Swedish DJ Avicii on his Dubai gig: ‘I’m going to have a lot of new material’

The Swedish DJ talks fame, competition, composition, and the future of EDM.

Avicii says he will be trying out a lot of new material when he plays in Dubai. Rich Polk / Getty Images for Rolling Stone
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Avicii has it all – success, fame, talent, money... even good looks.

The 26-year-old's success is undisputed. The teenage Tim Bergling was plucked from his Stockholm high school by a smart manager with an ear, and eye, for the next big thing. A few years later, Avicii became the ­poster-child for the EDM generation, with his breakout 2011 anthem, Levels.

Next, Bergling smartly crafted a new radio-friendly crossover sound, merging electronic beats with retro influences. He also enlisted a trio of American genre guests: soul man Aloe Blacc for Wake Me Up, bluegrass singer Dan Tyminski for Hey Brother, and folk singer Audra Mae for Addicted to Love, all enormous hits in 2013.

His financial success is well documented. With an estimated fortune of $75million (Dh275m) Bergling is the third-richest DJ in the world, after Calvin Harris and Tiësto. Last month, Inc magazine declared Avicii the sixth-fastest-growing "business" in Europe, having expanded 1,905 per cent in three years.

With success and money comes fame. As for the talent, it is clear Bergling has a canny ear to achieve the above. And good looks? There’s even empirical proof for that – in 2013 he was recruitedas a model by Ralph Lauren. Some people really do have it all.

Returning to spin in the UAE for the first time in more than three years – a 2014 gig was cancelled due to a medical emergency – we caught up with the superstar DJ while he was enjoying some R&R in Malibu.

In the past three months, Dubai has hosted gigs by David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Tiësto and Steve Aoki – how will you compete?

I don’t really see it as competition. For the past four months I’ve been doing a lot of studio work, resetting a lot of touring and life routines, and spending all this time working on tracks. So in Dubai, I’m going to have a lot of new material.

You famously found yourself in hot water – and incurred the wrath of the DJ community – after revealing how much of modern DJ sets is premixed. So if I went to see you on a Thursday and then a Friday, how much would be new?

Then it’d be completely new. Basically completely new – there are a certain amount of tracks I have to play to not feel like I’m cheating any of my fans out of that experience.

You’ve written some catchy tunes – where do the melodies start? In your head, on an instrument or on the computer screen?

I build a chord progression, and then when I hear that progression playing I’ll get a lot of different melodies. A lot of the times I’m by a piano or guitar, and I’ll be writing out the different notes in a programme. The only thing that changes in the process is the instrumentation and where the sound is coming from.

You got very famous very quickly after Levels. Do you ever feel that perhaps you missed out on growing up naturally?

Yes and no. It was a little bit of a problem for me, especially in the first four years. I was in a bit of a nest because I was so, so focused on what I was doing. My manager took care of all the business side of things, so all I needed to think about was ­making music.

People describe you as intense – how would you describe your personality?

I’m very stubborn. I wouldn’t say intense – when I go into the studio, I’m very intense, I have no problem being there for 60 hours without sleep, just maniacally trying out millions of different melodies, that’s no problem for me – but when I’m not in the studio, I don’t really feel like that.

Where do you see electronic music going next?

I’m not sure. It’s super-­interesting right now, it’s a golden time for producers and DJs – there’s such an open-minded market right now. I don’t necessarily like all of it, but just seeing how open people are to new music, new sounds, makes me feel secure doing whatever type of music. I don’t think EDM is going to disappear – it’s just going to keep evolving, just like hip-hop or anything else.

Avicii is live at Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday from 9pm. Tickets start at Dh395 from www.platinumlist.ae