Some have chased the American Dream relentlessly, others merely scoping its widespread charm. Surreal standings aside, Tim Bergling’s duty remains the balancing of two familiar themes amid the great club resurgence. Despite mustering a select storm of uproar from the more close-minded sects of the once underground culture, his journey from the ranks of invisible Swedish hopeful to the face of modern Dance music and its extension into designer fashion has been as all embracing as it has emotional. Taking a break from the wanderings of his North American Le7els tour, the Swedish icon retraced the far-fetched footsteps and dream-like endeavours that have seen him inaugurated into the hysteric world of universal floor fillers.
True to the top line of his latest single ‘Silhouettes’, Avicii has come a long way since his time on the beat as his nations best-kept secret. Assisted by the equally motivated mind of the At Night executive and prolific industry professional Ash Pournouri and the drive to excel the sterling reputation of his Swedish peers, Bergling became something of a new age ambassador to his craft at the blink of an eye. “It wasn’t until Electric Daisy Carnival last year that it suddenly hit me: There were 80,000 people in front of me going crazy for my tracks,” he explained. “That was an overwhelming moment for me, almost like a dream that I thought could never become a reality.”
Found posting his music on Swedish forums as early as 2006 only to receive a unanimous wave of silence, his drawing on the heartstrings of the club-savvy generation alongside such allies as Madonna and Ralph Lauren was no overnight maneuver. Between 300 live appearances and a breakthrough record that made 2011 a game changing year by any standards, the uprising of Avicii is found in that well-rounded consistency that translates through the speakers and the airwaves alike.
But in the age of overnight solutions and technological slobbery, this steady graft of globetrotting and studio work has been the root of every gain attributed to the Swede, fixing Avicii as one of the most proactive assets of the industry to date along the way. “Given the happiness this work ethic has brought me I cannot help but swear by it,” laughs Bergling. “Taking the time to put in the work allows you to produce better tracks and develop a unique working market. Once you get past the stress and tiredness that everyone has at some stage in their lives, the result is always going to be phenomenal. If you wake up every morning ready to work hard at something that makes your world spin round then to my mind you can only succeed.”
While our original intention had been to bypass the subject of this strong-serving mark on Bergling’s premature career, Tim dutifully accepts that in tracing the story so far, the union of infectious synth work and the late Etta James has been crucial to the bigger picture now associated with his Avicii moniker. But far from his peak, ‘Levels’ would be merely the awakening of a universal breakthrough for the unsuspecting Swede. More impressive than his global notoriety is the enthusiasm to which Bergling has awoken within the American market. Brandishing high-profile remixes for Madonna and Lenny Kravitz in a bid to echo the stadiumesque presence he now commands, the overall enthusiasm of his stateside peers at such headline slots as his New Years extravaganza at Pier 94 or the array of global festivals Bergling now frequents cannot be ignored when summing up the physical and spiritual ground the Swedish producer and this industry have taken side-by-side.
“America has always been a great starting place for something to grow and expand within,” explained Bergling. “You just have to look at the way the country has tuned in to Electronic music to see that it is moving towards something very special. Europe will always be the place where it started for me and I will never forget the loyal fan base that I have there, but the opportunity to take on such a vast country and receive so much enthusiasm is something that I didn’t think any DJ would ever experience.”
But with Avicii, there is a sense that every big push forward comes with a wilder undertone. From moving stage elements to groundbreaking visual elements, the North American leg of his ‘Le7els’ tour has gone down as one of the more riveting initiatives since the mouse head of Joel Zimmerman broke the mold on intense visual shows.
Bergling explained: “My hope was that this would be an experience no one has ever witnessed before in live Dance music, not even close to the scale of the production that we had before. We premiered the stage show at Coachella, but there were a lot of elements we could not use because of the festival setting. This will bring a new dimension to the energy that I feel Avicii represents.”
Between the high profile his arena-driven onslaught of musical evangelism lays a sense that Bergling is not afraid to challenge the boundaries between the club and its once opposing realms of popular music. Despite drawing the line with a legal battle between Simon Cowell’s Syco label after they inadvertently pinched the concept behind his ‘Fade Into Darkness’ single, Bergling remains positive that within the merging of these two allegedly contradictory elements in music lies a positive future for his craft and those as ambitious as himself to utilise.
“I feel like what people negatively dub to be ‘mainstream’ is actually a really healthy aspect of the scene as it shows that the industry is moving forward and becoming a strong industry again,” he explained. “The most important thing for me is to make music that I am proud of rather than putting all the emphasis on airplay and charts. I have always said that I would work with big artists and pop stars – but it has to be perfect. People may have their own ideas about my work, but to me selling out has never been on the agenda, so long as your soul and enthusiasm are still on the table then reaching out to such wide audiences can only be positive.”
Popular accolades aside, doubts surrounding the creative integrity behind his image-conscious live spectacle were countered with his latest single ‘Silhouettes’. Calling upon fellow countryman Salem al Fakir, Bergling’s underlying commitment to melodic and emotive music that both utilises and transcends his strong Progressive House background signal that against all odds, that flame for heartrending moments still burns in spite of industry’s rapidly shifting hallmarks. “This was the track I was born to make,” he admitted. “There has always been a focus on melodies and vocals, so to bring them together is like the epitome of the sound I am out to perfect. Salem’s angelic voice was exactly what ‘Silhouettes’ needed to make this track the epitome of what I want to stand for.”
Ditching the typical chauvinism more commonly associated with that of the superstar DJ, the trials, tribulations and pitfalls that come hand-in-hand with earning your stripes as one of the globes most devoutly followed contenders have not shifted that sense of courtesy from Bergling’s creative outlook. Instead, there lies a spiritual quest within the Swede’s dreams to enrich the industry and inspire the masses of likeminded aficionados that hold him in such high esteem. “So long as I am making a living and remaining happy then it is the dream job for me. The huge shows and intense support from across the globe are a huge deal for me, but being happy is at the heart of why I do what I do. Without a sense of enjoyment and pride in the music, none of it really matters.”
While a vast array of clichés follow the ranks of childhood dreamers who attain their wildest dreams, the billion dollar industry has proven a vital platform for Tim Bergling to execute the most universal amalgamation of his craft without hitting upon tedium. Still wired to the road ahead and driven to dictate the playbook of global success for aspiring producers and DJs across the globe, Avicii remains the product of raw ambition and a quest for happiness that has been balanced within every surge forward, however grand or miniscule. Bergling explained: “I am blessed for the opportunity to work this hard at something that genuinely gets me up in the morning.”
As the world remains volatile, modern Dance music emerges as one of the more tangible realities of modern culture on offer. At the helm of flagship rendition of the fruitful potential of the 21st century club paragon, Tim Bergling’s youthful exuberance may be the crucial weapon in this overshadowing legacy stretched across the studio, floor and festival alike. With his first residency on the White Isle of Ibiza at the prestigious Ushuaia beach club underway alongside a stack of exclusive festival appearances throughout the summer, this balance of scenery suggests that amid his game changing pastimes, it is a genuine sense of pride that has spoken to dancefloors across the globe.
A young leader among the likeminded dreamers of the electronic renaissance, his legacy is one of painstaking progression that makes the prospect of iconic succession all that more human and invariably attainable when armed with the right heart and the ability to light fires in the hearts of the most unsuspecting avenues.
Photo credit: Joe Gazzola, Pax Engström & Rukes
Words by Dan Carter