DJ AVICII performs onstage at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival held at The Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California. (Mark Davis/AFP)
Four years ago, Tim Bergling was just an 18-year-old Daft Punk fan, making beats in his Stockholm bedroom.
Now, after crafting a series of high-profile remixes and releasing a handful of catchy house music singles, he's transformed himself into the DJ/producer Avicii, joining artists like Skrillex and Deadmau5 in a surging electronic dance music (EDM) movement where performers are booking arena tours, headlining music festivals and commanding six-figure salaries for a single set. These guys are the new rock stars.
Before leaving Sweden to play three shows in two days - including a stop in Chicago to headline Lollapalooza and a visit to Toronto for the Veld Music Festival - Avicii picked up the phone to discuss his burgeoning career and the current domination of EDM.
Where did this EDM explosion come from?
It's been up-and-coming for a while, and in Europe, arena shows have been done by (famed Dutch DJ) Tiesto, and other trance guys ... so it's been around. I'm not sure why it caught on in the States and overseas so much recently. I just think that the music blew up. David Guetta opened a lot of doors when he introduced house music to a mainstream audience.
Do you think the genre will be able to sustain this level of popularity? Or will it disappear soon?
There are so many ways of doing electronic music. Just look at Skrillex. And there's house music, and then there's so many different sub-genres to house music ... so I don't think it's going to disappear for a while. And (now), everything sounds like electronic music. Hip-hop, and R'n'B, and everything. All the beats underneath are basically house tracks nowadays.
What are your thoughts on EDM artists coming out of Canada?
Um, I don't know that many (laughs). I know Deadmau5, obviously, and he's great. He became so huge so quickly, and stayed on top. I really respect him, because he's really doing his own thing, and it's working. It's working really well for him. He's staying true to what he wants to do.
Madonna asked you to remix Girl Gone Wild, and then she introduced you to the crowd at Miami's Ultra Festival. What was it like working with the Material Girl?
She was very down-to-earth. Really sweet. It was very painless (laughs). Yeah, you never know what to expect with someone who's been around for that long - like the biggest artist in the world.
You ran into some trouble with your North American arena tour recently, including having to cancel and reschedule some dates. Do you think the tour was too ambitious?
We ran into a lot of problems, definitely. I think ... like, some of the planning might have been off. I don't think the tour, in general, was over-ambitious. Like, I spent a lot of my own money investing in the production and just taking it to another level, like experience-wise, for everyone who goes to the shows. This was intended to be an arena-experience from the start.
What's the most stressful thing about being on tour?
One of the hardest things is, you always want to defend yourself. Like with haters, or when people write something that's not accurate ... I remember when I first started, Tiesto was like a big brother to me - he showed me the ropes. He always talked about haters, and how annoying it can be, and how things kind of changed. And he says he has elephant skin now. And I've started to get thick skin; it kind of just falls off me. I don't really care.
You've already worked with some interesting artists in your young career. Who would you love to work with next?
I'd say that my dream would probably be to do something with Chris Martin from Coldplay.
You've just been nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards. Who do you think will win in the Best Electronic Dance Music Video category on Sept. 6?
Skrillex? I don't know. (laughs) He beat me at the Grammys!