Varg Vikernes (36) knew who lit the churches. — Are you a racist? — Yes, but I don’t hate anyone.
Words: Rune Midtskogen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photos: Linda Næsfeldt
We just about always said the opposite of others – in pure spite, no matter what they said, just to signal distance. This was how we ended up labeling ourselves satanists, even though we certainly weren’t. As a matter of fact, there weren’t a single satanist in the entire norwegian black metal movement during 1991-92. We named ourselves such because death metal musicians usually were overly committed to social issues and opposed to satanism.
In the court, I underlined that I certainly wasn’t, nor had been or would ever become a satanist, but of course, the journalists found these details to be of no interest to the public. They wanted me to be a satanist, thus portraying me as such. The movement ended up satanic due to the media focus on satanism.
Excerpt from Varg Vikernes unpublished book.
Telemark, june 2009: We’re driving through dense forest, surrounded by steep mountains and valleys on both sides. The sun shines from a clear sky, it’s hot and humid. As we drive past a gas station, the cellphone beeps. It’s Varg Vikernes, aka ‘the Count’. He’s wondering whether we’re finding our way.
20 minutes later, we stop at a road pocket. In front of us stands a tall, light, bearded and smiling man, wearing sports trousers, a hoodie and sneakers. We set course for his new home.
The little farm, bought by a relative a few years ago, is idyllic situated within nature. Here, his french wife – expecting their second child – and their biological son (1 ½) can roam upon several acres of cultivated land.
– It’s entirely coincidental that we purchased this lot. We wanted a silent and peaceful place outside the city, with stunning nature. It’s so beautiful up here. Here we can live in solitude. But there’s a lot of work maintaining all the buildings, lawns and garden. I like carpentry, and have always enjoyed using my body. I have no problem passing time, Vikernes says.
It’s only a few weeks since the man, who in the nineties was one of Norways most feared men, was released – after spending almost half of his 36 years behind bars.
He was just 21 years of age, when he the 16th of May 1994, was sentenced the maximum sentence in Norway – 21 years of imprisonment for intentionally murdering his bandmate Øystein Aarseth (25), three accounts of church arson and numerous thefts.
The judgement, the publicity and writings ensured the young lad from Bergen mythical status, both in Norway and abroad.
Dagbladet Magasinet has been given access to Varg Vikernes’ unpublished book. The book, written while carrying out almost 16 years of sentence, is his own version of what went down in the years from the formation of the black metal movement up to his sentence.
In the passage below, Vikernes describes what happened when he was released after six weeks of incarceration deprived of mail and visitations in 1993 – suspected of several of the church burnings he was later convicted for:
I was very surprised when I got out of prison and realised the picture the media had painted of the situation. Every page was filled with ‘the Count’, a nickname the journalists had got from Øystein, who used it because I’d applied the pseudonym ‘Count Grishnack’on my debut record. I could read interviews with anybody, ranging from mental patients to self-elected experts on satanism. I’d only expressed the term ‘satanism’ to provoke or in the meaning ‘opposed to christianity’, as ‘Satan’ translated ‘the antagonist’. The satanism I read about in the media had absolutely nothing to do with this understanding or myself, or anyone in the movement for that matter.
– I’m not the ‘Count’ depicted in the media. It’s just sad. Those which have known me the longest does not recognize themselves in what’s been written. But I’m partly to blame for this portrayal. Thats the reason I’ve written this book, that I hope will be published. I want to finish this, and put it behind me. I want to start a new phase in life.
We’re sitting under the property’s largest tree. A can of coffee and som homemade biscuits rest upon the table.
– I’m very fond of this tree and this place. I like to sit here and relax. It’s silent and peaceful.
It’s his wife that supports the little family.
– I’ve never asked for help. Never received it either, Vikernes says.
The bright summerday Varg Vikernes was released, he’d already experienced four denials for parole. The parole board upheld the denials citing that he wasn’t ready for society. Now – on parole – he has an obligation to report himself every two weeks the first three months, after that once a month for the next nine months. The slightest criminal offence would place him behind bars yet again.
– Of course, it was good getting out of prison and home to my family. It’s wonderful that we finally can be together every day.
He pulls his hand through his blonde mane.
– I pushed the pause-button when arriving in jail, and pressed play when I got out. Humans are adaptible. I never minded the ongoings within the facility, I lived in the future. I wrote, excersised, ate healthy and dealed with life in jail in a good fashion.
– But I’ve got nothing good to say about the norwegian prison system. There’s no legal protection whatsoever in norwegian prisons.
– I’m only provoked by Knut Storberget (norw. secretary of Justice), who claim that they take drug problems serious. Thats bullshit. I’ve never touched alcohol or drugs myself.
Who is this man we refer to as the ‘Count’?
He was born in Bergen, where he grew up. As a little boy, he was similar to most children – active, curious and happy. In addition, he was very creative, enjoyed reading, good at school, with an ability to go deep in subjects of interest. He was a member of a team of target shooters, active in athlectics and martial arts – and with an early interest of music. Especially in classic and singer/songwriter traditionals, but he never listened to pop music.
At age 14 he got a guitar. This marked the start of his career.
It’s pretty ironic that I never dreamt of any form of fame or notoriority. When I started my one-man band I wanted anonymity. I used a pseudonym on the record, an image that was unrecognizable. In addition, I didn’t want to perform live or show myself in relation to my music.
Vikernes was active in several bands, and at the early age of seventeen he joined the death metal outfit Old Funeral, hailing from Os, outside Bergen. The next year he formed his one-man band Burzum – which today is considered one of the forefathers of black metal, and still remains one of the best known.
The number of sold records are unknown, but its probably several hundred thousands, according to musical experts.
– Burzum was a breath of fresh air in the eighties (sic -Niflheim), characterized by intensity and aggression. Burzum paved the way for sincere and groundbreaking monotony, unique within musical history, says frontman in one of the world’s largest black metal bands, Gylve Nagell of norwegian Darkthrone.
Vikernes has already penned nine songs for a forthcoming Burzum record, which he hopes to release early next year. He tells us that many record labels are interested in making a deal for the first record in eleven years.
– I want to bide my time, so that the product sounds the way I like it. It’s going to be metal, and the fans can expect real Burzum, he explains.
The 6th of June 1992, the nation awake to the news that one of Bergens most popular tourist attractions, Fantoft Stave Church, has been totally damaged in fire. In the next six months another three norwegian stave churchs burn down. In order to find the cause of the burnings, the police set in great resources, but Varg Vikernes isn’t arrested for another eight months.
When the Fantoft Stave Church burned down in June 1992, Øystein was convinced that I was the perpetrator. The reason was that we’d spoke about burning churches earlier, after learning that a church had burned due to a strike of lightning. He was interested in this, mostly for promoting norwegian black metal, and scare off ‘trendy babies in light trousers’ and other weak personalities. He was spreading the rumour that I’ve had torched Fantoft Stave Church, and it became common knowledge in the underground. Everybody ‘knew’ that I was responsible for the crime, at least they thought so, due to Øystein spreading this rumour. They didn’t even care to ask me whether it was true when we met, and I didn’t bother to deny it. I didn’t take it all that serious and it did not bother me either. It’s striking that none in the bands considered ‘true’ ever was indicted or prosecuted for church arson, except yours truly, of course. Why should we torch chapels or do any other extreme actions, as we were already look upon as ‘true’? It was other, usually younger individuals, that set the fires – to gain the acceptance and respect of Øystein and the rest of us.
– Do you know who lit the churches?
– I knew, but I had no interest in ratting them out. They managed perfectly well in getting themselves convicted without my assistance. I didn’t speak to the police at all, as I had no trust in them. They had no interest in pursuing the truth, only in getting me convicted.
Vikernes was charged with five accounts of arson, but the Eidsivating court only passed sentence for three: The Holmenkollen chapel in Oslo, the Skjold Church in Vindafjord and Åsane Church in Bergen.In addition, he was sentenced for litting the bell tower of Storetveit Church in Bergen. Vikernes was convicted on witness statements from persons within the black metal movement itself. Some of the witnesses were convicted themselves for accessory.
He describes this period in his book:
When the possibility of giving an interview to a major norwegian newspaper emerged in january 1993, we took the chance with great apetite. Øystein and myself agreed upon me giving an interview, in order to scare and terrorize the population, as well as promoting black metal. We believed it would create a buzz around ‘Helvete’ (Øystein Aarseth’s recordstore in Oslo, promoting black metal), gaining more customers. With lots of acting and melodrama, I met up with a christian journalist, and as agreed upon with Øystein, I told about satanists being responsible of church arsons and the fictious organization I fronted.
I told the police I had never lit a single church, and when they asked me whether I knew whoever had committed the crime, I answered that I quite possibly knew, although I had no intention of telling them. As a naïve and gullible 19 year old, I was dissappointed, resigned and frightened by the encounter with the police. They lied during questioning, fabricated witnesses that placed me in areas I’ve had never been, and even managed to tell me that I was caught on tape outside one of the burning churches. The police also manipulated media in an attempt to make me guilty by suspicion.
– In court, I explicitly denied any accomplicity with the burnings, but was convicted. At the time, I only spoke of church arson in order to enstill fear. It was because a member of the press went to the police and turned me in, they took notice, Vikernes claims.
– Do you regret any of your choices?
– Who are you today?
– I’m still not the person average Joe think they know anything about.
The total cost of the church repairs were estimated to 45 million kroner (about 7 million dollars). The insurance claim against Vikernes were 19 million kroner, although he claims to never have received it. But he does owe the Oslo municipality 23 million kroner after the arson of the Holmenkollen chapel. He says that he’s received claims demanding him paying up millions on short notice.
– I’ve got zero income, and will never be able to pay my debts. My only exit would be debt rescheduling. Maybe then I’ll be able to earn an income in five years time.
– What are your thoughts on church arson today?
– Nothing in particular. I haven’t given it a thought in many, many years.
During razzias at Vikernes home in Bergen 1993, the police found 150 kilos of explosives and around 3000 rounds of different caliber. The media speculated whether he was about to blow up the Nidaros Cathedral.
– Nonsense. I had gathered this for defence in case Norway was attacked. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were the ones most likely to attack us. We had no reason to trust either government, the royal family or the armed forces considering what went down the last time anyone attacked. We are left to ourselves, he says.
Vikernes squints toward the scorching sun, while helping himself to a biscuit. It’s quiet summer on the farm, some distance away a car is chugging. Behind the father, the son is playing with toy cars. His pregnant french wife sits next to him. They met while he was imprisoned. During a small, private ceremony in Skien last year, they got married. It’s only weeks until another birth.
– It’s great joy with children. We’re looking forward to it, says the father of two, patting his youngest empathetically on his head.
– Will you tell your children about your past?
– Certainly. At school, my daughter (17), who study music in Bergen, everybody knows. It’s never been a problem, he states.
– I was doing fine while Varg was imprisoned, but naturally, it’s been tough. It was a lot of responsibility living alone on a farm, raising a baby. Now, we’re happy, Vikernes’ french wife tells us in impeccable norwegian.
late summer 1993, the relationship between Øystein Aarseth and Vikernes had soured. According to Vikernes, Aarseth had faded as leader, blaming Vikernes for this, as he’d become the center of attention.
The 8th of August this year, the following happen, according to Vikernes: At home in Bergen, Vikernes is played a private phone conversation between a friend of the same age and Øystein Aarseth. Vikernes is informed that Aarseth is planning his murder. This in spite of Aarseth having signed Vikernes on his record label ‘Deathlike Silence Production’.
He wanted to get rid of me, I had to get away. He wanted to use a stun gun to knock me unconscious. After that, he would tie me up, throw me into the trunk of a car and drive me into the forest, where he would tie me to a tree and torture me to death.
Vikernes writes in his book that he receive a letter from Aarseth the next day, which the police later confiscate. Aarseth ask that Vikernes make his way to Oslo, enabling them to sign the record deal. The same night Vikernes decide to leave for Oslo – according to himself, to sign the contract. Along with a friend (Snorre Ruch – Niflheim), he undertake the journey across the mountains. They swap on driving and sleeping through the night.
I wanted to deliver the contracts to him at once, so that he no longer had any reason for contacting me. Besides this, we had nothing to do with each other any more. These papers were his only excuse left for getting close to me.
According to Vikernes, they park the car around three or four in the morning outside Tøyengata in Oslo, where Aarseth resides. Vikernes rings the bell on his door.
Here’s an outtake of the dramatic night Vikernes became a murderer, as it’s described in his book:
Because of the phone conversation and the false letter, I was mad at Øystein. And when I’d made it up the stairs to his apartment, he must’ve seen it, because he was very frightened. Either that, or he considered his own plans of killing me, experiencing discomfort as I suddenly arrived. He could just have opted leaving and never writing me a letter. I didn’t want anything to do with him. While I was talking, I took a step forward, and I probably seemed very threatening to Øystein. He must have panicked, because all of a sudden he kicked me in the chest. He hit my rib, so the kick lost its effect. I took hold of his foot and threw him to the floor. He glanced towards the kitchen.
I’d been to his apartment earlier, and knew that he had a large kitchen knife laying on the sink. I saw that his eyes were fixed at the knife. He suddenly got up as fast as he could, running towards the open door leading to his kitchen. At the same time I jumped ahead of him. I took up a small knife i was wearing in my pocket. It was really a small boot knife, with a ten centimeter blade. It wasn’t sharp but quite pointed, and I stabbed him in the face. It was the first time I’ve ever stabbed anyone, and it was a pretty half-assed attack. It felt unnatural and wrong cutting another human.
Every aversion towards stabbing another human being vanished after drawing first blood. The barrier was broken. I was dealing with a person planning to torture me to death, that without any doubt would carry out his plan, given the opportunity. Øystein cried out for help, and stopped to fight. I parried his blows with my knife, thus making him cut himself with every punch.
Aarseth was later found slained several floors below his own apartement. With 23 stab wounds.Vikernes pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but without intent. However, he was convicted for murder one. The friend accompanying him on the road was sentenced to 8 years in prison for accessory to murder, despite Vikernes claiming his innocence. According to Vikernes, the friend never entered the apartement.
While incarcerated in my cell, the police prosecuted my case in the media, helped out by the members of the press. They portrayed my trial as if I’d murdered Øystein just like that, and that a lengthy power struggle had existed between us, over who ruled the metal underground. You were given the impression of a hierarchical developed satanic organization, led by øystein, which I sought control over by murdering him. I had no interest in leading this movement. Music was somthing I created out of disillusionment after the end of the cold war, without purpose in life. To become a leader figure within this milieu was the last thing I wanted. If the custom in Norway at the time included burning witches, I would most certainly been burned alive, without any conviction or trial – right there and then. Instead, they had to make the best of the media pillory. They judged me in advance and whipped up so strong emotions against me that even the once so ‘tough’ and ‘hard’ black metal musicians were lining up in front of police stations to turn me in, blaming it all on my person. Of course they did; I’d just killed their idol in a power struggle of Øystein’s imaginary organization.
– I cannot regret the murder of someone planning on killing me. I was threatened by his plans, but I never intended to kill him.
– Could you kill again?
– All humans can kill. But there’s a smaller chance of me killing again, because I’ve already been in that situation, and knows better how to deal with it. You can’t possibly know how you’ll act when you’re threatened before you end up in one. If the same situation had arose today, I’d contact the police first. You make simple choices when you’re young. There was a special code among the people I socialized with. It’s not good being indifferent, you become dangerous.
Vikernes served his sentence in Oslo, Ringerike, Trondheim and Tromsø, where he the last couple of years served in a minimum security prison. During these years, he’s been linked to neonazi and racist circles.
– I’ve never formed or been a member of such organizations. The only organization I’m a member of, is Riksmålsforbundet (Norwegian language association).
While serving time in Oslo Kretsfengsel, Vikernes writes down the shock that met him:
Of 36 men on my block, there was only two ethnic norwegians beside myself. Of the 33 other inmates, there were one polac and one german, the rest were africans, pakistanis and arabs. At the other prison block, the situation were about the same. Some of the pakistanis couldn’t even speak english, and resorted to just speaking urdu. The whole prison reeked of bazaar. Was this really Norway? Was this Oslo?
In 2003, Vikernes was given 14 months of additional punishment after failing to return from leave at Tønsberg prison. When the police arrested him, they found, amongst other things, an AG-3 automatic rifle (the standard rifle in the armed forces), a number of smaller arms and about 700 rounds in the car he’d hijacked.
– I’ve never been a nazi, and I’m not one today. It’s bullshit that I’ve initiated racist propaganda groups. If you’re obstructed by the prison system, you get frustrated, aggressive and easily manipulated by other groups. What I did, was to rebel against those which have treated me badly. It was stupid, but it felt right at the time. You can get pretty lost, living in solitude all the time, being counteracted.
– But I have some outspoken attitudes. I see that this country is going to hell – and I’m trying to keep from getting sucked in. This is no longer Norway. We’re being replaced by foreigners, both culturally, religiously and genetically. Take a look at our population today, and compare it to what it looked like 50 years ago.
– Are you a racist?
– Yes, but I don’t hate anyone. Hatred is irrational. I’m a rational being.
– Are you pround of who you’ve become?
– Do you understand that people fear you?
– I understand it in the context of my portrayal in the media.
We stroll across the yard, covered in flowers and grass. We step into the house and further into the ‘workroom’. Here, Vikernes make music and writes books. He’s planning to write both fantasy and science fiction, at the same time he’s working on a role-playing game. He’s already published two books, which has been translated into russian.
The family are well received in the community.
– We’ve been given all that we could wish for. My family and I thrive.
He’s praising the countryside population, calling them considerate.
– I don’t have friends any longer. Within the prison, they sabotaged me actively. No matter what I did, and in all the years I served. Thats what they call rehabilitation.
– How do you manage without friends?
– it’s okay. I have a good relationship to my family.
Magasinet have been in contact with Øystein Aarseth’s family, informing them about Vikernes new claims and informations, contained within his book. The Aarseth family do not want to comment on the issue.
State attorney Bjørn Soknes disapprove of Vikernes claim of being judged in advance, that the police was coercing witnesses and fabricating evidence.
– Nonsense, says Soknes, who prosecuted during the trial.
– Was the ‘Count’ phenomenon created by the media?
– Of course not. He had a desire of getting famous.
Acting director in the Criminal Care’s central branch, Elisabeth Barsett, responds the following on Vikernes allegations about being sabotaged in prison:
– I do not want to comment upon this issue in particular.
Anja Hegg covered the trial against Vikernes for Dagbladet.
– Was the ‘Count’ phenomenon created by the media?
— No. But in hindsight you could argue that a more nuanced picture would have managed.
– Was he judged in advance?
– I don’t think so. We tried to make a more detailed portrayal through his defence lawyer Tor Erling Staff, the metal environment and his friends, without succeeding.
Note: Niflheim does not condone or support ANY view presented by Vikernes.
Read the original article here