International super-DJ & producer releases first studio album, talks working with Madonna and our own Adam Lambert
By C. Cacciatore | Fly Life Inc
Two-time Grammy-nominated producer and DJ Avicii, aka Tim Bergling, released his debut studio album “TRUE” in September via PRMD Music/Island Records, with the lead single “Wake Me Up” taking over the airways all summer long.
Despite global successes in concert, on the radio and in video, “TRUE” is Avicii’s first full album, ever. In this chat with the superstar international DJ, Avicii talks about his new album, spinning at gay clubs, performing with Madonna, the shift in LGBT rights across the world and working with San Diego’s own Adam Lambert.
C. Cacciatore: Congrats on making a great record. The record is not just about the singles. It’s a nice ride all the way through. It’s one of those records that you can listen to from start to finish.
Avicii: Thank you.
CC: One of the tracks on “TRUE” that we are hoping is the next single is “Lay It Down” with Adam Lambert. What was it like working with Adam?
A: It was great. Adam has an amazing voice. More than anything, he’s also a great writer. But his voice is just insane! He’s like a reincarnation of Freddie Mercury. Actually more like a mixture of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant.
CC: Is that what attracted you to working with Adam? His showmanship as a performer?
A: Yeah, I think so. It was Nile Rodgers that kinda had the connection with him and brought him down to put the vocals on a demo that Nile and I did. We weren’t even intending to have him sing on the final track. But then he did such an amazing job on the demo, we were like, “Why go look for someone else. It’s brilliant as it is.”
There was another song we did with Adam. It was about going down on a girl. He was like, “well it’s not for me, but I’ll sing it. I’ll do it for the people. I’ll go down for the people.” One way or another we all go down.
CC: I don’t know how you did it, but you’ve managed to put all these different genres together, make a balanced record, whether you are hitting a dance vibe, a traditional blue grass vibe or a rock vibe. One of the tracks, “Liar Liar,” has a 1960s psychedelic vibe keyboard to it. Let’s talk about the track for a minute.
A: “Liar Liar” was done with Aloe Blacc and Blondfire [an indie band from Los Angeles]. I was kinda mashing two tracks together. I already had two ideas, so I pulled them together and they just kind of worked well mashed into one.
CC: What is the keyboard sound in that track?
A: It is farfisa. It’s an amazing keyboard sound that hasn’t been used in a long time.
CC: It has a classic vibe. When you listen to that track it reminds me of something coming out of Los Angeles in the ‘60s.
A: For sure. A lot of the elements on this record are like that. Their sounds give different imagery and a lot of different influences. Like, we have a kazoo on one track. There was a lot of experimenting in general on the record.
CC: You definitely get that that from the record. You get the live feel, the traditional and non-traditional instruments come through, even when they are played over a heavy beats-driven track.
A: That’s definitely the point of “TRUE.” That was my main goal and to achieve a sound that works on and off the dance floor.
CC: What was it like working in L.A.? You actually sat still for a minute in L.A. around the time of the Grammys. I know you were out there for more than a couple of weeks.
A: I loved it. That’s when I feel the best, mentally, physically and everything. Just not having to travel constantly [and] doing a couple of shows a week, but on weekends have a house to go back to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be L.A., but of course I love L.A. I’ll probably be there for the next couple of years. The work is there and it’s such a creative environment.
CC: Did you learn how to drive out there?
A: [Laughs] No, I’m still using my Uber app.
CC: The other track on the record that resonated with us is “Addicted To You.” I could see that instantly becoming a gay anthem.
A: [Laughs] Yes, definitely it has that very house diva-ish vibe. So yeah I can see that.
CC: Have you ever played at a gay club?
A: I have played at gay clubs. I haven’t played at an exclusive gay night in America yet. But there have been gay clubs and spaces that I’ve played in. When I spin, it isn’t just gay people that come out, it’s for everyone. It’s a lot calmer, there isn’t as much violence and [it’s] more about fun, just less bras being thrown at me [laughs].
CC: The gay community has always been the primary audience that drove dance music into the mainstream. In the last 10 years, that has changed somewhat with dance music being driven by the wider festival circuit and the mainstream. What are your thoughts on that?
A: Well it’s constantly changing and evolving. As for the gay community, especially with house music, which is what I do, that’s where it started. I worked a lot with Nile Rodgers and we’ve done about six or seven tracks together, and we spoke a lot about that too. It’s just funny ‘cause all his music started and [was] rooted in the gay community, and so many gay people have been his audience for such a long time.
CC: Not only has dance music changed in the past 10 years but so has the shift in LGBT rights across the world. Have you felt the changes or would you like to comment on the changes?
A: I have family and friends that are gay and it’s an important issue for me. I grew up in Sweden. So it’s really not that much of an issue in Sweden the same way it is for gay marriage in America. Even within the society in general, at least from what I feel growing up.
I’ve never had any friends being homophobic or never even heard any parents being homophobic. I’ve never even seen that. But in America, you still see homophobia. It’s getting better but you can tell that it still exists.
CC: Talk to me about your charity House For Hunger (houseforhunger.org). It’s great that you are doing charitable and philanthropic work at an early stage in your career.
A: Thank you. It is a joint thing with my manager, Ash Pournouri. We wanted to do something for charity for a while. We didn’t want to just do a charity show. We wanted to do something more: something bigger and something that hasn’t been done before.
It’s sort of what we try to do with everything we approach. We always set the bar very high right from the start and that’s what we are still doing. We are actually going to go back and look at how the money we raised was put to use through the charity, so that is something that I am excited about.
CC: Last question, as we are about to pull up to your gig. What was it like working with Madonna on her last tour?
A: It was amazing. Yeah, I played at Yankee Stadium twice and that was definitely a big gay show. There were a lot of very animated people, a lot of drag queens and tons of fun.