“Someone in a particular area of activity who is one of the first people to be involved in, or develop, something new.”
The dictionary definition of a ‘Pioneer‘ is perhaps the most fitting tribute that can be paid to Tim Bergling (aka, Avicii) today. Almost 24 hours since the news broke of the Swede’s passing, and the Avicii-shaped silhouettes which still loom large in the torn curtain of EDM, feel fresher than ever. As is the case with all celebrity deaths, the rumour mill soon began to whirl into a flurry of despicable rumours, and wicked lies, spread by those looking for their 15 minutes of fame during the darkest of hours for the Bergling family.
This is Avicii: The Truth…
Back in 2009, music lovers consumed their tracks in different ways. With smart phones still something of a luxury, many gained their fix of the latest records via freeview radio stations and the now-soon-to-be defunct iTunes store. In an era stuck between the purgatory of the post-Top of the Pops generation, and the boom of the Spotify and Soundcloud revolution, the whole industry was soon to perform the most radical 180 degree flip, all thanks to a baby-faced Swede by the name of Tim Bergling. First picked up by Laidback Luke, Tim had been flooding Reddit forums with his bedroom productions, when the Dutchman decided to take a chance on the teenage talent, plunging him into the deep end, with a spot at his ‘Super You & Me’ party in Miami, alongside the likes of Diplo, A-Trak, Chocolate Puma, and another breakthrough producer, a Dutch DJ by the name of Hardwell.
Having already teased tracks like ‘Alcoholic’ and his truly timeless mix of Bob Sinclar‘s ‘New New New’, Tim’s commercial breakthrough soon followed when Ministry of Sound snapped up his August 2010 anthem ‘Seek Bromance’, a production which captivated the entire dance music world with crushing rattles that came from the opening breakdown of the track, soon followed by synthy melody and keyboard chords built into unique sonic arrangements. Laced with a killer female vocal steeped in emotion:
“Imma give to you, the love you seek and more.”
But for Tim, (in of his earliest career interviews below), his success was soon to prove his own arch nemesis…
A shy and timid teen from the Stockholm suburbs, Tim’s Scandinavian roots contributed to his fame-avoiding nature, but as ‘Tim Berg‘ soon became ‘Avicii‘, the brand snowballed in a way that the Swede’s manager, Ash Pournouri, (scarily) predicted, and by the time ‘Levels’ was released in 2011, the pair knew they were soon facing world domination. A collaboration with Madonna followed on the main stage of Ultra Music Festival, with ‘The Avicii hotel’ launched in Miami, and merchandise – including Avicii condoms – flying off the shelves worldwide. Now the face of Ralph Lauren‘s advertising campaign, Avicii the musician was dazzling brighter than ever, but Tim, the man behind the brand, was deteriorating quickly.
Constant touring and hectic flights across several continents saw Tim’s body begin to cave in, bereft of rest, healthy meals, and a manageable sleep schedule. By the time he was hospitalised in 2014 for severe abdominal pains, nausea and a fever stemming from a blocked gallbladder, his climatic set at the SLS Hotel in Miami was called off, as was his Ultra performance. Ash Pournouri’s statement was proved a dark foreboding of the events to follow…
“I was with Tim at the hospital. It was frustrating for him not to have played. And of course, Ultra has been so important to us for so many years, it’s a big letdown not being able to play.”
Plunged further into relentless schedules as his management team attempted to squeeze every last drip from the sponge of the brand, Ash continued to tug on the udders of the Avicii cash-cow, with Tim’s ‘True Stories’ documentary (released October 2017) showcasing the below clip, where a dazed and drugged Avicii dips perilously between the realms of consciousness in the back of a car, following his release from hospital. Pumped with the strongest medication around, the Swede – typically polite and compliant as ever – nods gently as his team ask if can attend several last-minute interviews they’ve set up with content-starved journalists who have barricaded the medical centre dealing with Tim’s treatments.
With Tim’s incredible talent now proving his own undoing, the ‘Wake Me Up’ producer continued to appear increasingly gaunt, his checked shirts now hanging loosely off his narrow frame, snapback hats covering his increased hair loss – all by the age of just 25. “He was very insecure,” added EDM Godfather, Tiësto, who performed with the Swede during his residency at Privilege in Ibiza, with Avicii later remixing the Dutchman’s ‘Escape Me.‘
“He had stage fright and it was very tough for him to be on stage and perform. He loved to be in the studio, but DJ’ing… It was very hard for him, and he felt so stressed. It was not his favourite thing to do. He loved to sit behind the piano and make the music but he really didn’t like DJ’ing.”
“I’ve told them over and over I won’t be able to play anymore. I’ve told them it will kill me.”
Avicii called time on his touring career in 2016, citing his extreme anxiety before taking to the stage as a key reason for his decision. Emerging with right arm held aloft in a now customary pose at Ushuaia Ibiza on 28th August 2016, the Swede performed live for one final time, cue a cacophony of chorus sing-a-longs in the two hours of Balearic whoomps, thumping claps and soul platitudes that followed. Eight layers of lasers formed a dense neon mesh-works sizzling across the open air. Each track is met with roars of approval as modern twists and synths are placed during key loops and drops. As the lights drop and the crowd is plunged into darkness the Swede had promised they would fade into, the sounds that have illuminated the evening slowly grind to a gradual halt. One final crescendo, as the lights are raised, the strobes start to flicker, and the CO2 cannons and ticker tape are flung into the air. A sea of fans bounce to the rhythm of his now iconic track ‘Levels‘ and as Bergling gradually elopes backstage from his podium after a farewell to his followers, he’s safe in the knowledge he’s one of the few artists in world music that fans are still screaming for long after the final track ends.
The death of Avicii is tinged with not just tragedy, but elements of anger, and extreme frustration. In late 2016, Tim Bergling parted ways with Ash Pournouri, escaping the poisonous mis-management that had contributed to his downfall. Signing a new deal with Universal Music, his Summer 2017 EP, featuring Rita Ora collaboration ‘Lonely Together’ and fan favourite ‘Without You’ – proved a huge hit, with the latter amassing over 250 million Spotify streams to date.
Tim soon embarked on a new life, his Instagram full of colourful explorations around Asia and South America, his hair – and weight – slowly began to return, and the smile etched across his face once more. Relaunching his podcast series, Tim became a phoenix from the flames. The recent return of Swedish House Mafia had inspired the ‘True’ star to return to touring, whilst Summer 2018 was earmarked as the date for his next album – a release which now looks unlikely – according to Joakim Johansson, General Manager of Universal Music Sweden, who issued this statement last night:
“It’s imperative that Avicii’s music, image, name or videos are not being used in any marketing or promotional activities whatsoever. Any campaigns running must immediately be put on hold. The statement issued from Avicii’s team will be the only information shared at this time. No further comments can be made to the media.”
And yet, his death, though shocking, was not wholly unexpected. Whilst some sections of the media prefer to blame the Swede’s Pancreatitis on ‘excessive drinking’ or ‘drug use’, the truth; is that Avicii became the posterboy for excessive monetary greed from the corporate bodies above him.
A naive, innocent, and pioneering producer, who was preyed upon by those out to convert his talent to their own financial gain, Tim leaves behind an eternal legacy. Not just for the sensational melodic one-of-a-kind tones that his early career heralded, but also for becoming EDM’s first true superstar, bringing the genre into the spotlight, and forever making dance music socially acceptable across mainstream media and national radio.
Paving the way for today’s biggest acts such as Martin Garrix, Marshmello, The Chainsmokers, Kygo, and many more, the most eternal tragedy is that it has taken the brightest star in our galaxy to fizzle away to raise awareness of mismanagement, and overworking artists, who – behind the music – are human beings, like you, or I.
Tim, in your own words…
“One day, you’ll leave this world behind. So live a life you will remember.”
Rest in peace Tim Bergling