An Interview with
by Gary Spencer

It’s relatively safe to say that any fan of extreme metal knows who the one-man Norwegian band Burzum is, and also knows of its notorious leader Varg Vikernes, a.k.a. Count Grishnackh. In the early ’90s, the Count pioneered the sound of second-wave black metal with minor keys, fast tremolo-picked melodies, shrieked vocals and lo-fi production values, all of which have become hallmarks (and subsequently stereotypes) of the genre. But perhaps more people are aware of Varg through his rise to infamy as a result of being convicted of several church burnings and murdering former bandmate Euronymous, guitar player for the legendary Mayhem. His views on matters of nationalism, race and religion have also made Varg a lightning rod for even more controversy.

Varg was finally released from prison in 2009 after serving 15 years of a 21-year sentence, and in 2010 he released Belus, the first Burzum album in roughly a decade. Apparently brimming with music, Burzum has yet another new album to present to the public, Fallen, which will hit the U.S. market next week. Many fans consider Burzum albums as not just mere metal records, but works of artistic vision, and an astute listener could make a similar case for this new album as well. Fallen fits right in with his back catalog. Mesmerizing tremolo-warped guitar work, dark, hypnotic melodies and breathy vocals help create a spooky sonic atmosphere greater than the sum of its parts. Lyrically and thematically complex, Fallen is a fascinatingly brilliant album.

I recently corresponded with the Count via email about the new Burzum record and a few other things. As I expected, Varg’s responses are short and to the point, but that’s okay, even the slightest insight into the art and mind of a man who many fans consider to be a musical genius is to be relished.

Your previous album, Belus, was a concept record about the White God deity. Do you consider your newest album a concept album as well? Generally speaking, what are the lyrics on Fallen about?

Varg Vikernes: You can read the Fallen lyrics yourself. There is an English translation on, so you can make up an opinion on what this album is about, if you care to. Yes, it is a concept album, dealing with the same subject as on Belus, only this time it’s a journey undertaken by the listener and not some ancient deity.

Fallen sonically sounds and feels very similar to Belus. Was that intentional? What musical differences do you see between the two records?

VV: Fallen is more varied and musically wholehearted. Belus is more monotonous.

What are your recording methods nowadays?

VV: It is mostly the same as before, only we record everything digitally and I tend to record only bits and pieces of the drums now, instead of whole tracks, and then do a whole lot of cutting and pasting afterward to build the tracks. This was done to get the specific sound I was looking for.

I noticed on Fallen that you are utilizing your voice as not just a means for you to relay lyrics, but more as an instrument of melody. How did that come about?

VV: It came about because of the music I made with Belus. It worked well, so I wanted more of it, and so I made more such music for Fallen.

Now that you’ve been out of prison for a while, do you ever consider playing live or touring?

VV: Not really. Burzum is not a live band, and I don’t think my music can be any better than on a stereo in your living room. Burzum is not party music, but intended to be more like a conversation between the listener and the music.

Occasionally in the past you have collaborated with other black metal musicians, most notably Darkthrone. Are there are any currently active black metal artists that you might want to work with? What do you think about contemporary black metal as a style or sub-genre?

VV: Well, I don’t think about black metal at all—be it original, contemporary or whatever. Burzum is not black metal, and I have no interest in black metal whatsoever.

What musical artists or types of music are you currently listening to, and why?

VV: There is not that much time for me to listen to music other than the music I create myself, but when I do find the time, I mostly listen to Disintegration, the Cure album. Sometimes I listen to classical music as well, traditional children’s songs and Russian folk music. Oh, and Lifeforms by the Future Sound of London too.

Fallen’s artwork features part of a painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau. Why did you choose this for the cover art?

VV: First of all, it was used because it fits the theme of the album perfectly. Further, it reminds us of a more romantic era and is also of exceptional quality. Bouguereau was really a very skilled artist.

What do you want listeners to take away from Fallen as an album?

VV: Whatever they seek in it.

What does the future hold for Burzum and for yourself as a person? Where do you see yourself and your musical legacy in relation to the history of black metal?

VV: As a person, I don’t exist to the public, so we shouldn’t worry too much about that. As a musician, my future holds more music, more albums. I don’t care about my musical legacy in relation to black metal. Maybe black metal drew inspiration from Burzum, but that doesn’t mean Burzum is black metal or has anything to do with black metal. I draw inspiration from the Cure, but does that make Burzum a post-punk band? Does that mean the Cure needs to have an opinion on or a relationship to Burzum? I don’t think so.

Anything else you’d like to say to either your fans and/or detractors?

VV: Detractors? I like that...

Anyhow, with all the talk, in so many interviews, about the cover art for Fallen, I think it is about time you all realized that Burzum is not what you expected it to be, and that perhaps you should not expect anything but the unexpected and certainly not what some individuals and the media tell you to expect.