He's irresistible to chicks:
Most people would be overjoyed to have Tim Bergling's life. To have, 250-plus nights a year, audiences of thousands chanting your name. To have the leggy blond girlfriend, the limitless champagne and the piles of money, and famous musicians begging for the production magic he brought to “Levels,” his inescapable 2011 electronic dance music hit in which Etta James has a good feeling, over and over, for three and a half minutes. To have the girls hyperventilating, “I want to fuck him so bad,” whenever he appears, which one blonde is telling her friend right now at high-decibel volume, although Tim can't hear her, he's too immersed in cuing up the next track that is going to keep people going completely apeshit.
Tim Berg gets PISSED when opening DJs play a track he includes in his set:
Four days before New Year's, I arrive in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, to find him pacing around a tented greenroom at Mamita's Beach Club, smoking like a chimney and knocking back Red Bulls. The champagne is chilling. The waves are lapping gently at the shore. But Tim's attention is entirely focused on the sounds coming from the stage, where a warm-up DJ is playing a song called “Epic” by Dutch DJs Sandro Silva and Quintino. “I can't believe he's playing this,” he mutters.
“I'm sorry, I sound grumpy,” Tim says apologetically. “It's just that it's embarrassing to do the same things.”
He doesn't “feel out the room” like older DJs claim they do and mostly knows what's going to work ahead of time
This is not to say there isn't some skill involved. “I kinda know what's going to work,” he says, pulling up a screen of cardiogram-like shapes on his laptop, which he identifies as songs. “You have to retain the energy level throughout the set,” he explains, moving the shapes around until they fit together, like Tetris pieces. “You can't just start out with an energetic song; you have to build up to it.”
On stage, he's really just adjusting volume and faders:
Since so much of it is predetermined, I ask, what is he doing onstage? He sure looks busy as hell up there: Twisting knobs and pushing buttons and smiling and dancing. But after watching his show a few times, the only real difference I notice when he twists a button or pushes a knob is that sometimes it gets a little louder or quieter, like he's deploying all of that energy just to change the volume.
“Yeah, it's mostly volume,” he shrugs. “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.”
On how he chose his stage name, Avicii:
Tim had decided on the DJ name Avici—a friend told him it was a level of Buddhist Hell. (He added the extra i because Avici was already taken on Myspace.) It took him eighteen months to get comfortable behind the decks.
On his instant success in the EDM scene:
His first show ever was in front of 1,000 people. The next thing he knew, he was commanding six figures at clubs in the U.S. and performing at the Ultra Music Festival with Madonna, who had specifically selected him to sherpa her into the booming electronic-dance-music scene. “It was just perfect timing,” Tim says now. “My own rise went hand in hand with the whole EDM rise.”
He's not a fan of small VIP gigs:
Around midnight, the black SUV carrying Tim, Felix, and myself passes in front of a line of tanned hopefuls being held tantalizingly back by a velvet rope in front of Story, a two-day-old club in Miami Beach. “It's not really new,” Tim says, yawning. “They just made it over a bunch of times.” These aren't his favorite kinds of gigs, either. “The VIP crowd tends to be less energetic,” he says. “If you are able to go out and spend $2 million a night in a nightclub and then get laid, it doesn't add anything for their…what do you call it, what you leave after when you die?”
He once ended up in the hospital for partying too hard, so now he has a rule of never drinking two days in a row:
“You are traveling around, you live in a suitcase, you get to this place, there's free alcohol everywhere—it's sort of weird if you don't drink,” he says. And so he did. At first it was because “I didn't expect it to last,” Tim says. Then it did last, and soon he had a serious habit: champagne at night, Bloody Marys at the airport, wine on the plane, repeat. “I was so nervous,” he says. “I just got into a habit, because you rely on that encouragement and self-confidence you get from alcohol, and then you get dependent on it.”
He kept going like this until last January, when he developed “like, searing” abdominal pain and wound up in the hospital in New York for eleven days with acute pancreatitis. “I probably drink more now than I should,” he says. “But I have a pace. I never drink two days in a row.”
He gives Americans mad kudos for how they party:
“Wow, people really went all out,” he observes. “Americans are really good at partying,” he says, turning away. “Swedish people would be too cool for this kind of thing. We're, um…what do you call it? Emily, do you know which word I use?”
“Douchey?” Emily says.
He's not a fan of the haters who think he's a sell-out:
But in the next breath he's off talking about how it drives him crazy when people call him a sellout for making a remix for Madonna: “How can you see that as selling out? She is a legend. Like fucking like Michael Jackson, when he was alive, people would have been like, 'OMG, that's like selling out.' Now people would think, 'Oh, that's so cool.' Because he died.”
And the people who gripe about his modeling for Ralph Lauren? “I always wear, like, checkered shirts,” he says, plucking at his flannel. “Well, actually, this is striped, but all the photos are exactly what I usually wear.”
And as for the people who say he is too mainstream: “I have always been mainstream. It's so weird, because I don't see it as something negative at all. So many people see it as something negative.”
Avicii has never rolled on molly:
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.”
“I don't really dance, anyway,” Tim says. Other than his friends from high school, who he sees sparingly—”I help them get laid,” he laughs—most of his time is spent around adults.
He has a serious girlfriend:
White Wonderland, the festival in Anaheim, is organized by Insomniac, the same people behind the Electric Daisy Carnival, and it is similarly over the top. Four dancers in glittery snowball costumes rush past us on the way to the green room, which is decorated with Christmas lights and contains Emily Goldberg, Tim's girlfriend. Tall and blonde and startlingly normal, she and Tim started dating exclusively about a year ago, after Tim had his come-to-Jesus moment with his pancreas. (“I used to have a bunch of girls, girls that I liked,” he'd said earlier.) They share a dog, Bear, who is running around on the floor like a feather duster with legs.