Swedish house star Avicii has been dominating the headlines the past week. First, he caused a controversy at the second weekend of Ultra Music Festival with his “unique” main stage set. Then, it was announced from a reliable source that the young artist would be headlining Wisconsin’s “Country Thunder 2013” music festival (Ed. we kid, we kid…). Now, an interview was released over the weekend, between Avicii and famed men’s magazine GQ, which some believe painted Avicii and his entourage in a negative light (and had Avicii’s manager Ash Pournouri chiming in). Others believe that Avicii’s own quotes were what cast him in a negative light, and indeed there were a few passages in the article that had me wondering what goes on in this guy’s head–and more importantly, why he would think to say such things in front of a journalist for a major magazine. I also wondered why GQ decided to select a writer who seemingly knew nothing about EDM to do this story, but that’s beside the point. So, we decided on a way to address one of the strangest and awkwardly-funny stories of the year.
This article is not a “response” to said interview, or a criticism of it from either side. Instead, I have selected the most entertaining quotes from the rather lengthy interview article to show to you, our dedicated readers. I have my own take on all this, but feel free to chime in on the comments section at the bottom of the page, or on our Facebook.
(Also, a disclaimer of sorts. This is not a hate piece on Avicii, nor is it a hate piece on Jessica Pressler [the author of the original article] or GQ. We are merely selecting the most amusing and strangest individual quotes from the piece, and giving our own satirical take on them. This is meant to be a humorous article on what was a very weird–and unintentionally hilarious–interview. If you still feel like defending Avicii in any capacity or bashing GQ, go right ahead. Just know that this piece by us is satire, and it’s our belief that both parties share the blame for what was a pretty controversial article. Now, on with the fun!)
Tim Bergling (Avicii) is anxious. He is staring straight ahead, so quiet that everyone with him has gone silent, too, out of respect or maybe a little fear.
“Hey man, what do you think he’s–”
“Shut up! Avicii’s been staring at the wall for ten minutes, means he doesn’t want us to talk. You know what happened to the last guy who piped up. So be quiet.”
“Didn’t they find his body in a dumpster, in like a hundred pieces–”
Now he is twenty-one minutes late, and twenty-one minutes matters when it’s the biggest party night of the year, New Year’s Eve, in the biggest party city in the world, Vegas, and you’re the star of the show, scheduled to go on at midnight, which was—Tim reaches into the pocket of his jeans, barely held up by a Gucci belt, and pulls out his phone to check the time—twenty-two minutes ago.
Starting your set past midnight at a New Year’s Show in one of the biggest party cities in the world shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? I mean, how many people are even gonna show up anyway? Can’t be that many. Let Avicii just chill, man.
The doors slide open, and Tim steps forward, purposeful as a heart surgeon headed to perform a triple bypass. His girlfriend, his booking agent, his tour manager, a club promoter, a guy with a video camera, and a reporter surge after him.
“Security!” the promoter shouts, and hulking figures fall into step beside us.
“Dog!” An assistant sweeps in to take the Pomeranian from the girlfriend’s arms.
“THIS IS BRAVO-TWO REPORTING IN FROM LE7ELS SQUAD. WE HAVE A DOG BUT ARE UNABLE TO CONFIRM IF IT IS IN FACT ‘DOG.’ REPEAT, WE ARE UNABLE TO CONFIRM! HELLO?! IS ANYONE–”
“THIS IS BRAVO-TWO, ‘DOG’ CONFIRMED.”
Most people would be overjoyed to have Tim Bergling’s life. To have, 250-plus nights a year, audiences of thousands chanting your name. To have the leggy blond girlfriend, the limitless champagne and the piles of money, and famous musicians begging for the production magic he brought to “Levels,” his inescapable 2011 electronic dance music hit in which Etta James has a good feeling, over and over, for three and a half minutes. To have the girls hyperventilating, “I want to fuck him so bad,” whenever he appears, which one blonde is telling her friend right now at high-decibel volume.
Well, two things. Number one, as we’ll see later, Avicii doesn’t really “like” having the aforementioned 250-plus paid gigs and thousands chanting his name everywhere he goes–at least not in the traditional sense. Because who would, right? That just sounds like a total drag. The other thing: if you’re an attractive blonde girl mixing with a star-studded Vegas crowd, and the only guy on your radar is skinny-ass Avicii, well…I know a few VH1 reality shows you might be interested in. I think “The Hoes of House: Levels of Pleasure” starts shooting this summer.
“I love DJing, I do,” he stresses. “I love everything that comes with it; it’s fun and it’s kind of glamorous.” And yet. There’s always that moment, right before he goes onstage, when he wonders what the fuck he is even doing up there, if he deserves any of this, and if this is the time it all comes crashing down. “It’s just like when it’s right in the moment and you have that stupid bright light on you,” he says, searching for the words to say it. “It feels so awkward.”
Funny, I know more than a few DJ/producers who wouldn’t mind having that “awkward” feeling of making six figures per gig, getting free booze for life, and having women’s bras thrown on them mid-set. I know it sounds pretty hard, but I think they could manage it
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…
While he likes to play mostly his own songs, he still includes tracks by others to keep up the requisite energy level, and “Epic” is one of them. In fact, it’s the third song the opening DJ has played from Tim’s usual rotation, and each time it happens, Tim cracks open another Red Bull and gets a little more jittery.
Alright, I’m gonna lose the comedic tone here for a second. Unless I’m missing something, Avicii just became the first DJ/producer I know of to actually complain that another group (especially one with a smaller following than him) was using a track “from his rotation” in a set. Whatever your feelings on Avicii, this is kind of a bad thing. Live EDM performances, more than any genre of music, depend upon the use of other producers’ work in order to create a cohesive and well-rounded set. Unless you’re a veteran superstar with a huge discography (i.e. Eric Prydz), sets usually don’t consist of only that artist’s original productions. And Avicii complaining about a smaller group playing his songs–who’s opening for him, no less–is sort of like Shakespeare rising from his grave so he can give the middle finger to a high school production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Artists of any type should be happy when others utilize their work, in the right setting. Avicii’s comment is also missing the entire point of mixing a set, and at worst, can be construed as him thinking he is bigger than the music itself. But come on…that would be CRAZY, right?
Felix [a member of his entourage] gives him a warning look and nods in my direction. Vin Diesel bald, with discernible muscle groups, Felix has all the indicia of scariness until he opens his mouth. (“I carry his drugs in my butt,” he later jokes when asked to describe his duties.)
A shame he didn’t carry Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlets up his butt too.
“I’m sorry, I sound grumpy,” Tim says apologetically. “It’s just that it’s embarrassing to do the same things.”
It’s a strange problem for a musician, which is what Tim considers himself to be.
Okay, now I could make fun of Avicii for saying something weird and douchey for the tenth time (trust me, there’ll be more of that later). But here’s where I need to address the fact that, despite her writing skills, Jessica Pressler is obviously not a fan of–or even knows the first thing about–electronic dance music. Now this wouldn’t automatically be a problem, except for the fact that she’s writing a fucking article on Avicii. In 2013.
In addition to her awkward line about DJs playing for the “ecstasy-dosed masses,” the whole “Tim considers himself to be a musician” thing is pretty passive-aggressive. Avicii may do some things to annoy us, but at the end of the day he’s most definitely a musician. I doubt that Ms. Pressler would say that Lena Dunham “considers herself to be a writer.” Get on board, Jessica! And this season of “Girls” sucked, by the way!
“We should make a list of songs that we tell festival organizers not to let other DJs play,” Bergling’s tour manager, a no-nonsense Irishwoman named Ciara Davey, says decisively, as if writing a note to self.
“AYE MISTER BERGLING, BY THE GRACE O’ GOD WE WON’T BE HAVIN’ ANY MORE O’ THESE JOKERS PLAYIN’ YER TRACKS, NO SIR. ERIN GO BRAGH, KISS THE BLARNEY STONE!”
By the way, did anybody else picture Margaret Schroeder after reading that?
“Yeh won’t be hearin’ any more o’ them Avicii tracks now, Mister Thompson.”
Anybody else? No? Alright, moving on…
“How many people are out there?” Tim asks.
“Just twenty-five people,” Simon responds cheerily. “And a dog.”
“Bravo-Two from Le7els Squad confirmed that Dog is there, sir.”
By the time he’s set to go on, Tim’s face has taken on a grayish sheen. He seems so genuinely convinced this is going to be a disaster that I’m steeling myself for the possibility that his preternaturally brilliant career is about to go up in smoke.
You are? I mean, have you been to any of his shows recently?
Of course that isn’t what happens at all.
Let’s look up the definition of “DOY!” shall we?
When Tim appears onstage, a tiny figure surrounded by a metropolis of equipment, presses play on his first big hit, “Seek Bromance,” everyone—the California girls in itty-bitty bikinis, sunburned cubicle jockeys, belching frat boys in coral necklaces, ravers with giant pupils—leaps into motion like the sand is on fire, and it becomes immediately clear that his fears were totally unfounded.
I, uh, don’t know what a “sunburned cubicle jockey” is. The rest of the crowd sounds pretty normal for an Avicii show though. Damn those belching frat boys and their coral necklaces!
Also, gotta love another clumsy Jessica Pressler drug reference. It’s not that you can’t talk about drugs and EDM in the same sentence; it’s just that, if drugs or drug-users are among the first things you mention alongside the music scene, then you probably don’t know very much else about the scene itself. Those “ravers with giant pupils” sure sound scary. She probably saw one dude rolling and added an entire new category of people to that sentence because of it. Should’ve let little Jimmy enjoy his first show in peace, Jessica!
The DJ before was playing people some songs. Avicii possesses them.
“The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!”
Everyone is grinning like a lunatic. In the front row, a fat guy weeps tears of joy. A bra wings through the air, landing somewhere at the side of the stage. Felix spots it from his perch behind the DJ booth, where he has been lighting cigarillos for Tim every time he holds up two fingers or getting him a drink when he makes a C-shaped gesture with his hand. “Women always throw bras,” he yells delightedly.
The funny thing would’ve been if that bra had landed on the crying fat guy. I’m sure that would have made him happier than listening to “Seek Bromance” for the thousandth time.
Also, Felix just seems to be Avicii’s errand boy. Which is cool I guess, because outside of the cigarette- and beer-fetching, he’s guzzling Dom Perignon and grinding on models all night. But I’d hate to have to light a cig for Avicii every time he makes a “C-shaped gesture.” What if he does this? Does that mean “heart” or “two cigarettes, please?” I’M SO CONFUSED!
Later, when I point out as tactfully as I can how completely insane he was to have been nervous, Tim shrugs somewhat abashedly. “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.”
Just like Avicii!
He should know, because Avicii kind of came out of nowhere.
I just said that!
Four years ago, Tim Bergling was a high school kid in Stockholm, remixing songs on his laptop in the style of house-music acts like Swedish House Mafia and posting the results in the comments sections of music blogs.
Swedish House Mafia didn’t form until late 2008. You probably could have picked a more veteran artist or group to put in as one of Avicii’s early influences. I think that’s just the first (or only) house group you thought up. But it’s not like there are a lot of house producers from Sweden, right Jessica?
And it’s not “house-music.” It’s just “house music.” Two regular goddamn words without a hyphen. These are things you would know, if you actually knew anything about the music you’re covering.
[Tim’s] ear for melody caught the attention of Ash Pournouri, an ambitious then 26-year-old club promoter who could see the electronic-music boom coming and wanted in on it. Pournouri asked the 18-year-old to coffee, figuring at least he could use his connections to help him get some club gigs. But after Tim warily ambled up, all disheveled-Viking hipster, a grander vision began to take shape. “He started saying all of these things like, ‘I’m going to make you the biggest artist; we’re going to get there in two years; you’re going to be bigger than that guy and that guy,’ ” Tim recalls.
They say every time a crazy, overzealous promoter/manager actually comes through on a wildly-ambitious promise, an angel gets its wings.
Before Pournouri could make him the biggest DJ in all the land, however, he had to teach him how to DJ, which was something Tim had never actually done before.
“You mean I have to actually PLAY these songs?!”
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.”
Yeah, I’m not sure that the art of reading a crowd has been rendered obsolete just because you don’t do it. Of course some elements of a set are planned out beforehand, but that doesn’t mean a DJ won’t switch things up on the fly depending on the venue or crowd he’s playing for. Though I personally have never DJed for “belching frat boys with coral necklaces,” so maybe their tastes are different.
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–
DING DING DING DING!!!
Since so much of it is predetermined, I ask, what is he doing onstage? He sure looks busy as hell up there: Twisting knobs and pushing buttons and smiling and dancing. But after watching his show a few times, the only real difference I notice when he twists a button or pushes a knob is that sometimes it gets a little louder or quieter, like he’s deploying all of that energy just to change the volume.
So you’ve now been to multiple live house sets, and the only thing you notice is when the volume changes? SOUNDS LIKE GQ PICKED THE PERFECT GIRL TO WRITE AN ARTICLE ABOUT EDM!
“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.”
Well, SHIT. I guess you were right, Jess! Volume is all that matters!
The rest of it, the dancing and the constant arm-pumping motion like Right on, doesn’t this moment totally rule? That’s all performance, which was Pournouri’s first lesson.
Now Ash, I’ma let you finish, but Wolfgang Gartner had the best “air piano” hands of all time.
“A great DJ interacts with the audience,” he says professorially over the phone… “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.”
Hell, dump champagne and women’s bras on top of me, and I’ll stay as long as you want!
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