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In Buddhism, ‘Avici’ is the lowest level of Naraka or hell, where those guilty of crimes such as murdering their parents must purify themselves for thousands of years. In the modern dance music scene, however, Avicii (an extra ‘i’, as the name was already taken) is one of the biggest DJs on the planet, causing euphoria as opposed to misery.
You may know Avicii for his track ‘Levels’ – it was an international hit – and his ‘Sunshine’ collaboration with fellow superstar David Guetta earned him a Grammy nomination last year. His headline slot at Ultra saw him play with Madonna (where she made her controversial ‘Molly’ comment), he closed the dance tent at Coachella and he will head-line the South Stage at Creamfield in August.
Not stopping at music, Avicii has recently announced a fashion collaboration with Ralph Lauren and raised a million dollars for US poverty through his ‘House For Hunger’ campaign. For a guy who’s recently turned 22 he’s achieved a hell of a lot. Mixmag managed to catch him on one of his rare spare moments to talk about bromance, shampoo and his rise to the top.
You’re playing Creamfields this year for the first time. Excited?
I’ve only heard good things about Creamfields, and it’s one of those festivals I’ve wanted to play for a long time! I’m really happy I’m able to do it.
It must have been crazy having Madonna come out on stage with you at Ultra this year...
It was one of those “What the fuck?” moments. She’s one of those artists that everyone has grown up with, so it was really surreal performing with her. It was also a massive honour for me, especially as she came into my domain, my scene at Ultra. It wasn’t me doing a guest slot at one of her gigs. She was great though, really nice and professional.
Nice to you... but was she nice to the other people around her?
I’m sure she was, but I didn’t see loads as I was playing. Plus pretty much the whole backstage area was cleared out for her arrival.
What did you think about her “Who’s seen Molly?” comment?
To be honest I didn’t care at all, and I don’t think people should take it too seriously. I’ve never done any drugs, but being an electronic music producer I can’t really be completely anti. Everyone has their own life and they can do whatever they want.
Do you ever miss playing smaller venues?
I do miss it. When I started out I was playing a lot of incognito gigs at small clubs in Stockholm to get my technical and crowd reading skills up.
So were you a DJ before you were a producer then?
No, I was a producer first. I’ve always been pretty creative and when I was younger I was always looking for creative outlets. I started playing the guitar and stuff like that. It wasn’t until a friend showed me some production software that I really found that thing I was looking for. Since then I’ve been hooked. It’s funny, because there isn’t a big club scene where I’m from – but there are so many great producers coming out of my country. When you see people like Swedish House Mafia, Eric Prydz and John Dahlback making it big it makes you realise you could do something like that yourself.
So you’re a self-taught producer?
Yes I am. I googled a lot and used a few forums like Laidback Luke’s to build up my knowledge. After that it was a case of getting feedback from people and building on that. That’s when I met my manager, Ash Pournouri.
How did you meet?
At the start I was leaking all my stuff out on blogs. He just came across a few and contacted me on Facebook.
Because of your meteoric rise to the top, some cynics seem to think you’ve been somehow ‘manufactured’.
Yeah, that’s not true. Ash hadn’t managed any other artists before, so we both started out on this road together. He’s done an amazing job. Neither of us could have anticipated the kind of team we would make. And it’s really been an insane journey. I’ve been able to focus on my music, touring and DJing while he’s taken care of the rest.
Sounds like you guys have got a bit of a bromance going on! Is it an exclusive thing, or have you got any others?
Ha! So many bromances! Me and Tiësto have a really cool bromance, actually. He’s a great guy and has helped me out from day one. I know that if there’s anything I need help with I can call him, and the same goes for him. It’s been a really cool relationship right from the start.
Ash helped you put together your ‘House For Hunger’, charity event...
Yes. We’d been talking about doing something for charity for a long time. We didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we definitely didn’t want to half-ass anything. So my manager approached me with this ‘House For Hunger’ idea where we’d generate a million dollars through a non-profit tour of America.
So now if you get a charity mugger on the street asking you if you give anything you can say...
A million dollars! Ha! Yeah, that’s true.
But would you still give money to a homeless person?
No, I don’t like giving money directly to homeless people, but we’ll always take a doggy bag from the restaurant and give it to someone if they ask.
Aside from Paul Oakenfold you must have the best hair in dance music. It’s got to be worth something.
[Laughs] I’m actually so tired of doing my hair. For the last four months I’ve just been wearing a hat because it gets all over the place when I’m DJing.
You’ve probably got to a point now where you could wear a sombrero on stage and girls would still come flocking…
It’s definitely a perk that comes with the job. Being a DJ is hard on your personal life, though. I never get to see my friends and family. I play over three hundred shows a year, and people are depending on me to show up and perform well. I can’t complain though, I love doing what I do.
When you’re putting together huge, big-room anthems do you ever think, “I wish I could just make something a little more chilled or deep?”
Actually, I’ve never really limited myself to one genre. I’ve always done a lot of different stuff, but there’s a lot that I don’t play or release. I guess that’s why I have different aliases – so I can release as much as possible.
What are your other aliases?
Tom Hangs, Ashwin and Tim Berg. But I have about fifty tracks from other genres hanging around that I haven’t released yet. It’s great when you
release a track under a different name and it still gets a good response.
You’ve achieved so much for a 22-year-old. Are you still hungry for success?
The success that comes is a bonus, but I just enjoy playing gigs and making music. And I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that...
Avicii makes his Creamfields debut on August 25, headlining the South Stage alongside Sebastian Ingrosso and Alesso