Avicii is one of the newest acts to surface in today’s current renaissance of electronic dance music, and he’s already breaking records: The 22-year-old producer/DJ is the first EDM artist to headline an arena tour. His popularity has no doubt been pumped up by Flo Rida‘s hit song “Good Feeling“, which samples his song “Levels”. And if you were at Coachella last weekend like us, you know that “Levels” was inescapable, being played by pretty much every artist performing in the Sahara tent — including Avicii himself.
The Swede — whose real name is Tim Berg — may also have gotten his name out there by finding himself at the epicenter of a few controversies involving Leona Lewis and Madonna, who appeared during his set at Ultra Music Festival and made some comments interpreted as promoting drug use (though she later denied that claim). See what he had to say about those sticky subjects and more in our Q&A below.
Idolator: How did it feel to perform at your first Coachella?
Avicii: It was amazing. I’ve been wanting to perform there for ages, so to finally get there was really cool. With the new production and with everything. Everything went according to plan.
Do you have any big changes lined up for Weekend 2?
This first week we premiered part of the production, and we couldn’t premiere all of it. So we’re going to premiere almost all of it this week, and then all of it for the arena tour coming up.
EDM is entering the mainstream more and more. What are your thoughts? Are you glad to see pop acts like Nicki Minaj and Madonna embrace electronic dance and collaborate with DJ producers like yourself, or would you prefer to keep it out of the mainstream?
I don’t see anything negative about it being in the mainstream. I just see it as a way for more people to discover the music. So I don’t see what would be wrong with that. For me, it’s obviously amazing the way it’s taken off. I haven’t been doing this for that long, and even for me for just a couple of years, it’s grown. And how it continues to grow now – it’s really remarkable.
That’s right — you’re only 22, and you’re one of the biggest electronic acts right now. How did this happen so quickly for you?
I got started when I was about 18 years old. It all became serious when I met my manager, and that’s when it took off and started getting to the level where it’s at now. I’ve been very fortunate with the people I work with and the opportunities I’ve been given.
There was some controversy between you and Leona Lewis regarding her single “Collide“, that used your song “Penguin” without permission. Can you tell us what happened?
The thing that happened there… We already knew [Leona and her team] were going to do something with the same sample that I used [Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Perpetuum Mobile"]. That was what I was expecting. But there’s nothing I can do about that, and it’s a shame that it was going to go up against my own single at the time. But I can’t morally tell them not to do that, because it’s not my melody to begin with. But then when the track came out, it wasn’t that they took the original sample and did something new and made their own track with it. It was just kind of my track already there.
I didn’t use a sample — I reproduced and took inspiration from the original melody and made a new song from it. I changed the rhythms, I changed a lot of stuff in it, and they kind of took all of that work. And that was the problem from the beginning. We worked it out, and I got credit on the track, and they already approached us before about Leona being featured and singing over my version. We just didn’t like the vocal that much, so we decided not to go with it, and then that happened. In the end, it all worked out.
Madonna made an appearance during your set at Ultra Music Festival. How did that come about?
I travel so much, I barely have time to even stay in the loop, it’s very hard for me to stay in the loop. So I found out it was going to happen a couple weeks prior [from my manager], and that I was going to do a remix [of "Girl Gone Wild"], and she was coming out, and we were premiering the remix and she was introducing me at Ultra. And it’s amazing. One of the biggest musical icons, and I’ve grown up with her music, everyone has. That was definitely a big honor and a really big thing for me to have her up there on stage.
Her appearance drew a bit of controversy after she made those “molly” comments. Do you have any opinion on what she said?
Not really. I didn’t take it serious at the time. I didn’t read too much into it, and I haven’t really kept myself up to date with any intrigue in the scene. To me, I never really cared, to be honest. I didn’t see it as a big thing.
There are so many amazing pop and dance acts that come from Sweden — Robyn, Miike Snow, The Knife, Lykke Li and you! Is there something in the water over there? Sweden seems to be leading the pack in terms of accessible but experimental pop.
It is, I really think it is. And it has for a long time. A lot of the pop producers out there are from Sweden. I think it has to do with the fact that you’re surrounded by that in Sweden. You’re surrounded by so much talent and so much good music, that everyone’s standards just get higher. I think that’s the biggest explanation for that.
Catch Avicii performing in the Sahara tent Sunday night during Coachella’s final weekend, as well as on his upcoming arena tour.