Avicii is one of the biggest DJs in the world, commands six figures when he plays to huge crowds at the biggest night clubs and electronic music festivals, which is enough to earn a profile in GQ. Except he hates that profile and is fighting back against it.
Tim Bergling, the 23-year-old Swedish bro known as Avicii to his millions of fans, is one of the bigger DJs operating within the vast world of Electronic Dance Music. GQ's writer, Jessica Pressler, followed Bergling and his "bodyman," Felix Alfonso, for the week leading up to his New Year's Eve show at the Las Vegas club XS, collecting plaudits from his fans like Pharrel and Paris Hilton.
But Bergling doesn't like how he, or his music scene, come across in 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," he posted today on Twitlonger. His biggest complaints about the article: it makes his fans out to be bunch of drug addicts, it catches him saying what he does isn't that hard, and it suggests he thinks his fans are a bunch of douchebags.
And, the piece does indeed contain some pretty nasty quotes about the EDM scene. First, he allegedly said that what he does 250 nights a year for $250,000 pay checks isn't that hard:
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.
And secondly, he called out older DJs for, well, for being better DJs than he is in the most technical of senses:
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."
Pressler pressed him on this, asking what he's doing up there for two or three hours smiling, dancing, pushing buttons with vigor, looking busy and working a crowd. "Yeah, it's mostly volume," he told her. "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." That's it. That was his explanation.
This prompted a response from at least one of the older DJs in the EDM world. A-Trak -- the Canadian DJ who commands the same pay checks and plays a lot of the same clubs who won world DJing championships when he was 15 years old, back in 1997 -- raised the issue over the weekend on Twitter:
So there's an Avicii article in GQ where he says his sets are completely pre-planned & reading the crowd is a thing of the past. He also complains about opening djs who play the same big songs from his set -- which are the same songs everyone else plays. So if I understand correctly, DJs should be robots and each pre-planned robot should know their place...? By the way I think
@avicii makes great music. Sincerely. But if you play the same thing every night you're not a DJ. Dudes live in a bubble, they think what they hear in bottle service clubs and festivals is djing. That's just entertainment.
Another prominent EDM DJ, Laidback Luke, said, "Wow that's scary stuff. You won't be able to play the best set that fits the night, it's missing a chance," prompting A-Trak to respond, "These guys need to go to DJ boot camp."
That's appears to be when Avicii picked up that his peers were turning on him and chose to respond. "I didnt say any of that, its all out of context and phrased in a way that make me sound oblivious," he protested. "So tell us what you mean, Tim..." A-Trak asked. Then we didn't hear from Avicii again, until now. This was his response:
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.
The criticism of major EDM DJs being little more than button-pushers is not new, but this particular instance seems to have irked Avicii. Although, most of that paragraph sounds a bit like rocket science to the uninitiated because, well, it's a lot of technical DJing talk mixed with Avicii's loose handling of the English language. And immediately after dropping all of that technical defense of his work, he admitted this:
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.
So... uh. Right. He's a very technical DJ when facing criticism for not doing much while performing but he is not a technical DJ when honoring his elderly peers he just insulted. Got it? It's not confusing at all. Avicii's fans aren't pleased with the profile either. They've started attacking Pressler on Twitter:
Besides all of that, Avicii didn't like how Pressler made him or EDM fans who go out to clubs and get bottle service and fist pump to the tight beats sound like complete douchebags. In her defense, it wasn't hard. The douchebaggery was on full display:
"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.
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."
"Did you shave his eyebrows? The rule is when someone gets drunk you shave their eyebrows," says Felix. "When we get out of the club, let's go and TP his car," he adds, as we board the private plane. Everyone agrees this is an awesome idea.
He also took issue with the implication EDM fans do a lot of drugs, even though it's a fairly common understanding that EDM is synonymous with "molly," or MDMA, a form of Ecstacy. Pressler asked him about the drug while travelling with his crew:
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."
Update April 4, 1:08 p.m.: a spokesman for GQ passed along this comment supporting Pressler's reporting:
"Jessica Pressler's piece is not only fair and accurate, it pays considerable respect to Avicii and his talents. And the quotes have been quadruple-checked and verified, on tape. We'd also point out that it was Avicii himself who describes some of the incidents as 'douche-y.'"
[Image via here]