Interview with Varg Vikernes
16.04.2012, by Virko Pirrus

Greetings, Varg, from a small Baltic country called Estonia and congratulations for the new album! How is the springtime in Norwegian countryside?

Greetings, Karel. The Winter has not yet let go completely where I live; it is still fairly cold, it rains and the wind is blowing.

"Umskiptar" is without doubt the most calm and thoughtful Burzum metal-album. Can it be seen as a natural progress after "Belus" and "Fallen"?

Absolutely. It is in a sense an extension to the theme used on both "Belus" and "Fallen", a more thorough investigation of the same subject.

You mentioned in a press release that "Umskiptar" is a kind of "going-back-to-the-roots" album, especially when it comes to the atmosphere. Can you be more specific? Are you referring to a certain older album or a certain period in Burzum's history?

Actually I am not referring to Burzum history at all, but to my personal roots which can be found in European classical and traditional music.

The whole lyrical side of "Umskiptar" is based on an old Scandinavian poem "Völuspá", the prophecy of the Völva. It's a quite ambitious and daring undertaking, to use it in it's wholeness. Of course, selected parts of the poem have been used quite often by different (viking) metal bands before. How did you end up interpretating "Völuspá", why specifially this poem? Whence the title of the album - "Umskiptar" ("Metamorphoses")?

The title refers to the content of Voluspå, which is not really a creation story, but an explanation of the metamorphoses of nature, and the year in particular. I used it because I had studied it for a long time and was translating the poem as part of my book, "Sorcery And Religion In Ancient Scandinavia". It is an important part of European culture, and deserves our attention.

You have mentioned that everything you had to say, you have already said in the lyrics of "Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown". So, is it correct to assume that music comes always first for you, not the lyrics? How do you see "Umskiptar" in this context? Although these are not your own texts, it's definitely a more story-telling/narrative album than everything you have done before.

Well, I think "Belus" was pretty narrative as well. It's the same story, only using a more traditional/sorcery (as opposede to mythological/religious) language and imagery.

You said it yourself; everything I had to say I have already said in the lyrics of the song you mentioned. I still have things to say though. "Feeble Screams from Forests unknown" is more than 20 years ago.... I have managed to come up with an idea or two since then.... :-)

Atmosphere comes first to me, and some times the music is more important than the lyrics, but it can also be the other way around.

"Umskiptar" is strongly dominated by clean vocals, at some point you almost actually sing :) Was it something that the complexness of the material demanded or did you just feel that way? I must say that those clean vocals really do work well. Do you plan to continue in that direction?

"You almost actually sing".... thank you. That was very flattering...

Yes, I plan to continue in that direction, but I don't think planning ahead is the best way to make music. I let the music take the lead, so to speak. I go wherever the music takes me.

There was some kind of confusion concerning the artwork of the album. If I remember correctly there were actually three different cover designs (old paintings) for different versions of the album (CD, LP, Picture LP). What was the case with that?

There were two different images on the table. The first one, "Slindrebirken" (the picture of a birch tree on a burial mound), was initially my favourite, and I intended to use it, but we couldn't find a version of the picture with sufficient resolution. I then decided to use "Natt", instead, the one we actually used, and was very happy I did.

You have expressed your wish that "Umskiptar" should be called as skaldic metal, not black metal. What are the reasons behind that and what do you mean by "skaldic metal"? Just for your information, there is another one-man-band - Falkenbach from Germany - who has used that term, well, quite exclusively so far.

Oh, really? Well, I have never heard the term used by anyone before, and I haven't heard about Falkenbach either, for that sake, but it doesn't really matter. I am more than happy to use the term "scaldic music" instead. I am not sure if all my music can be called "metal", and certainly not sure if my future music can be called "metal"...

The why I came up with the term "scaldic metal" (not knowing it was used by anyone else) was to make it clear that Burzum is not black metal.

Burzum has always been very productive, recording and releasing in relatively short intervals, both before and after the prison years. The simple advantage of being a one-man-band, a creative urge beyond control or something else? :)

It might be all of the above...

How long did it take to complete "Umskiptar" from the first ideas to the final touch in studio? How does your creative work looks like in general?

That's impossible to estimate accurately.

I just make music and lyrics, and then record everything...

"Umskiptar" was recorded at Grieghallen, as almost all your previous albums. What captivates you most in Grieghallen's sound? Have you ever considered trying out another studio?

"If it works, don't fix it." Yes, I have considered other studios, but I am too conservative to try something new.

There are many Burzum fans out there who are still anxiously waiting for you to come out with an ambient track in vein of "Tomhet", "Rundgang..." and "Tuistos Herz", or at least using again synths in your metal songs in vein of "Det Som Engang Var" and the likes. What can you tell to them?

Can someone send me (a digital version of) the operation manual for an S2 GEM music processor? I have lost the manual and I have completely forgotten how to use it....

Well, on a more serious note (pun intended), I can tell them that I might do something like that again in the future. I think e.g. "Tomhet" is (still) one of my better tracks, and I like this type of music very much.

The autumn 2011 saw the release of the first part of your re-recording series, "From the Depths of Darkness". You have said that you're planning to re-record songs from "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" and "Filosofem" as well. I can understand why you re-worked your older songs, but what caused you to do the same with "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" and "Filosofem"? I guess most Burzum fans agree that they are perfect as they are.

Now, I have never re-recorded anything from "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" or "Filosofem", and I agree with those who think they are fine as they were recorded the first time, so I will probably not do so either.

Years go and the world has changed, yet Burzum is still very much alive. You are turning 40 next year (as are many musicians from the so-called second wave black metal scene). When you look back to "the Burzum story" and should sum it up, how would you do that?

I am soon 40 years old, but I am not very soon dead because of that, you know, so I think I will wait a bit summing it up until all the digits have been added to the calculation.

I thank you for your time and patience (and of course for your inspirational music)! I will be eagerly waiting what Burzum comes up next with. The last words are yours.

Thank you for your interest. Remember to visit burzum.org for accurate and reliable news about Burzum.

Author: Virko Pirrus (© 2012 Estonia)

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