Every fan of electronic music may or may not remember where they were when they heard that Avicii died last Friday. Famous musicians dying prematurely is definitely nothing new, however as the mainstream media was quick to point out, the Swede’s death was the first death when it comes to the current crop of EDM and even underground electronic music stars. What made the occasion that bit stranger was that you couldn’t necessarily stick on a classic Avicii track and mourn the man, given that his music was so unashamedly rooted in making people smile.
Rather than discussing Avicii’s instrumental role in popularising EDM on a grand scale during his brief but meteoric stint at the top of the pop music world, it’s important to discuss the aspect of Avicii, and more so clubland, that we all hate to talk about. Of course, there are plenty of tracks such as ‘Silhouettes’, ‘Levels’ and ‘Wake me up’ that ignited a passion for electronic music within a number of today’s existing house and techno fans, however attempting to relate EDM back to the realms of underground music is like relating any American president back to Ireland; sure there is a link, but it’s so slight it’s not really worth mentioning.
We still don’t know how exactly Avicii died, with foul play being ruled out over the weekend, but his party lifestyle most definitely had a hand in the producer’s untimely demise. Avicii’s early retirement from music and touring was a memorable moment. While on the one hand it demonstrated just how successful his career had been (He retired at the age of 26), it also showed the uncensored dent of success on the DJ’s well being, with his galbladder and appendix having been removed two years prior to his departure from the music business. Couple that with the severe Pancreatitis he also carried after only 5 years under the spotlight and the picture of the artist’s lifestyle couldn’t necessarily be any clearer. He played 220 DJ sets over the course of 261 weeks from 2011 to 2016, an impressive feat but one that ultimately led to his tragic unraveling.
Granted, Avicii’s case is most definitely an extreme one and is basically incomparable with a weekly resident DJ, but it still highlights the aspect of electronic music that we never really utter a word about unless we’re joking about how it’s part and parcel of the lifestyle. The truth is is that there’s an inherent link between nightclubs and drink and drugs. Electronic music is predominantly played and performed within clubs and with that comes a link between drink, drugs, partying and the music.
That isn’t a particularly bad thing, for the most part, clubbing and electronic music most definitely brings out the best in people, especially when they consume whatever they like to in moderation.
Like most good things however there are those that overdo it, and for the most part they can come in the shape of those at the helm of the club; the DJ. The one with the most money to splash out on whatever they like, the ones that get offered free drinks, smokes and bumps.
Without sounding like an irritatingly preachy journalist, the truth hurts, and the truth about Avicii and many other DJs is that they partied too much for their own good. Similarly to the inescapable link between Irish people and their drink, the same link exists between nightlife and a list of illicit substances. The music is purpose built to make people dance and forget the world; the last thing that a kick drum or a string of rave chords is going to do is make one take an introverted look in the mirror.
That’s fine, Bob Dylan and friends can remain in dingy bars and DVS1 can remain in clubs, but if the death of Avicii should serve any purpose other than a rehashing of all of his feel good old material, it should act as a mirror to those that’re placing themselves in the unpredictable hands of the nightlife industry.
The last thing an electronic music and clubbing magazine should do is bite the hand that feeds it but when it comes to the death of one of the biggest names in music, let alone EDM, dying at the age of 28 after leading a brief stint as the poster boy for electronic music and clubland, it’s much more important to learn something from it rather than solely just remember his existence.
Avicii tracks most definitely put a smile on a generation’s faces and from all accounts the producer’s personality remained humble despite his astounding accomplishments. While we could just label this as yet another case of ‘too young, too soon’, that would be a disservice to both the Swede and the multitude of DJs, both famous and not, that are lost in the same circle, without the funds to go to the extremes that he presumably did.
Carl Cox recently came out and stated that he has never seen DJ tour dates as busy as they are right now, and being perfectly honest it’s hard to see the current crop sustaining the harsh schedules they’re currently undertaking. Hopefully the death of arguably the busiest individual of lot not only sparks a toning down of the freakishly fast paced atmosphere currently within dance music, but also more open and frank discussions about the topics we continuously ignore within the industry.
We can wait for Ben Pearce to take a break because of mental health issues, we can wait for Benga to make a come back after suffering from psychosis and we can continue to list DJs that have stopped and then made it through the other end, or we can stop at the death of Avicii and actually start making a change.