Bergling and Pournouri produced “like a hundred” tracks, and along the way they settled on a kind of formula: a four-chord beat, overlaid with a melody that contains emotionally provocative but universally accessible lyrics. There’s all kinds of stuff layered over it: swirls and echoes and sirens and pauses that make you feel like things are really happening!
Hey, now that’s…actually pretty sensible. Go on.
Back in Mexico, Tim plays a new track, tentatively titled “Someone Like You.” “It’s so simple,” he says, laughing. “I mean, All my life I have been waiting for someone like you? It’s almost stupid.”
“Doesn’t my music just SUCK?”
It took [Avicii] 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.
And we all remember how great that went, don’t we?
The last time kids in neon went crazy for electronic music, Things looked a little different. “Back then, no one ever even used to look at the DJ,” says the lighting guy, Simon… “It was much more about dancing with one another. Now everyone is facing the stage. They’re all there to see him.”
The big difference: Money.
Well, you know what Biggie said about that.
EDM 2.0 isn’t just the province of kids in warehouses and ravers on the beach, it’s the soundtrack of glitzy clubs in places like Las Vegas and Miami, which is where we are headed tonight, as soon as Tim wakes up.
“Hey Tim, wake up champ. We’re almost there–”
“THAT’S IT, YOU WERE ALREADY WARNED ONCE! TAKE HIM AWAY!”
Around midnight, the black SUV carrying Tim, Felix, and myself passes in front of a line of tanned hopefuls being held tantalizingly back by a velvet rope in front of Story, a two-day-old club in Miami Beach…[B]eefy guys in black suits usher us down to a small windowless greenroom, where a dark-haired waitress in dangerous-looking shoes is already pouring glasses of champagne. The booze is always free for Avicii.
What about my man Felix? Does he get free booze too? And Dog, what about DOG?!
In the beginning, this was kind of a problem, when all of a sudden he was Justin Bieber big, without the PG-13 reputation to uphold, hanging out with a crowd for whom every day is literally a party…”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.”
A guy in his early 20s who gained money and fame in a short amount of time was partying too hard? Next you’ll tell me it snowed this winter!
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.
That sounds, like, serious! In all honesty though, glad you’re healthy now man.
Tonight is a drinking night, as Tim has friends in town, a rooster-haired gang of Swedes in skinny jeans. “Skål!” they say, downing shots and jabbering excitedly in Swedish, until the room fills with the quiet rustling that signifies the imminent arrival of a famous person. David Grutman, one of the owners of the club, enters accompanied by a small dark figure in a knit cap and sunglasses…
“This is Pharrell,” he announces. Producer Pharrell Williams pauses to shake hands with everyone in his path, like a religious figure or a politician. “I’m happy for your success, man,” he tells Tim, and they chat for a few minutes, literally about the weather, while everyone stares into their champagne glasses.
If I’m meeting one of the most talented hip-hop producers of this generation, we’re gonna be talking about the weather ALL NIGHT. “Hey man, do you think it’ll rain tomorrow?” “Uh…I guess?”
“Last night was good, right?” says Tim the next day, surrounded by a crime scene of hangover food at the Miami airport…
“You only got one bra, though,” Felix points out.
“I know, sucks. It landed on the tempo too. Sped the fucking track up. I didn’t even notice.”
I doubt those “ravers with giant pupils” noticed either. Because EDM DRUGS, amirite?
He looks down at his phone. In Tim’s itinerant existence, the Internet is the one place he can reliably be found, and what he sees is not always flattering. “Ha,” he says after a few minutes. A DJ called Funkagenda has posted a long, personal message to Facebook. “It’s like this sob story,” he says. “He’s like ‘I’m an alcoholic, all the shows where I’ve been really drunk I have been sorry for that.’ He just wants people to be like, ‘Oh my God oh poor you, it’s like boo-hoo, it’s stupid.’ ” He turns to me. “If you know who he is, he’s like an asshole,” he explains.
“Are you ready for this? You’ve gotta hear this story, dude. So one of the most respected house DJs on the planet, who happens to be a recovered alcoholic, actually spoke out against playing professional gigs while drunk. Yeah, seriously! What a sob story, right? He’s such an asshole. I know I’ll never have problems with booze!”
I’m getting the sense that there’s some history here…
Tim’s beef with Funkagenda started at Coachella, after Tim’s managers had his set time changed so Tim wouldn’t be competing with the holograms of Snoop Dogg and Tupac. “And in order to do that, they had to change everyone else’s set,” he says. “And all these people trash-talked me on Twitter, and Funkagenda was like ‘Oh, that’s like the time he played with Deadmau5, he didn’t have the same production as Deadmau5, so he refused to go out.’…So he starts trash-talking me, like I’m a prima donna, so he’s just a dick.”
“Dude, I’m not finished with my story! So this asshole got mad at me JUST BECAUSE my management wanted to rearrange everyone else’s set times at Coachella so I wouldn’t feel threatened by a fucking hologram. And he calls ME a prima donna! What a dick!”
By the way, what does Felix have to say about all this?
“He is a dick,” Felix confirms.
Hahaha. Classic Felix.
“I thought of the perfect response,” Tim says. “I want to write ‘Cool story bro.’ “
Should’ve added in a funny cat picture. Immature, douchey replies to well thought-out statements always go better when you have a funny cat picture.
Tim does not want to be seen as a dick.
Dude, we’re like four pages into your interview already. This chick does not like you. It’s a little late for that.
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.
He’s right, the only reason anyone criticizes him is because everyone else is secretly miserable. Damn you Avicii, for being the only happy person on this planet! FEEL THE RAGE OF THE INTERNET AS A CONSEQUENCE!
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.”
I don’t think people say you’re selling out because of the music you make. It might have to do with a couple other things. And I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about with Michael Jackson, by the way.
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.”
What’s that I hear? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s…
So Avicii is mainstream, AND a lot of people don’t like it? Gee, thanks Captain Obvious! For a minute there, I was wondering if it was really true or not. But your immense powers of the obvious set me straight, I’ll tell ya!
There’s another reason, too. “I guess I think like deep inside…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.”
Oh God, here we go again. Can’t we all just get together and agree that while DJing isn’t the hardest thing in the world, it isn’t easy either? No? We’re just gonna keep fighting about this like rabid dogs? Alright. I tried.
“You’re sticking with us through New Year’s Eve?” Felix asks me. “You’ll see what we’re all about.”
“We’ll do some showers,” Tim says.
“We’ll get ten bottles of champagne and we spray it, we have a war,” Felix clarifies, seeing my blank look.
Ah! Those types of “showers.” Well that’s okay then. I see Jessica was similarly confused, though I doubt it was for the same reasons. Hey, you see a lot of things in New York City after 2 AM. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t judge me.
But Tim is having second thoughts. “It’s a bit douchey,” he says. “It’s very douchey.”
“Just blame it on me,” Felix offers magnanimously. “I’ll be a douche.”
How kind of you, Felix! But I think you assumed that role a long time ago. Rest assured, no one shall ever challenge you for it!
New Year’s Eve in Vegas, and the anticipation in the air is palpable. Gangs of twentysomethings rove the hotel with giant water bottles, hydrating. This holiday is an endurance test, it must be trained for.
It’s true! Hordes of twentysomethings convene in Las Vegas a month before New Year’s, to participate in a full training camp featuring extensive cardio, weight, and plyometric training. For four weeks they push their bodies to the limit, strengthening themselves and tacking on untold amounts of muscle mass. Then at the end, they realize that all you have to do to enjoy a New Year’s party is hydrate, go with a group of people you trust, and not drink like a dumbass. Turns out the pre-New Year’s training camp is a colossal waste of money.
“Wow, people really went all out,” [Avicii] observes. “Americans are really good at partying,” he says, turning away. “Swedish people would be too cool for this kind of thing. We’re, um…what do you call it? Emily, do you know which word I use?”
“Douchey?” [Avicii’s girlfriend] Emily says.
You know what, Emily? You’re cool by me. Here’s Chuck Norris to illustrate my feelings.
Yeah…yeah, we’re good.
There are 24,000 people there by the time he goes on, and afterward, he is sweaty and giddy. “They were really into that new one…“ he says as the van takes off for LAX, accompanied by a police escort David Brady, hired to run all the red lights.
“Faster! Faster!” Tim urges playfully as the van screeches around a curve and everyone laughs. But the mood grinds to a halt at LAX along with the car, which is detained by security. “What the fuck?” he says, peering out at the airport officials sweeping under the car with their flashlights. “Why is this happening?” he demands of Felix. “Didn’t you call ahead?”
By 2 a.m., XS has given itself over to full New Year’s Eve abandon…Felix, who’s been doing his usual business of lighting cigarillos and pouring drinks, has been attempting to keep [all the women] away from Tim, but at some point a skinny brunette attached herself to Felix and is hanging from his neck like a scarf. Nearby, Emily is swigging champagne and watching the scene. “Is this totally insane to you?” she types on her phone, showing me the screen. “I see it all the time and I still think it’s completely excessive and disgusting.”
With the brunette in his blind spot, Felix doesn’t notice an XS promoter sneaking up, a bottle of Dom Perignon in his hand. Seconds later he is batting foam out of his eyes, rivulets of $900 champagne streaming down his bald head, calling for reinforcements.
“BRAVO-ONE, THIS IS BRAVO-TWO, LE7ELS SQUAD! WE NEED REINFORCEMENTS. ALL THE DOM PERIGNON YA GOT, ASAP! CAN’T LEAVE OUR BOY FELIX STRANDED OUT THERE WITHOUT ANYMORE BUBBLY! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! I REPEAT, NOT A DRILL! NOW LET’S MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”
One hand on his headphones, the other on the fader, Tim is too focused on keeping the crowd jumping in front of him to notice the douchiness going on behind him.
You know, that’s got to be the fifth or sixth time that Jessica’s used some form of the word “douche” in a sentence. Especially in one where Avicii is the subject. As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, Avicii’s manager Ash Pournouri tweeted that the article was written “subjectively,” and made an assertion that GQ “should have sent someone with an open mind” to write that “EDM is not about drugs, alcohol, and douchiness.” Instead, they sent a “prejudice[d] tabloid writer.”
While I disagree with some of what Ash said, I absolutely agree that, at the very least, the woman who wrote this article didn’t know anything about electronic dance music–not its terminology, not its history, and certainly not the way to fairly characterize the live show/festival scene. That last one might be understandable, considering she had obviously never seen a live set before. But at the very worst, she seems to dislike the modern EDM community a hell of a lot. The constant drug references are particularly telling, as are her passive-aggressive jabs at Avicii and his fans. But more than anything (and despite the many jokes we’ve shared over the word), the fact that she’s constantly writing or quoting someone saying the word “douche” is a pretty big indicator, and is not lost on us. This woman clearly did not like what she saw out of Avicii, or the social and music scenes surrounding him.
Now ordinarily, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. But if you’re writing an article for a major media outlet–a story about arguably the most famous and influential artist in the world’s fastest-growing genre of music–then can’t you at least pretend to like it? You’re not a bad person and you seem to be a pretty good writer, but honestly, be a little more objective next time Jessica (assuming there is a “next time”). And use less hyphens.
He’s only contracted to play for two hours, but 3 a.m. comes and then 4 a.m., and Tim is still going. He burns through everything in his repertoire, some generic crowd-pleasers, the tracks he’s testing out from the album he’s working on, which will feature real instruments and “a lot of talented people,” he’d said earlier. “Like people with real talent.”
You know what? I’m just not gonna touch this right now. You hear me? I WILL NOT RISE TO YOUR BAIT, JESSICA! AVICII! …BOTH OF YOU!
Through it all, Tim just keeps shaking his hips and pounding his hand in the air. He doesn’t even see that right behind him, someone has taped Emily’s legs together with electrical tape, leaving her flapping on the platform like a drunk mermaid, a bottle of Dom Perignon clutched in her hand, or that when she starts to cry, it is Felix who bends down and untapes her. It is 5 a.m., and the air is heavy with exhaustion and sudden sobriety, but Avicii puts on another track, and everyone rallies, as he knows they will. He just isn’t ready for it to end.
Leaving aside the fact that that’s just an offensive amount of commas, I’d like to end this piece with two separate translations of Ms. Pressler’s final statement:
Unfiltered, Aggressive Jessica Translation: Through it all, Tim keeps making those stupid gestures. He’s too dumb to notice that someone has taped his airhead girlfriend’s legs together, leaving her flapping on the platform like a dumb bimbo, a bottle of overpriced champagne in her hand, or that when she starts having a meltdown, it is Felix the Douchebag who helps her. It is 5 A.M., and the air is heavy with the sound of stupid kids and people having so much fun that it offends me, but Avicii puts on another one of his idiotic songs that will never be as good as folk rock, and everyone descends back into madness, as that stupid Swede knows they will. He better pray that people don’t realize it’s all bullshit a year from now.
Biased Avicii-Fan Translation: Through it all, Avicii (the greatest DJ of all time) keeps shaking those sexy hips and throwing his silky-smooth hand into the air. He’s too engrossed in his wonderful, wonderful music to see that right behind him, someone has taped his beautiful and super-supportive girlfriend Emily’s legs together with tape, leaving her flapping on the platform like a graceful swan, a bottle of Felix’s favorite Dom Perignon clutched in her hand, or that when she starts to weep ever so slightly, it is Felix the Loyal Butt Drug-Hider who bends down and untapes her. It is 5 A.M., and the air is heavy with the voices of youth who truly understand the meaning of love and togetherness and aren’t just there to get fucked up, but Avicii puts on another amazing track, and everyone keeps raging, as he knows they will. Avicii just isn’t ready for it to end, and it never will, because Avicii will be relevant forever.
I guess the real truth lies somewhere between the two.