EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE RUINED
an interview with Gavin Baddeley – Author, Journalist & Minky Musky Sly Old Stoaty Stoaty Stoat
by Annie Riordan – Film Reviewer & Lady Not Appearing in This Film
[HAG recommends reading Annie’s review of the film Lords of Chaos prior to reading this interview. – Ed.]
Well, Lords of Chaos – the book that no insecure metalhead will admit to having read, but who will nevertheless point out all of the errors contained within – has been turned into a movie that no insecure metalhead will admit to having watched, but who were the quickest to point out its many flaws. I have no shame. I watched it. I give no fucks what anyone thinks about that. And just to be a bitch about it, I decided to interview the coolest metalhead I personally know. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t available, so here’s me pestering author and journalist Gavin Baddeley with a shitload of stupid questions about the hype and snipe surrounding this film instead.
GAVIN: I’ve had a love/hate relationship with black metal forever, so watching the troooo black metal crowd getting agitated over this has reignited some ambivalent feelings. I think the responses to the announcement were interesting/silly/bizarre. You had it’s wrong because it isn’t in Norwegian. It’s wrong because it’s bound to be inaccurate. It’s wrong because it doesn’t have the original music in it.
ANNIE: Just this morning I came across an “It’s wrong because Aarseth never cut his hair off.”
GAVIN: I remember being struck how the black metal faithful started disowning the book Lords of Chaos some time back. Is it inaccurate? Possibly in parts, but without that book mythologizing events we wouldn’t have the scene today, and they certainly wouldn’t have found it. I covered it in Lucifer Rising, but I basically took the piss. One of the things that caught my interest about early reviews was that they described the film as by turns funny and brutal. And that struck me as right. Interviewing these guys – and I believe I did the last interviews with Vikernes and Aarseth before the murder – and there was a really absurd side to it. These weren’t philosophers. This was Spinal Tap directed by Ingmar Bergman. More Monty Python than Triumph of the Will or The Ring Cycle. Then you have these horrible, squalid murders. The contrast is interesting, and almost wholly eclipsed by all of the subsequent mythmaking.
ANNIE: I was surprised by the brutality of the film, honestly. It lingered long on the murders and Dead‘s suicide. But what surprised me were the people who were put off by the comedic aspects.
GAVIN: That’s always overlooked, though Darkthrone, bless their cotton socks, have done their part to suggest that side to things. Have you seen The Misanthrope? A lot of metal reviewers revered it as a window into the darkness of the Nordic soul. It looked to me like Darkthrone taking the piss.
ANNIE: I did see that. It seems to me that people want to take this so darkly, coldly serious that they’re turning Aarseth and Varg into what they wanted to be all along, but which neither of them ever were.
GAVIN: Not on their own. I remember a big wheel in the scene at the time saying that Aarseth wanted to be a Manson figure. I believe it was fairly common knowledge that Varg was a horn short of a full Viking helmet too.
ANNIE: The film portrayed him as a bumbling poseur, but who was cold and manipulative enough to portray himself as the real thing. It’s kind of jarring.
GAVIN: Who was the bumbling poseur – Aarseth?
ANNIE: No, Varg. His first scene, he’s a clumsy, socially inept bumblefuck whom Aarseth dismisses as a poseur. Then he shows up at Helvete (Aarseth’s record shop), determined to prove he’s the real deal, and win the dick-measuring contest that he creates with Aarseth. It’s a jarring transition in a very short amount of time.
GAVIN: People tend to forget that we’re largely dealing with teenagers, drinking large quantities of alcohol.
ANNIE: That’s made pretty clear – kids, young men, with lots of beer and hormones. But what I’ve never been able to figure out is just what people did think of Varg. The movie kind of shifts back and forth between those he think he’s a hero and those who know he’s an asshole poseur.
GAVIN: It’s a comparatively short period of time, among a volatile group of bored kids, so I suspect both could be true. One element often overlooked is the importance of the coverage from Kerrang! Do they cover that?
ANNIE: YES. They even got Jason Arnopp to play himself. They also show Varg calling the newspapers and posing for the cameraman, and the reporters summarily exiting and giggling to themselves about what a fucking idiot he was.
GAVIN: I heard that. I also heard he [Arnopp] can’t act (I’m only saying that because I’d love to have done it!). Talk to the original guys, and they tend to emphasize the importance of that. One week they’re being mocked in the world’s best known metal magazine. Then they have the cover and all of this shock horror coverage. It’s heady stuff for teenagers and poured the crucial gas onto the fire. Vikernes obliquely referred to the murders in the interview I did. At the time I just thought it was just more lunacy.
ANNIE: The film indicates that he was the one who inadvertently ratted out Faust in an attempt to prove that The Black Circle existed and was responsible.
GAVIN: That certainly fits with my experience. He started going on about Norwegian Olympic prowess, which was only sinister in retrospect.
ANNIE: What was YOUR initial impression of Varg? Kid playing dress up, trying to be intimidating? Which is how they sum him up in the movie – always posing, always acting.
GAVIN: I think a lot of teenagers do that, so it’s not too much of a stretch to see events in that light. I got the impression he was more interested in Tolkien than politics or religion. It would’ve been more surprising if they had’ve been fully credible, rounded personalities at that age. So much has been projected onto this retroactively, starting with Lords of Chaos the book. You have to remember, I only spoke to him once. It didn’t seem all that important at the time to be honest.
ANNIE: What I don’t understand, going back to the fan reaction to the film, is why everyone seems to think that the watching of this film can turn one into an instantaneous poseur. Granted, Fenriz, Necrobutcher, and Varg have all come out against it, but none of them ever said that nobody should watch it. However, that’s what I’ve been running into. “This movie is bullshit, anyone who watches it is a loser, etc.” But then they all watched it anyway and are now happily tearing it to pieces: “That never happened, that was bullshit, he said, they said, blahblahblah.” The simple fact of the matter is, none of us were there. We don’t know what happened. I can’t blame Fenriz or Necrobutcher for not wanting anything to do with it because they’ve already lived through it once, but the general public is so murderously divided over this movie.
GAVIN: I think a certain section of black metal’s become a cult. And as such it needs a foundation myth, and this is their foundation myth. They feel ownership of it, and feel threatened by having it challenged. They claim they’re concerned that it’ll be inaccurate. They’re actually worried it’s going to be accurate.
ANNIE: But none of them will ever know for sure. Only Varg and Euronymous know, and one’s dead and the other is batshit.
GAVIN: Of course not. And I doubt the people involved have particularly clear memories of how things went down. That’s not how memory works. It’s also not how film works. This is a biopic, a drama, not a documentary. It’s trying to get at some artistic or emotional truth. This concept seems beyond many of them. I remember quizzing somebody who’d been outraged at the film not being in Norwegian – the first time I remember somebody bitching about a film not having subtitles. So a film set in Ancient Rome isn’t in Latin? The Death of Stalin isn’t in Russian. But we have to have a film about dysfunctional Scandinavian teens in Old Norse or something?
ANNIE: The one thing I did quite like about the movie is the way they seemed to nail Dead (Per Ohlin). Val Kilmer’s son (Jack Kilmer) played him, and did a damn good job.
GAVIN: It’s that same juxtaposition of the horrific and absurd. The dead bird in a bag thing is hard to take seriously, then there’s the shotgun suicide, and quite literally BOOM! Things get seriously dark and out of hand.
ANNIE: It’s hard to grasp the sharp turns this whole thing took. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I don’t know. Or I’ve forgotten how fucked up it is to be a stupid kid.
GAVIN: I think most of us can look back on our adolescence and think ‘I did whut?!’ Didn’t Varg also get angry because the film failed to portray Aarseth as a repressed homosexual? When Lucifer Rising came out he wrote a very pissy dismissal of it – pretending he’d never given the interview. I showed it to my friend who edited the book and he hooted with laughter. He wanted to know why Varg was quibbling about a detail concerning the possessive form of Euronymous, seemingly regarding this as a greater injury than repeatedly stabbing the man. The boy ain’t right.
ANNIE: There were actually a few (quite a few) scenes with a distinct homoerotic flavor, but they also portrayed Aarseth as having a girlfriend he was genuinely gaga about. It also showed Varg as getting massive amounts of pussy, which I have a hard time believing.
GAVIN: He [Aarseth] did say some odd shit about sodomy when I interviewed him. But he said a lot of odd shit.
ANNIE: He did? Hey, isn’t pyromania the first sign of sexual dysfunction?
GAVIN: I’d have to check back – it’s in Lucifer, but I think so. I have no idea what Varg’s pussy situation was back then. He seems an unlikely dreamboat – but I guess a lot of them are. That pyromania angle’s interesting. Rather outside of my area, but I’ll bet there’s some mileage in it. Particularly if you want to get all Freudian on their collective asses. I’m guessing the TROOOO black metal bods are worried about the whole thing jumping the shark. But it jumped the shark pretty much when it started. When King Diamond did photo shoots with topless nuns, or Venom posed with axes while still wearing their specs. But I think they had a sense of humour, and I think that’s key. I don’t think any of this would’ve happened if they’d had a sense of humour – for good or ill.
ANNIE: It’s almost like they were just having a massive pissing contest. Varg and Aarseth, I mean. Who can be the most evil? No one else (with the exception of Faust, but the film also hinted at a bi curious angle there) seemed to really give a shit about starting Krieg or what fucking ever.
GAVIN: [Anton] LaVey emphasized to me that humour was key, and he was a very funny man in person. I think there’s a temptation for some teens to get caught up in a quest for authenticity and purity. But I don’t think life’s like that and you grow to learn that something can be dear to your heart, and also roundly mocked. People without a sense of humour creep me out. They have a crucial element of their psychological make-up missing.
ANNIE: Do you think the public should take that advice when it comes to this film?
GAVIN: I’d say so. If you’re confident in what you believe, you aren’t paranoid about it being subject to scrutiny or even satire. If you can’t bear anyone blaspheming your holy myth, than that says to me that you secretly suspect that it’s bullshit.
ANNIE: See, this is why I love you.
GAVIN: And why everybody else hates me. I got sent a copy of a new Alice Cooper book recently. Whenever the author wanted a quote saying something shitty about someone or something, he’d wheel out a quote from yours truly. I just have to ruin everything.
ANNIE: Some things need to be ruined. Everybody takes things too fucking seriously.
GAVIN: ‘Everything Needs to be Ruined’ is a great title. I remember I sold a version of the Aarseth/Vikernes interview to a Dutch magazine, and they titled it ‘We Hate Fun’. A fine philosophy!