Varg as a Viking in the woods. Promotional photo via Burzum.org
I got my first email from Varg Vikernes in 2010. I’d approached him with a plan to travel to Norway and spend a few days with him for a documentary about his new life post-prison. I was surprised with the speed at which he replied to my request, and found him to be polite and humorous in his writings, even if he couldn’t help himself offering some completely unprompted gripes against Jewish people or non-Europeans.
Over a week or so, we made a plan to meet in Oslo, where he’d take me to the sites of churches he’d either burned down or been accused of burning down. We'd meet old friends of his in Oslo, including maybe Erik Olivier Lancelot, who was once Burzum’s drummer.
We’d go out in Oslo and maybe talk about how much he hated bands like Immortal for being phonies. He’d tell me insightful things for a groundbreaking documentary that would make Until the Light Takes Us seem like a boring college film project that should have been called Fisher Price: My First Black Metal. Then, he’d finally reveal that he wasn’t a racist after all and it was all a bad prank and we could be pals and walk off into the sunset together without him murdering me, or something like that.
But then, pretty much on the verge of me booking tickets, Varg called it all off. And there was no pleading I could do to convince him otherwise.
I don't know if the enticing emails he sent me—presumably from his small farm in Bo, Telemark—were just to bait me into excitement, but the more I think about it, I highly suspect that they were.
Varg's French home, complete with matching pea-dot camouflage mom cars and children's bicycles
Over the next couple of years, on unrelated trips to Bergen and Oslo, I would email Varg to see if we could meet up and start talking again. I always got a very polite reply within ten minutes, in the negative.
“Sorry, Andy, but I am about 3000 km away from Bergen now… and will be for one full week. The two weeks after that, I will be some 2400 km away.”
Looking back on this email from May 17, 2011, it’s obvious Varg was teasing me with his whereabouts, and presumably referring to the fact he’d moved to the south of France, to a tiny village in Corrèze.
He left Norway shortly after being released from prison in 2009 and met Marie Cachet when she was graduating from high school. She's now 25, and they have three kids—the oldest is six. He also has a daughter with a Norwegian.
The couple just released a film together called Forebears, which stars Varg, his wife, and his children. It shows them driving and walking through beautiful European mountains and lakes in southern France and Bergen—he, clad in his now customary SS pea-dot camo (in which he has also painted his cars and his children’s bicycles), while the kids amble out in clothes made from animal fur.
It’s about as far removed from Burzum’s original aesthetic of wintry, misanthropic, loner music as could be, with Varg dotting around the countryside in something that looks like a Fiat Uno, happily taking in the sites of a beautiful sunny day in the South of France. Without the soundtrack, it could be a scene from a promotional video extolling the virtues of cheap family breaks in the countryside.
The film is actually an exploration of a prehistoric bear cult, Neanderthal culture, and its connections with autism, a subject that his wife has blogged about. Is Autism something that Varg suffers from? We can only speculate, but it could explain a lot, right?
As well as making movies about bears and nature—with underlying extreme racialist themes—Varg is also developing a new role-playing game based on his pre-prison, adolescent passion for Dungeons and Dragons and Middle Earth role-playing. He's using what might be considered the antiquated medium of pen-and-paper role-playing games to explore such interests. Developing a system called MYFAROG, he has been crafting a game based upon “European values, geography, (pre-)history, mythology, traditions, and morals,” one which offers the player the “opportunity to play a game in accordance with your own European nature.”
Despite such apparently quaint pursuits, this week, Varg and his wife were arrested by the French police, suspected of “preparing a terrorist attack.” Their house has been searched, with police reportedly finding five guns, including four .22 long rifle carbines that Marie had acquired legally.
Varg in pea-dot camo and Germanic helmet shooting a crossbow in the woods. Promotional photo via Burzum.org
While his post-prison life seems to have been largely dedicated to his family and his creative and business interests, it has been revealed that French authorities were nonetheless monitoring the musician since his arrival in the country some three years ago. In itself, this should come as no surprise; Vikernes was, for many years, Norway’s most notorious criminal, having been given the longest possible sentence of 21 years in 1994 for the murder of Øystein Aarseth (better known as Euronymous of Mayhem, perhaps the most influential figure in black metal history), his attacks on the Holmenkollen, Skjold, and Åsane churches, and his possession of a large amount of explosives and ammunition. The latter is thought to have been destined for use against Oslo’s famous left-wing punk squat Blitz, though there was also a plan to blow up Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim—ironically, with Euronymous—the building featured on Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, on which Varg plays bass.
In later years, several Israeli metal acts like Salem and Orphaned Land have claimed that Varg sent them mail bombs in the early 90s, perhaps not surprising given his antisemitic views. Even Varg’s time in prison was not without incident, and in October 2003, having been granted a short period of leave, he failed to return to prison. He was eventually caught heading to Sweden in a car which he allegedly stole from a family at gunpoint and was reported to be in possession of knives, gas masks, cell phones, GPS, maps, and automatic weapons, all supposedly taken from a military storage facility.
It was the man who replaced Varg as Norway’s most hated criminal, Anders Breivik, who seems to be partly responsible for triggering this week’s arrest. Vikernes was one of around 500 people who received Breivik’s 1,500 page manifesto calling for a war against Islam in Europe, directly from the man himself not long before he killed 77 people two years ago.
While the purchase of guns was probably the final trigger for the French authorities, who have stated that they believe he was planning a possible “massacre,” another important factor was the “violent comments” made by Vikernes on the Internet. Certainly, Varg has never been anything less than vocal in his thoughts and political opinions, initially communicating these in band interviews with a sympathetic fanzine, then following his imprisonment espousing Odinism and extreme right-wing race-related views in his book Vargsmål and journal Filosofem, named after his fourth album. Since the Internet’s dominance, he has only become more prolific, posting regularly on Burzum's site and on his personal blog.
But to describe Varg as a Breivek sympathizer seem somewhat inaccurate. He once stated: “To Breivik, I can only say I hope you do kill yourself. The Jews would not have been able to do anything to us if it hadn't been for Christian losers like you!”
What is the most likely cause of Varg’s arrest is that French authorities are increasingly monitoring the growing far right movements in their country following the death of 19-year-old anti-fascist student Clement Meric near St. Lazare station in June. Clement and his friends were at an outlet sale for labels popular with traditional skinhead culture like Fred Perry and Doc Marten’s when a fight broke out with members of a group called Jeunesses Nationalistes Revolutionaries (Nationalist Revolutionary Youth).
Coupled with Varg’s unpredictability, increasing eccentricity (posing for promo photos clad as a Viking warrior in the woods), and track record for violence and hoarding weapons, police in the sleepy French village would have little option but to pay the Vikernes family a little visit following the news that Marie had bought hunting rifles, particularly as the authorities are trying to make examples of people with any connection to far right politics.
But previous to the arrest and accusations of plotting massacres, Varg has seemed outwardly happier than he’s ever been. At the same time, his inner circle had grown increasingly tighter.
Varg has frequently voiced his hate for most of the black metal scene and his former allies in Norway, but he maintained contact with Fenriz of Darkthrone for some years, even contributing lyrics to the band. The two eventually lost contact as their common ground dissolved.
Among the non-familial inner circle are Plastic Head Distribution’s Darren Toms and, until recently, Eirik “Pytten” Hundvin, who produced all the Burzum albums up until the latest, self-produced Sol austan, Mani vestan, the instrumental electronic album on which Varg effectively announced his retirement from black metal. It is not clear whether this has ceased his relationship with Hundvin.
One notable ex-associate of Varg is Didrik Soderland, co-author of the 90s Black Metal expose Lords of Chaos (Feral House). In his opinion, “For people to be comparing Varg to Anders Breivik is not right. I don’t think Varg would plan a massacre, because he has too much to lose. Breivik was a nobody. Varg has a family a wife and a farm and he doesn’t want to trade that for a prison cell."
“I think the French government are erring on the side of caution and they want to send a clear message to him and to society that they take people like him very seriously. Varg has a sense of humor and is intelligent, but he is a very, very special kind of person and he doesn’t understand people very well. He’s gone from boyhood to the prison cell to the farm and he’s been isolated from normal people. To give an example of what he’s like, I once interviewed him (for the second edition of Lords of Chaos) and he was talking about the need to get rid of children who are handicapped."
“He told me that when the mothers would be sad [about their children being executed], we could just explain to them how easy it was to get a new kid. And then he started gyrating his hips in an Elvis motion to show how easy it would be to make a new baby.”
“He doesn’t understand how normal people react to something like that.”