackh about how he is dealing with the reality of prison life, about Burzum's fifth album, and the future of his one-man musical project.
The prison where 22-year old Varg Vikernes (aka Count Grishnackh) is currently serving a 21-year sentence for murder used to be a concentration camp in WWII. It sits amidst the hills of Oslo, about 20 minutes from the airport, looking about as bleak as would expect a German halfway house of death to be.
This is the third prison Varg has been in since receiving his sentence on May 16, 1994. His first incarceration was Oslo jail, then Bergen prison, and he has been here since August 1995.
In accordance with bizarre Norwegian laws, Varg is allowed to receive visits from journalists, but at present none from friends or relatives. Whilst we had no security check, people who actually know him have to undergo extensive scrutiny from the police and authorities before they allowed in.
Once through the massive barbed wire gates surrounding the building, we walk into the reception area where three guards sit watching us arrive on closed-circuit TV.
It takes around 15 minutes before we actually see him. We have to go through several locked doors constructed of metal bars before we reach the wing where he resides, which is occupied solely by murderers and rapists.
There is a long hallway with approximately 20 locked cells. Each cell is approximately five feet wide by 12 feet deep, and contains a bed, sink, small table and wardrobe. The place smells like a hospital.
We are shown in to what serves as a visiting room. The windows have vertical metal bars on them, and provide a full view of the massive exercise yard to the rear of the building. The walls around the building are imposingly tall, complete with barbed wire and an abundance of security cameras.
The notorious Count Grishnackh appears in the doorway of the room. He is wearing a long-sleeved, heavily soiled Burzum shirt, army trousers and army boots. Varg is intelligent and articulate, speaking surprisingly good English but occasionally grappling for the right adjective. During our discussion, he is overtly hyperactive, making drumming movements whilst seated on the cushioned sofa, and looks incredibly pallid. The latter can be explained by the fact that he is currently serving time in an isolation cell.
Why are you in isolation?
Because I had some trouble with the guards. They come up with these ideas that suddenly I am not allowed to take visits from this or that person because they are politically incorrect and I am a bit pissed because that is no reason whatsoever. They really just want to mess things up!
What sort of people won't they let visit you?
Well at this time they denied my girlfriend visits for no reason. They claim that she smuggled things out, but that is bullshit, as they check me. We have to undress and they go through our clothes and we have to stand naked - even when I talk to you, journalists, which I don't normally do. So it is just bullshit, really.
How have you been treated since you've been here?
Not different from the other inmates, I believe, but because I have political beliefs which are lot acceptable they have stopped all my mail. Sometimes I get one or two letters, but they stop most of it because people write letters with these stupid inverted crosses on it. I am not allowed to draw Norwegian flags on envelopes and such things, as that is Nationalist Socialist, they say.
What was it like the first night you arrived in prison?
The first day, I was left naked in a massive cell with a concrete floor with a hole in the middle. There was no bed, nothing on the floor, and they left the light on for 24 hours. People were walking past 24 hours a day, looking in at me through the bars. The next day they threw a blanket in. Of course it was very humiliating, but that was the point - no shower, no nothing.
What were you thinking while you were lying there on the floor?
I thought it was quite ridiculous. They thought I would be so scared, and they would be like, "You are really down now!" There is psychic terror in these places, not physical terror. They know this is worse!
What is an average day like for you?
Well right now it is a bit extraordinary because I am in isolation. I have been there all week and was allowed to take a shower today, so right now I do nothing. Normally I read books and write some letters.
You can either go to work or go to school in here. When you are at work, you have to put lamps together - very intellectual work, (laughs) - but luckily I am in school. I have to get up at 7am, and then go there from 7.30 until 2.50 pm and then have dinner. Then from 4.00-6.00 pm you stay in the yard if you want to be out there that long, and then go back to my room.
There are sections of 10 people who have to share a kitchen, shower and toilet. You don't have a toilet in the cell, so if you need a piss you do it in the basin. You had better not have to do a number two (laughs), as you will have to do it in a plastic bag or something.
I wrote a book when I was in Bergen. There was always the threat of it being stopped, so I crammed in as much as I could. I will be talking to a publisher soon.
There are some chapters dealing with the so-called "black metal" in Norway, and some chapters about the relationship between the ecstasy dance culture and pagan rituals. It is exactly the same thing in Norse magic, when you dance until you are completely exhausted and then have an out-of-body experience.
How do you escape from your reality in here?
Listen to music. Normally we are allowed to have a cassette and CD player, and I listen to Bach, Beethoven, Grieg (of course, as he is Norwegian), and some techno.
Would you ever think of committing suicide?
Why should I?
Do you get incredibly depressed?
From time to time. Suicide is a cowardish thing. It is one of these escapes some people take.
Do you regret killing Euronymous?
No, why should I? The big point is that I am serving time for something that I didn't do. They claim that it was a first-degree murder, and everything points to the fact that it wasn't. And it wasn't, but still I am charged with this. If the truth would have been served I would have had a maximum of 12 years. And that is a totally different thing, as I would only have had to serve some six to eight years.
What do you think should you have been charged with?
Well the guy I murdered, he tried to kill me but obviously he didn't manage (laughs), so I killed him instead. It wasn't what I would call direct self-defense, because he was no real threat there and then. I could have beat him up and kicked him out in the street, but I killed him. If I didn't kill him then, he would have tried again. There was no point in giving him a second chance.
Why did he want to kill you?
The point is that he started with black metal in 1984. He was always considered the king as such in Norway, but when we started to socialize with them in 1991 everything changed.
The scene had a boost. My debut came out in March 1992, and then Immortal came in September, and at the same time churches started to burn. None of these things happened before we came into the scene. Every time a church would burn he would phone around to all of his friends and tell them we had burnt another church, as he really wanted to be part of this church-burning thing.
We got a bit tired of him, and he was into this Satanism and evil and all of this, and for a while we called ourselves Satanists. We were never really Satanists, so why call ourselves that? He didn't want that, because he wanted to be evil and all this bullshit, and we didn't, so it sort of became a disagreement.
How did you know that he was going to kill you?
Because he phoned a friend of mine and told him, and also sent some letters to a friend of his who told me. I went around to his place to warn him not to come near me.
I turned up at 3am and we started to talk angrily, and he panicked and tried to attack me. I just threw him on the floor, and he got up and ran to the kitchen to get a knife. And I thought if he were going to have a knife so could I. I cut him off so he could not reach his knife. Then he headed for the bedroom where he had a shotgun, so I ran after him, but he ran out screaming for help and ringing all the neighbours' doorbells.
That pissed me off. First he attacks me, and when he starts to lose he is screaming for help. It was ridiculous and pathetic. The neighbours told the police in the interview that they had heard a woman screaming (laughs). So I followed him, and the other guy who was with me followed us, and he ran into a lamp and the glass broke and he fell onto his back. I waited to see if he would attack me again but he just went past me and tried to kick me, and then I just stabbed him in the head.
What did it feel like when you killed him?
Nothing special, really. It was no big deal.
Were you horrified that you had actually killed him?
Why should I? It is natural to kill, especially when you are threatened. I think it is quite normal. This thing about killing has caused such hysteria.
Isn't it to keep our society civilized? Otherwise people would be running around killing each other.
Of course there has to be rules and standards and all that, but when a pig like him planned to kidnap me and first knock me out with an electrode shock gun, what can you do? It doesn't matter how strong you are.
Am I to have mercy with such scum? No way! I value my laws more than the laws of society. People who want to kill me, that is fine. If it is serious, I will kill them first.
Everything that has gone on around black metal in Norway - the church-burnings, murders etc, what has it got to do with music?
I think it has very little to do with the music. There has never been a black metal scene in Norway, that is the point. The only black metal scene we have in Norway is the one we have today after the newspapers started to write about it.
When will you be eligible for leave?
In four years time. You can fill out a form so you can get out for one day with all of these people following you around with handcuffs. Later you can have more leaves - two to three days, but you have to sit four years first.
Do you think you will get out before your full sentence?
I get out on probation after 12 years. Everyone does.
Were your parents horrified when they heard you had committed murder?
Not really. The reactions my mother got from her friends was that I should be rewarded for killing that pig! She didn't like him at all.
Was there really an "inner circle" operating in the scene, performing acts of terrorism, satanic rituals and rapes?
That was just another dream of Euronymous. He wanted there to be an inner black circle, and we played along for a while. But he was damn serious. The only person seriously into this Satanism thing was him. Nobody else wanted anything to do with it, so his fantasy picture was falling apart and he was blaming me.
There were no ritual rapes. I think there are two forms of Satanism: Firstly you have this Satanism which is more continental in Germany and Britain, where you have middle-aged people who have watched too much pornography and they can't get their dick hard without very extreme things. They dress up like Satan in pajamas with horns and get really horny by doing it, and that is their Satanism, right?
The other is the Church Of Satan Satanism, which is in many ways the same as the other, with these middle-aged men who tempt young girls into it because they cannot get women of their own age to do it. They have sex in churches and think it is really exciting, but this thing has absolutely no place in Norway. It doesn't exist at all quite simply because we do not have much pornography in this country and have strict rules about such things.
Are you allowed to have conjugal visits?
Yes, you have a normal visiting room and you can lock the door. It is not the most comfortable place, but it is possible. When I have visits from my friends - if they are allowed to come here in the first place - there has to be a guard in the room at the same time, because we are not allowed to plan any political activities. They have also started to do that with my girlfriend, just to be arseholes.
What are your political beliefs right now?
I am involved in the Norwegian Heathen Front, which is a place where we spread information about Norwegian paganism. I am against anything that is alien for us. That goes not just for religion, but also counts for politics and race.
Do you advocate racial segregation?
Race hygiene, because it is proven scientifically that it is damaging for people. If you mix a negro and a German, you don't get the developed organizational skills from the German and the strength of a negro you get a weaker result of the two. Besides, we are created different, so why should we destroy the order of nature? It is the differences which create energy. Black and white is not a colourful friendship. It turns out to be grey.
I have a problems when my people who are originally exclusively blonde or red-haired with blue eyes cease to exist. In 100 years time the Norwegians will look like the Greeks do today if we don't segregate.
You have a new album, "Filosofem"...
I made it in March 1993; it is quite old. The tapes for it stayed in the studio all the time, and the first time I will hear it is when I have a finished copy.
What will happen with Burzum, as you won't be able to record another album?
I recorded an album in Bergen. I was allowed to have a keyboard and a music processor, so I recorded everything on disc. I had a four-track portable studio, so I just recorded it and sent it to Misanthropy. It is an instrumental and electronic album.
You must be expecting to sell a lot of records because of the huge press coverage you have attracted and your now notorious reputation...
I don't know anything about that, because I do not see anything. It depends who is on guard as to whether I can have these things. I haven't read a music magazine since mid-1994, so it is hard for me to know.
Do you enjoy all of this media attention?
I have been accused of courting press attention, but the big point is that I have weekly requests from TV stations etc. but don't fulfill them. It is not very pleasant, actually, because most of what is written is normally wrong - just shit talk and rumours like I have heard that I am a communist. If they would have quoted me directly it would have been more interesting.
But I don't do these things because I want my picture in the press, but because I want these opinions out there to create dialogue.
Do you think other bands in the scene despise you because you've had so much attention?
Yes, that is natural. That is one of the reasons that Euronymous was so pissed at me, because everyone wanted to talk to me and not him.
Why have you changed your whole appearance?
I coloured my hair black in 1992; I shaved it off in 1994. All the newspapers make photos of me look very dark because they wanted me to have black hair. Everybody who has this black hair they call a Satanist and want them to look like that, so I had to have black hair.
How do you envisage your future?
Well, I am going to educate myself and eventually I will get released.
We are trying to get a new trial, because in my jury we had two freemasons and the only Christian healer in Norway - an old guy with a beard who could hardly walk, who claimed to look through you and pull the evil out of you. In my jury - great! Ninety per cent were pensioners over 66, and that is the jury. My defense lawyer was a homosexual; one of the psychiatrists was a freemason and a Jew, and the other one was a communist; the other guy was tried in the same time and his defense lawyer was a freemason and was actually witnessing against his own client just to hurt me. The whole thing was just a big show, really. They could have just as easily sent me the sentence by mail - here is my 21 years!
If you got out of prison tomorrow, would you fear for your life?
Why should I?
You don't think that friends of Euronymous or members of his family would try to kill you?
[Laughs] I am sure that they would say that they would, but I still stand by what I said in court: weak men threaten, real men act. If they really wanted to kill me, they wouldn't say anything, they would just shut up wait until I get out and kill me instead of boasting about it. The big point is that they would do that because they want attention; the only way they can get it is by threatening me.
Why didn't they do anything when they had the chance? Everybody knew that I had killed Euronymous the day it happened, and still nobody did anything.
If I should fear for my life, it wouldn't be from them, it would be from others - other groups with opposite political views. If I should really look for someone to fear, it would be the police. If I tried to escape whilst on leave, the police would shoot me. That is what the police do with people they don't like. The last time they shot a guy, he was sleeping in a bed and he got up naked and they shot him in the throat. And nothing happened to the policeman. That is the only fear I would have.
The time arrives for Varg to be escorted back to solitary. As he disappears through a locked door, you can't help but think what a waste of two lives.
© 1996 "Metal Hammer" Magazine (UK)