Avicii @ XS Nightclub - Rukes

Tim’s attention is entirely focused on the sounds coming from the stage, where a warm-up DJ is playing a song called “Epic” by Dutch DJs Sandro Silva and Quintino. “I can’t believe he’s playing this,” he mutters.

“This is really frustrating,” he says, grinding out his cigarette and lighting a new one. “Is he gonna play ‘Don’t You Worry Child” next?

GQ, known for their intimate exposés, recently wrote on Tim Bergling, more famously known as Avicii. Writer Jessica Pressler follows Avicii as he DJs around the world revealing Tims’s universe as one of the most famous DJs in the world. Pressler shows us Tim’s inner-workings and quirks from his energy on stage, love of cigarettes and Red Bull, annoyances, feuds, and the overwhelming fame that follows him.

The article gleams of candid pretentiousness. But let me put it into context: GQ typically aims to show a side that no one else has revealed before (which usually means their vices and ‘darker’ side) when they do pieces on celebrities or the rich-and-famous — this is no exception. Nonetheless, it is always interesting reading details of a significant figure in the EDM world.

You can read the the full 6-page piece here.

And here some highlights:

On ecstasy and molly —

Tim has never taken the Drug Formerly Known As Ecstasy, which is sort of odd since MDMA is to EDM what cocaine was to disco. “I mean, I want to take it,” he says the next day, eating a layover hamburger on the way to Vegas. “But I’m sort of afraid of anything that makes you feel out of control.”

The stress of staying on top —

“It’s just like, you have to really stand out now, DJing,” he says. “Especially now that electronic dance music is getting so big and saturated, and there’s a lot more like similar DJs competing against each other. People are just coming out of nowhere.”

The art of DJing —

“A great DJ interacts with the audience,” he says professorially over the phone from Australia, where he recently gave a talk titled “The Avicii Case Study” at the country’s first-ever Electronic Music Conference. “You have to engage people. Dancing, smiling.”

Anyone can play a gang of hits, he goes on. The trick is to make them feel like they’re really at a show. “It sounds very abstract, but a great DJ takes his audience on a journey,” he says. “You want them so into it that they can’t leave. The tracks that get the attention are the songs that create some kind of feeling. And that became a precondition for everything we did in the studio.”

Thanks to computers, these days, DJing is mostly “before work,” Tim explains. Most of the set list and transitions are worked out before he gets onstage. The notion of a DJ who determines what to play by reading the room “feels like something a lot of older DJs are saying to kind of desperately cling on staying relevant.”

This is not to say there isn’t some skill involved. “I kinda know what’s going to work,” he says, pulling up a screen of cardiogram-like shapes on his laptop, which he identifies as songs. “You have to retain the energy level throughout the set,” he explains, moving the shapes around until they fit together, like Tetris pieces. “You can’t just start out with an energetic song; you have to build up to it.”

“Yeah, it’s mostly volume,” he shrugs. “Or the faders, when you’re starting to mix into another song, you can hear both in your headphones, you get it to where you want and you pull up the fader.”

“I guess I think like deep inside, I know that it’s like, it’s a different kind of performing, it’s not really… You’re not performing like a guitar player or a singer is performing, you know what I mean? So it’s weird to be in the same type setup as one of those. ‘Cause I’m not really doing much, you know, like technically it’s not that hard.”

He shrugs it off. “You can’t do anything about it,” he says. “I’m where I want to be.”

On his beginnings and rise —

Tim had decided on the DJ name Avici—a friend told him it was a level of Buddhist Hell. (He added the extra i because Avici was already taken on Myspace.) It took him eighteen months to get comfortable behind the decks; his first show ever was in front of 1,000 people. The next thing he knew, he was commanding six figures at clubs in the U.S. and performing at the Ultra Music Festival with Madonna, who had specifically selected him to sherpa her into the booming electronic-dance-music scene. “It was just perfect timing,” Tim says now. “My own rise went hand in hand with the whole EDM rise.”

Club vs. festival audience —

These aren’t his favorite kinds of gigs, either. “The VIP [club] crowd tends to be less energetic,” he says. “If you are able to go out and spend $2 million a night in a nightclub and then get laid, it doesn’t add anything for their…what do you call it, what you leave after when you die?”

Relationship with alchohol —

“You are traveling around, you live in a suitcase, you get to this place, there’s free alcohol everywhere—it’s sort of weird if you don’t drink,” he says. And so he did. At first it was because “I didn’t expect it to last,” Tim says. Then it did last, and soon he had a serious habit: champagne at night, Bloody Marys at the airport, wine on the plane, repeat. “I was so nervous,” he says. “I just got into a habit, because you rely on that encouragement and self-confidence you get from alcohol, and then you get dependent on it.”

He kept going like this until last January, when he developed “like, searing” abdominal pain and wound up in the hospital in New York for eleven days with acute pancreatitis. “I probably drink more now than I should,” he says. “But I have a pace. I never drink two days in a row.”

Tim’s envied success —

Tim does not want to be seen as a dick. He would also like not to care about Internet haters. “The hate started very quickly, because I’m young and I got into it very quickly, and a lot of people just find it hard to be happy,” he says later, sitting at the Joule hotel in Dallas, drinking a cappuccino before his 10 p.m. set. “They get like jealous very easily, maybe. In the beginning, I used to care,” he says. “I don’t really care anymore.”

Sell-out Avicii —

But in the next breath he’s off talking about how it drives him crazy when people call him a sellout for making a remix for Madonna: “How can you see that as selling out? She is a legend. Like fucking like Michael Jackson, when he was alive, people would have been like, ‘OMG, that’s like selling out.’ Now people would think, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’ Because he died.”

But in the next breath he’s off talking about how it drives him crazy when people call him a sellout for making a remix for Madonna: “How can you see that as selling out? She is a legend. Like fucking like Michael Jackson, when he was alive, people would have been like, ‘OMG, that’s like selling out.’ Now people would think, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’ Because he died.”

And the people who gripe about his modeling for Ralph Lauren? “I always wear, like, checkered shirts,” he says, plucking at his flannel. “Well, actually, this is striped, but all the photos are exactly what I usually wear.”

And as for the people who say he is too mainstream: “I have always been mainstream. It’s so weird, because I don’t see it as something negative at all. So many people see it as something negative.”

So yeah, he cares. He knows he shouldn’t. Maybe it’s the Swedish in him.

American and Swedish partying —

“Wow, people really went all out,” he observes. “Americans are really good at partying,” he says, turning away. “Swedish people would be too cool for this kind of thing [going to EDM festivals]. We’re, um…what do you call it? Emily, do you know which word I use?”

“Douchey?” Emily [Tim’s girlfriend] says.

And to play it out —

He’s only contracted to play for two hours, but 3 a.m. comes and then 4 a.m., and Tim is still going.

Just another day-in-the-life of a world-famous DJ.

UPDATE 04/03/2013: Avicii responds to the article —

GQ, my thoughts on the article. I would normally not even care but this article really got to me, how it could even be published with so little truth and misquotations.

So this interview was made over the course of 4-5 days where a freelance reporter followed me and my crew around on tour up until new years eve. Reporter Jessica Pressler BEGINS by describing my fans as “douchebags” – not as a quote – but as an (her) obvious impression in the introduction to the text. The preamble to that describes people attending to my shows as drug addicts!

She goes on to describe how I plan my sets only to contradict herself saying I go over my planned time cause I’m having so much fun with my crowd. Anyone reading this article should know it’s very subjectively twisted by someone who has a) no experience of this scene or insight to a DJs profession at all and b) has no interest in really understanding it either. How on earth the fact that I complain when an opening DJ plays some of the peak time tracks I usually play somewhere in my set becomes the conclusion that I only touch volume faders is beyond me and even though I could beat mix in my sleep doesn’t allude any kind of respect which I find deeply insulting. I would never lay down a pre-programmed set and performed to a pre-mixed CD, I would never cheat my fans like that. Period. For the record, the only planning I do is check transitions so that I don’t have to pre-program anything and still make sure I bring it to my fans. A lot of work and thinking goes into my DJing. I want the entire night to progress seamlessly and when I have to adapt the energy on the fly for the crowd on any given night, I can do so with harmonic mixes that I’ve practiced over and over again. I am far from the only DJ that does this and it’s something I take pride in being able to do. Truth is that at bigger festivals or solo shows I know what people want to hear and my set is a compromise between what I want to play for them and what people come and expect to hear me play for them. At a smaller club show I can wing it completely.

Some people are known for certain things, some DJs like A-trak, Steve Angello and Laidback Luke are excellent technical DJs, something I will never be, and have a whole different approach to their performances.

I mean everything even down to the tracks I play she got wrong in this article. I wouldn’t adress this and bring more attention to it if I really didn’t feel that this article was truly unfair and incorrect. She draws up this disgusting picture of the electronic music crowd being constantly high, ugly, uneducated, dumb and “douchy”, while I feel they are caring, loving, positive and the complete opposite of what she says. Sure people do drugs and party but that is nothing exclusive to this music genre. It looks like the journalist wanted the GQ readers to buy into that stigma.

We agreed to let GQ into our camp to actually portray a serious side of this music to the masses who might not now and might not understand. We hoped they could unveil and communicate the reason for there being so much love within, and how such a great community has risen organically for, this music genre. The problem was that a journalist that knows nothing of electronic music was sent to be on the road with me for a couple of days and then tried piecing together what it’s all about. She failed miserably [sic]”

Residing in Las Vegas, I have been listening to EDM since the Eurodance craze of the 90s. I utilize my love for deep, philosophical thought and writing to cover the ever-expanding genre for ElectroJams. Question, concerns, or bitching can be directed to my Twitter account @yalepoloclub. I always love a good conversation.