It all started on July 8th, 2000, when Matthias Fritsch was sitting on the back of float during an alternative techno music festival known as the Fuck Parade.
As he casually filmed people walking and dancing behind the float, Fritsch saw one man stand out from the rest of the crowd. Stripped down to the waist, his ripped chest, braided beard and stern visage made him look like a Nordic berserker taking his dancing and parade etiquette very seriously.
“He was just a normal visitor, like I was, to the Fuck Parade, which was a political demonstration,” Fritsch told The Local on Tuesday. “It was coincidence.”
Years later Fritsch posted the video footage of the man online and the rest is internet history: the Techno Viking was born.
Destined to become one of the best know memes on the web, the Techno Viking inspired people to dress like him, dance like him, or simply point in the air like him.
“It was extremely fascinating to see it develop. The diversity was astounding,” said Fritsch.
But apparently the Techno Viking decided a few years ago he was not amused and sued Fritsch for invasion of privacy.
Nothing happened for three years, until last week. Shortly before the case would exceed the statue of limitations, the video artist was required to appear before a German court. The Techno Viking is seeking damages of €10,000 plus what the artist earned from the video and court costs.
“I should have asked after filming,” Fritsch told Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s online magazine Jetzt this week. “But I thought I was allowed to film him because it was a political event in public. Besides, the camera wasn’t hidden, he walked into the shot and looked into the camera several times.”
After the video clip went viral, racking up tens of millions of views around the world, YouTube offered Fritsch advertising revenue. He also sold a few t-shirts, gave lectures on how memes spread on the internet and made arty videos about the phenomenon.
Fritsch said he make an effort to contact the Techno Viking, but was unable to track him down. His only personal contact with him was an angry early morning phonecall a few years ago.
“I offered him his share. If money flows everyone should get something,” Fritsch told The Local.
He said he couldn’t say if the Techno Viking was actually hoping to turn back the clock 13 years or simply thinking his internet fame could lead to financial gain. But Fritsch said he still couldn’t understand why he was being sued for making someone so popular around the world.
“He’s considered a kind of demigod,” Fritsch said, who refuses to reveal the Techno Viking’s real identity. “After all is said and done, people respect him.”