Coincidence or Reincarnation: An Enlightening Interview with Avicii
Tim Berg must have committed a horrible misdeed in a past life. After spending some time with the Swedish DJ and producer whiz kid, better known as Avicii, this was the conclusion I arrived at. Meeting him was a transcendental experience; one of the most hyped electronic acts of the current music cycle comes packaged in a slender frame, with boyish good looks, and scraggly blond hair, though an ethereal aura radiates from him like incense smoke billowing from a wooden burner. Was this the key to his monumental success? Did Berg reach Nirvana only to bring its bliss to us suffering mortals through his beautifully positive and euphoric music?
[fourcol_one_last][quote]“Science changes facts about the world all the time…Things that we are taught as children to be absolute facts turn out to be false all along.”[/quote][/fourcol_one_last]
I admit, my keen journalistic instincts got the best of me: I spent hours researching Buddhism and the origins of Berg’s most used alias “Avicii,” only to stumble upon some enlightening results. As it turns out, the pseudonym stems from a level of Naraka, or the Buddhist variation of Hell, where offenders spend time working off the negative karma they accumulated through their living actions. “Avici,” the basis for Avicii, is the absolute lowest realm of Naraka, containing individuals guilty of crimes like “intentionally murdering one’s father or mother,” “intentionally murdering a Buddha or enlightened being,” or “creating a divide within the Buddhist community of monks and nuns, the Sangha.”
Whether it’s coincidence or just reincarnation, Berg’s recent rise to EDM stardom and international success seems to imply the aforementioned transgressions. For instance, his career has been carefully directed by his mentor and manager, Ash, whose fatherly guidance could be the karmatic backlash of a past life patricide. Likewise, his “bromances” with EDM divinity, world-renowned DJs like Tiësto and Swedish House Mafia, could indicate the antecedent shedding of Buddha or enlightened being blood. Or perhaps it is his music, a mixture of upbeat, anthem-driven trance and fist-pumping, melodic Swedish house, uniting electronic music ascetics of all kinds, that remedies a forced rift within the Buddhist paradigm in a prior existence.
Interestingly enough, “Avici” is also commonly referred to as the “non-stop way,” as its inhabitants enter a prodigious amount of “kalpas,” or eons, where they go through a lifetime of purification only to be reborn and do it again. This too seems applicable to Berg, who discusses the tireless process of touring, going from town to town, the boredom of waiting at a venue before and after performing, and the schedule that prevents him from spending time with friends and family. Not only this, but Berg has reincarnated himself under many aliases through the course of his short career (Tim Berg, Avicii, Tom Hangs), an endless stream of identities that obscure who he really is.
Translated from Sanskrit/Pali to English, Avicii means “without waves.” And above all else, this seems to be the state Tim Berg currently subsists in. When I asked him what music he listens to on his downtime, he replied that he doesn’t, preferring silence after being bombarded with music all day, every day. Amidst all the attention, the flurry of media and industry buzz, the endless praise from his colleagues and fans, Berg attempts to maintain his humble and optimistic attitude, acting as the calm ocean emitting waves to the distant shore.
Withal considered, I’m not sure if Tim Berg went through Avici already or is going through it now. But one thing is for certain: the world is not ready for him to be silent just yet.
[quote]“I think at first it made it more difficult, but all in all it’s made everything easier since I’ve learned how to focus on the things I most want to spend my time doing.”[/quote]
Your home: Clean or dirty?
It used to be dirty, but I don’t spend enough time at home anymore for it to become dirty.
Any furry, scaly, or finned residents?
No. Always wanted a dog though.
Does your kitchen get much use?
I’m an amazing chef according to myself, not according to others.
Keep a consistent eating schedule?
(Laughs) No, I have the worst routines ever. When travelling all the time its almost impossible keeping routines and unfortunately eating is one of the hardest routines to keep.
Give me the run down on a typical day in your life.
It depends on where I am. A usual tour day consists of me going to the airport, taking a flight, driving to the hotel, chilling for a couple hours, having my gig, staying a bit after, going home, sleeping, waking up and repeating it all. When I’m home I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends and get as much done in the studio as I can.
The last thing you do before you head hits the pillow?
Watch an episode of some TV series I’m watching. Helps me gear down.
Ever experience something supernatural?
Not really. I’ve always secretly wished that something paranormal existed, and always have been into stories that touch the subject, but to me that’s exactly what all of that is, stories.
Any other commonly held societal beliefs you don’t buy into?
Science changes facts about the world all the time. Things that we are taught as children to be absolute facts turn out to be false all along. The problem is that some of these societal beliefs are so welded into today’s society so it’s hard for people to accept new explanations to old facts when they are presented.
Kind of along the same lines, in the current musical landscape a transition is occurring from the old to the new with the success of digital downloads. As someone involved in the industry, what do you think is the next step?
Streaming media is definitely the future. It’s already obviously happening, but when it has been perfected, when there’s affordable fast wireless Internet everywhere, I don’t really see the need to use any local file storage at all.
[quote]“I feel thankful for what he has done for me and am excited to see where all of this is going in the future. There’s a shitload of talented producers that never get to see the light of day, and Ash was there for all the stuff I wasn’t capable of doing myself and helped me develop my sound to where it is today.”[/quote]
The hardest lesson you’ve had to learn so far, regarding either music or life?
Probably that I don’t have an unlimited amount of time to explore everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I think at first it made it more difficult, but all in all it’s made everything easier since I’ve learned how to focus on the things I most want to spend my time doing.
Most memorable run-in with a fan?
One of my most memorable and emotional fan experiences actually happened during my last tour in the States. Two apparently huge fans of mine, Jean Baptista and Chris Valentine, passed away in the Hurricane Irene and I later found out they had opened a savings account to have me play for one of their weddings. I did a show in their area and about 15 of their closest friends and family came backstage.
If you were able to go back in time and embark on your musical quest again, is there anything you’d do differently?
No. I feel tremendously blessed that I’ve come this far, and had the chance to work with the people I have worked with. I feel lucky that my manager and I found each other and I feel thankful for what he has done for me and am excited to see where all of this is going in the future. There’s a shitload of talented producers that never get to see the light of day, and Ash was there for all the stuff I wasn’t capable of doing myself and helped me develop my sound to where it is today.
You said your Manager Ash had found you, could you elaborate?
He ran across some of my stuff on the blogs and sent me a Facebook message asking to meet up for a coffee! From that point he just kinda started helping me out, and not really managing me yet, but then as the project and his involvement grew we signed a management agreement and that’s definitely been the best career move I’ve made. I would say Ash is a bit of everything to me, partner brother father and friend. My dad actually refers to him as my second father.
Do you ever envision yourself macro-managing your own career, or do you think you will always be perfectly content allowing someone else to make the “business-side” decisions for you?
Ash is 100% the one with the master plan. After working with him I don’t think I could ever settle for anyone else, and definitely not micromanaging it by myself, I don’t have the competence and vision for that.
Your first song to receive attention and acclaim, “Lazy Lace,” was based on the theme song for the Commodore 64 game Lazy Jones. Did you play the game as a child and produce the song as homage to it?
Not really, I just ran across it on a flash electronic music guide on all different sub genres and it was one of the examples under video game music and I just fell in love with the hook! I didn’t even realize Kernkraft 400 already did their Zombie Nation version of it at the time!
For that song, you just altered the name of the source game. But what about your other tracks? Do you have a process for naming them?
It varies from track to track. Sometimes I have a good idea of what feeling a tracks gives me and I try to make the name fit that, or an event or subject that has something to do with me creating the track. And then at other times I just like to name it something funny or stupid random.
What genre of EDM do you feel uncomfortable producing? Are there any genres that you would never want to delve into?
Honestly not really. Then again I haven’t tried producing all genres yet, but every one I’ve tried so far has been fun! It’s hard to say I never want to delve into because EDM is constantly changing. There are sub genres I hated a couple months back that I’ve grown fond of today so I really can’t say anything definite.
In other interviews, you have mentioned that your father listened to a lot of Ray Charles and your siblings listened to rock. Have these influences affected your music in any way?
Oh they’ve definitely influenced me a lot. I like to try and take certain scales and rhythms not usually used in house music and try to adapt them to fit into EDM.
What about EDM? What artists have particularly influenced you?
The artist who influenced me and the course of my life the most is probably the Swedish House Mafia boys. They were the ones who first got me into producing and I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t come across “Teasing Mr. Charlie” by Steve or “Feel The Vibe” by Axwell or “Together” by Axwell and Seb which just opened up a whole new genre to me.
And now these guys are your peers. Which artists have you developed a “bromance” with?’
The closest bromance has probably been Tiësto, Chuckie, Sebastian Drums and Norman Doray. I’ve gotten so many friends these past two years in this industry but they’re the ones I’ve spent the most time with unrelated to work and gotten closest to.
You produce under multiple aliases. For our readers unfamiliar with your work, could you choose an animal that best captures the essence of each one?
Avicii is probably a dog trying to make people happy. Tom Hangs would be a puppy for amplifying that effect, and Tim Berg: an anteater or some equally badass underground-like animal.
Is there a chance we might see a fourth or fifth alias from you? Do you plan on merging the ones you currently have?
(Laughs) There very well might be more aliases, but it all depends on which territories I start producing in. If I would produce a movie score, or a dubstep track, I wouldn’t be using any of the aliases I have out today. I don’t think I will merge the aliases into one—that would kinda defeat the purpose of why I have them in the first place!
You have mentioned in other interviews that your core studio setup revolves around your computer and a midi controller. You have also mentioned that you are now setting up a studio/office space. What kind of equipment are you bringing in or adding to your initially simple setup?
The biggest equipment boost I’ve gotten are my new monitors and that I actually have a good mic setup now so I’m able to work with singers in my own studio. I’ve never been much for hardware equipment, the monitors definitely help me out a lot though since working with them as opposed to headphones makes me more creative and makes the actual process more fun since it gives you that club feel.
What has been the worst or most difficult show you’ve done so far? What made it a hard experience?
Well it was probably in the beginning when I first started playing anonymously. I had a couple of empty roomed shows, as you do, but I’ve been pretty lucky on that part so far, haven’t really experienced a nightmare gig yet!
That is pretty lucky. Do you feel like you were also lucky in regards to your music talent? What percentage of your skills were you born with?
I would say 0%. Since I got into producing I’ve just worked my ass off trying to improve, learned basic piano, scales, chords and chord progressions etc.
What music are you listening to right now? Any artists you have gotten into lately during your free time?
As bad as it sounds, I don’t really listen to that much music when I’m off. I’m surrounded by music almost 24/7 and when I have time to listen to music unrelated to work I just rather enjoy the silence for once. I do get a lot of music sent to me from my manager, colleagues and friends though.
Totally understandable. Sometimes silence is golden. Last, but probably the most important question: Do you have a favorite cocktail?
Not really, I keep switching it up all the time. I like to look at it as trying to find myself.
Coldplay “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” (Avicii ‘Tour’ Mix)
Avicii “Fade Into Darkness” (Vocal Mix)