More than a decade after its release, I’m still fascinated by the notorious Techno Viking video.
There’s something indescribably captivating about it. I find myself watching the clip at least several times a year. I can try to explain it, but its mystery evades writing. Every little detail in the video simply falls perfectly into place, as if it was staged. But it wasn’t.
Where do I start? Bear with me throughout this synopsis — or scroll down to watch the actual video first.
The video opens with a woman in a bright, cyan wig awkwardly dancing to a techno track (“Navigator” by Can-D-Music) in broad daylight. She’s not the only subject in sight — she’s dancing next to a crowd of ravers — but she’s undeniably the focus of the acton up to that point. Out of nowhere, a visibly intoxicated man steps into the frame and somewhat aggressively bumps into her.
It’s unclear if his actions are intentional, but he quickly starts walking away after bumping into the woman. This is when the real protagonist of the video steps in: the man now famously known as the techno viking.
Shirtless, the techno viking grabs the intoxicated man by the wrist, and swiftly catches his other wrist, too. The techno viking, who’s absolutely jacked and wearing denim shorts, mean-mugs the intoxicated man, tells him off, and lets go of him, pointing in a direction beyond the frame. The intoxicated man starts walking in that direction, and leaves the frame.
The techno viking keeps mean-mugging him, staring at him for a good 10 seconds. He then lifts his finger again and — I assume — keeps pointing at the intoxicated man for another six seconds at least.
Then, almost as if on cue, a random guy walking in from the background pulls a water bottle out of his bag, approaches the techno viking, and hovers the bottle — which for some reason he holds upside-down — right in front of the techno viking’s face. Without even turning his head, the techno viking grabs the bottle, and only then acknowledges the man by glancing in his direction.
He opens the bottle and proceeds to drink from it. A few gulps later, he returns the bottle to the guy.
There’s no telling if there’s something in the water, but the techno viking seems invigorated. He immediately starts dancing in a forward motion, every move of his sticking right to the rhythm of the song in the background. The crowd that was lethargically dancing now follows him as he marches forward.
Another random gentleman emerges from the crowd and hands the techno viking a leaflet. Again, without even turning his head, the techno viking picks up the leaflet, still lightly dancing. The gentleman exits the frame. The track in the background changes (“Save Changes and Exit” by Winstan vs. Noia). The techno viking pauses for a moment to take a peek at the leaflet. He then folds it, points at someone out of sight and mumbles something indistinctly, as he simultaneously rips the leaflet apart and drops its to the ground. He’s dancing throughout all of this.
The cameraperson briefly turns their lens to the left to reveal the techno viking was talking to the guy who originally bumped into the woman in the cyan wig. They then flip the lens back to the techno viking who’s still dancing. At some point, another man approaches the techno viking, who turns around to engage in conversation, and walks away from the camera.
The video fades to black and we see an intertitle reading “Fuckparade, 2000.” Fin.
Many have attempted recreating the video in various parodies, but none of them quite capture the mood and dynamics of the video with the same authenticity and immediacy. You can instantly tell they’re — at best — cheap replicas of the original.
They’re clearly planned and choreographed, yet still seem less theatrical and choreographic than the real video. Gone is the bizarre dynamism and unpredictability. They also underdeliver as parodies, because there’s nothing particularly comedic about them.
Techno Viking: the origin story
The video, which was originally recorded by artist Matthias Fritsch at the Fuckparade in Berlin in 2000, was first released in 2001. It didn’t, however, receive attention until a user re-uploaded it to YouTube in 2005, and it subsequently went viral in 2007 after doing the rounds on various message boards.
For those unfamiliar, Fuckparade was conceived as a counter-demonstration to Love Parade — a huge electronic music dance festival which originated in 1989 in West Berlin.
As Love Parade grew into a mainstream phenomenon, attracting millions of attendees, it got rid of certain more experimental sounds that were once integral to the festival. This didn’t sit well with some hardcore fans, so they kicked off Fuckparade to celebrate these “forbidden” genres.
The techno viking was, presumably, one of these fans.
According to reports from 2010, the Techno Viking footage has garnered over 20 million views, but the real number is much higher today. Indeed, the first few results on YouTube have nearly 40 million views combined. Fritsch claims the video has further attracted over 700 “remix” versions and reaction videos.
Despite all this attention the video has generated, the identity of the techno viking remains a mystery. Many have speculated the techno viking made an appearance in a German bodybuilding show known as Raab in Gefahr in 2009, but the evidence isn’t really convincing. Some have suggested the man in the video is actually former UFC fighter Keith Jardine.
Still, a lawyer representing the anonymous techno viking claims he has never been a public figure, nor has he ever intended to become one.
All we know is the techno viking wasn’t a huge fan of the Techno Viking video. That’s also why there’s a lawyer involved in this story.
Not long after the video went viral, Fritsch was approached with some offers to profit off of the notoriety of Techno Viking. In addition to placing ads on the clip, the artist also crafted and sold a small quantity of Techno Viking merch.
In late 2009, a legal representative sent Fritsch a cease and desist letter on behalf of the techno viking. The letter insisted Fritsch’s use of the video violated the techno viking’s rights, and demanded it be taken down immediately. It also forbid the artist from selling merch (he had only sold a total of about $14,000 worth of items at the time).
Things took a turn for the worse when the techno viking took Fritsch to court in 2013. Later this year, the court ruled in favor of the unnamed techno viking, ordering Fritsch to pay €13,000 (nearly $14,400) in damages and an additional €10,000 ($11,050) in court fees.
The artist was also ordered to cease the use of the techno viking’s image.
Life after “death”
While the anonymous techno viking successfully blocked Fritsch from using his image in his art, that didn’t deter the artist from further pursuing the story.
Fritsch later ran an Indiegogo campaign, seeking to raise funds for a documentary titled The Story of Technoviking, which he eventually released in 2015.
In the documentary, Fritsch follows the legend of the Techno Viking from its birth at Fuckparade in 2000, to its explosion as a viral phenomenon around 2007, and its subsequent inauguration into the meme kingdom. The movie also explores the ethical and legal conundrum of who owns the image of the Techno Viking: the unnamed protagonist, the artist, or the we, the internet.
I’m not one of these people to comment, “Who’s watching it in 2020?” under videos, but there’s one thing I know for sure: the magnetism of the Techno Viking video is eternal, and I don’t doubt I’ll find myself watching it in 2020 — and in 2021, in 2022, and so on.
Because Techno Viking will forever live on in the kingdom of memes.