Interview with Kris "Garm" Rygg of ULVER

CRITICALTOM:  It has been hard finding your releases in the U.S.
GARM:  Well, especially the later releases. We havenít been properly licensed in the U.S.
CRITICALTOM:  But I understand that your music has turned up in some unusual places, like an episode of the Sopranos . . .

GARM: Yeah I havenít seen it, but a friend told me about it.

CRITICALTOM:  It is impossible to lump all of your music into one category.  How would you label your music?

GARM: Well thatís hard. I donít know. The Perdition City album is atmospheric, experimental, pop music. The term metal would be fruitless. It is still black in some ways. It is dark. We are going to re-record the Madrigal album with strings from the Oslo Symphonic Orchestra.

CRITICALTOM:  Do you mean re-record the whole thing, or just add the strings?

GARM: Weíre going to take the harmonies and the guitars and add the string parts. It will be part of an art display of a Norwegian graphic artist. It is going to be used at his exhibition in several galleries starting in Belgium.

CRITICALTOM:  Is he someone well known?  Post-modern, modern, surreal?

GARM: He is definitely modern. And he is controversial.

CRITICALTOM:  Do you believe that a personís philosophy determines the kind of music that person makes?

GARM: No. I donít think that music develops from any neatly philosophical categories. I think it seems to come from something more primal. So no, I donít think so.

CRITICALTOM:  Are you also the mastermind behind Arcturus?

GARM: No, the keyboard player in Arcturus is the main songwriter. Iíve been more of a producer. But the last album was heavily retouched by me, though.

CRITICALTOM:  What about Ulver, arenít you the mastermind?  How many are in the band?

GARM: Yeah. Today Ulver consists of only two people. And as the vocalist in Arcturus, I do have a lot of things to say . . . I write lyrics, etc..

CRITICALTOM: Arenít you pretty versatile on the instruments? Do you play the guitars or what?

GARM: I do keyboards and programming, but Iím not a good guitarist.

CRITICALTOM: Is there a natural progression from Black Metal to the electronic stuff? It seems to me that a few others have followed that path (Burzum, Kovenant, etc.).

GARM: I think the only link is that we were pretty young when we started our music. You acquire new interests. At first you are interested in the atmospheric side of metal, then you develop a taste for other things. These days I actually prefer solid rock ní roll. Kiss, Danzig, etc.

CRITICALTOM: As far as the Themes from William Blakeís Marriage of Heaven and Hell, did you rewrite anything or just follow his script?

GARM: We just recited it on top of the music.

CRITICALTOM: I was really intrigued by your use of the writing of a Christian when the subject matter of Madrigal seemed 180 degrees from that.

GARM: There is a lot of ambiguity in the lyrics to Madrigal. I compare it with the writings of Blake. There is a lot of opportunity for the pairing of opposites. Blake was a heretical Christian.

CRITICALTOM: Do you think that in the early days of Black Metal the violence against Christianity in particular was because churches made an easy target? (in contrast to the government!)

GARM: Looking back now, that might have been the case. I donít think it is that interesting anymore.

CRITICALTOM: Do you think that was the case with Varg too?

GARM: No, I think his hatred was genuine. One of the most interesting things he said when he was on trial was that Christianity came and cut off the head of every healthy pagan that did not accept it and now it is our time to take it back with machine gun, etc.

CRITICALTOM: From what Iíve heard and read, it sounds like in Scandinavia the church is like the government.

GARM: Yeah, pretty much.

CRITICALTOM: Is it considered to be oppressive?

GARM: No, not oppressive, just kind of meaningless. [I suggested the word "blasé" and he agreed] Yes, itís had its day in the sun.

CRITICALTOM: I think it is quite different here in the U.S. Our founding fathers ensured that religion and government would be separate. We have all sorts of "heretical" viewpoints in this country. But that doesnít stop a lot of religious assholes from trying to influence the government or telling people how to vote.

GARM: You have there a lot of different viewpoints.

CRITICALTOM: Before our time runs out I wanted to ask you to tell me a little about the concept behind Perdition City.

GARM: It talks about how people are kind of overtaken by life, technology, and the flow of information. It is very pessimistic. It presents this rather hopeless situation and basically finds hope by surrendering to it.

 Time ran out. Because I have this irresistible urge to discuss philosophy and theology along with music, I had so many more things I wanted to say and ask. But thatíll have to wait for another day.