You could call Tim Bergling lazy, or you could call him hard-working, and you’d be right either way. Growing up, the Stockholm native always figured he’d like to make music, but he never bothered to learn an instrument. One day, a friend introduced him to a computer program called FL Studio; four years later, Bergling still hasn’t learned how to play an instrument, but his Avicii alias has become one of the most prolific and bankable brands in dance music.
“I basically got into producing at exactly the same time I started listening to electronic music,” explains the Swede, reached at a San Francisco hotel. “That’s why I got into electronic music, because it was a style of music that I could learn to make quite quickly.”
What distinguishes Avicii from all the other accidental bedroom producers out there is his remarkable facility with melodies, each rendered in the brilliant synthetic tones that have colonized the pop landscape in recent years. His biggest hit to date, “Levels”, is emblematic, its principal figure a staccato one-fingered line that worms its way inexorably into that part of your brain that stores the theme song from Golden Girls.
Just as “Levels” spawned “Good Feeling”, a party-rap smash by the execrable Flo Rida, so has another Avicii tune, “Fade Into Darkness”, yielded a U.K. hit called “Collide” for the Mariah Carey–like British singer Leona Lewis. True to her reputation as pop’s most relentless parasite, Madonna recently followed suit, enlisting an Avicii remix for her “Girl Gone Wild” and appearing alongside the 22-year old DJ during his headlining set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in March.
For his part, the producer exudes a characteristic Scandinavian calm in the face of his burgeoning celebrity, peppering his observations with the kind of buzzwords marketers adore. About the many opportunities to collaborate with celebrity singers, for instance, the Swede notes the importance of “preserving the Avicii brand”, while on the topic of his expansive stage shows, he stresses the need to create an “organic”, “fully customized”, and “immersive” experience.
On the subject of albums, though, he’s enlightening, explaining that, for his generational peers, the format is effectively dead.
“With iTunes and on-demand streaming, I don’t really see the point of an album anymore,” he says. “About a year ago, when my manager and I were first scouting for labels, every single label was obsessed with albums; they wanted to sign me up to record two or three of them. I don’t think they really get it. Singles are what works best right now, because you can put them out quickly and reach a wider audience.
“At this point, an album is more of a personal goal,” he continues. “It’s something that would be nice to look back on and say you did, like writing a novel. But from a career standpoint, it’s not a good strategic choice. It’s just not what people are interested in right now.”
Avicii plays the Pacific Coliseum on Friday (July 6).