What would house music be without feeling good about the world? It feels even better when you know house music IS making that world a better place, and after learning that TIm Bergling (Avicii, a.k.a. Tim Berg) had accomplished just that, we had to catch up with him and find out more. His show at the Boulder Theater is sold out tonight, but as we find out, there is more to the “House for Hunger” tour than selling out venues across the country.
Can you tell me a little bit about how “House for Hunger” came together as a tour?
Well, it was me and my manager, we have been talking about doing something for charity, but we weren’t really sure about how to start it off. And then he approached me with this idea of doing something in America. It made total sense, because we’ve been playing so much in America – more than anywhere else – and when I found out how big the hunger issue was here, I was amazed. I couldn’t understand how, in a country I traveled so much and I hadn’t seen any of it, to see how big of a problem it was really opened my eyes to it.
For it being here, it’s kind of a way for me and my manager to give something back to the country that has given us so much, does that make sense?
Yeah, absolutely. So what exactly is being donated and which charity is it going towards?
We’re working with Feeding America, and right from the get-go we wanted it to be really big, we wanted to get up to a million. And we actually got up to a million, so we’re donating a million dollars. No one involved in this is making any money off this tour, this all goes straight to charity.
Right on, that’s awesome. That’s great to hear, and especially from somebody who’s as close to the top as you are, that it’s not all about touring and being famous and enjoying the party. You seem like you’re really grounded in that sense.
Y’know, but it’s important as well. You have to give something back. I feel so fortunate to be in the position where I can actually do that. I feel lucky every day when I wake up for being able to do what I love and make a living.
And hopefully this is something that is going to keep going. America is just where we’re kicking off, because of the reason I told you. The plan in the future is to get more people involved and make a bigger thing out of it.
And we definitely hope to see more DJ’s who, maybe not even donate to the extent you have, but will at least generate the idea and start the conversation.
Oh definitely, for sure. Artists from other genres have been doing it forever, but on a big scale, EDM artists haven’t really caught on. But that’s also because EDM hasn’t been at the point where it is today: it hasn’t been possible to do that. It’s great to see a genre like EDM grow to the point where it is today, where it’s generating enough money to be able to do this. To be able to donate a million dollars to a charity, even a year ago it wouldn’t have been possible.
Tell me a little bit about what the dance culture is like where you are from, and what have you learned about it after seeing so many other different scenes around the world?
It’s been the same in Sweden, we’ve had a lot of producers and DJs coming out of Sweden, and not just EDM, just in general. We have a big music heritage, but it’s really taken off in Sweden now as well: Sweden has been going the same way that America has. I would say places like Holland, and Germany and France, they have a [more established] club culture than Sweden.
So clubbing in Sweden… we don’t have a club culture. Which is funny, because we have all these artists and DJ’s but we don’t have our own club culture. But we’re getting there now, I’d say it’s going the exact same way that America is going: just exploding.
So what is it like in Sweden? What kind of culture DO you have there?
Umm… I don’t even know! It’s a whole country, we have a lot of culture. [Pauses] Umm… It’s cold… [laughs], that’s the best way to describe Sweden in one word. We’re a reserved-type culture as well, everyone is very reserved.
Who do you think is a better representation of the average Swede: you? Or Swedish Chef, from the Muppets?
Umm… [pauses]… probably me. I think I represent pretty well. I’m pretty reserved. I’m better, but I’m still pretty reserved.
Fair enough. Ok, back to touring: I don’t want to make it sound like I’m surprised, but why play a show in Boulder instead of Denver?
I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I don’t have anything to do with the bookings, ever.
You’ve toured through Denver though, right?
Yes, I’ve had two shows in Denver.
But never played at Beta?
No, I’ve never played Beta. I want to!
Where did you play?
I did the Red Rocks festival (Global Dance) and I did another one in a festival-type setting at Skylab.
Speaking of which, festival season is going to be here before we know it. Tell us about your plans after the tour and where we can find you?
Straight after the tour I’m going back to Sweden for a couple of weeks, then I’m coming back here for the Super Bowl and Grammy’s [laughs]. I have a ten-day vacation. Then I’m doing a couple dates in Asia, and then it’s Ultra. Then Coachella, then EDC. So it’s gonna be festival mode all summer.
Wait… Super Bowl? Wasn’t expecting you’d be stoked on that. Are you rooting for anyone?
No, I’ve never watched a football game in my life. We have something massive coming up for the Super Bowl… I can’t really say too much about it, but it’s something really massive.
Are you familiar with Tebowing?
No, what’s that?
[I explain Tebowing].
[Laughs], ok, I’ll think about it!
Hypothetical situation: imagine that you are at home, it’s late and you are asleep. Suddenly, three men with masks break in, and they drag you out into a van and drive you away. After a few miles, the van parks at a deserted dock and they throw you out. The three men then take off their masks: it’s Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello. They say they are going to make you an offer you can’t refuse: join the mafia, or sleep with the fishes. What would you do in that situation?
Yo, I would join Swedish House Mafia, any day. That’s an easy one [laughs]. To be fair though, I would probably accept any offer, if the other option was sleeping with the fishes.
Well, I want to congratulate you on writing the house anthem of the year. “Levels” went to huge heights, and as someone I know said to me, you’re “on some World Cup shit right now.” What do you think about Levels going so massive?
I wasn’t expecting it at all. The thing I really liked about it as well is the reaction I get at the shows, people chanting along. I’ve never had anything like that before, so that’s amazing.
Do you think you better understand how to make a “hit,” or do you think the process of making one is still a mystery to you?
The way I look at it, I don’t try to make hits. I just try to make music I like, and hopefully other people will like. I’m not really pursuing hitmaking. The types of tracks I do has always been melodic with a hook in them, and that’s the music that I like doing and what I like listening to as well. But yeah, no, [laughs], I don’t pursue it.
Do you understand why “Levels” became so successful?
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s easy to sing along to, like the instrumental part of it is easy to chant. And I think the vocal is amazing, obviously. I first heard it from a Pretty Lights track called “Finally Moving,” and I wanted to use that vocal for something that I could play in my sets. That’s how it got started.
Do you think you have a different perspective on remix culture now that you are the one being remixed?
Yeah, definitely, before no one used to sample any of my stuff, but now it’s all over the place. I never cared about any of that, though. That’s kind of the industry though, isn’t it? Remixing and sampling, that’s kind of what electronic music is.
Are there any other specific songs that you really take a lot of pride in? Which would you consider to be your top three favorite among your songs?
I’d probably say… “Levels,” “Bromance,” and “New New New,” my remix of Bob Sinclair. They all represent something different in my career. “New New New” was the first track that actually brought me attention, then “Bromance” was my first single that got attention, then “Levels” just came out and exploded.
What is your approach in a post-Levels world?
It’s hard, we have a bunch of tracks coming out we want to release, but I don’t want to make another “Levels” because “Levels” has already been released. So I’m just gonna keep going with it, and keep with what I’ve always been doing.
Which is what?