Books

‘Tim’: Måns Mosesson’s powerful biography of Avicii

Tim is Måns Mosesson’s comprehensive life story of Tim Bergling, aka Avicii. Transformed into a compelling narrative, it’s a tribute to a creative soul and an examination of the price of fame.

Reaching its peak in the mid-2010s, EDM infiltrated the popular consciousness at every level. At the vanguard of this movement was Avicii, an artist who rose from obscurity as a teenager to fill stadiums and legendary clubs in every corner of the globe.

Behind Avicii, however, was a mild-mannered, middle-class Swedish kid called Tim Bergling, who fretted over his acne and played lots of video games. Tim: The Official Biography of Avicii (Hachette) — written by award-winning Swedish journalist Måns Mosesson — peels back the layers of artifice that Bergling accrued during his brief yet explosive career, revealing a sensitive and passionate creator who became the centre of a global fame juggernaut.

Mans Mosesson Thron Ulberg
Author of ‘Tim’, Swedish investigative journalist, Måns Mosesson. Photo: Thron Ulberg

To complete this posthumous biography (Bergling died by suicide in 2018) Mosesson was granted unprecedented access to Bergling’s notes and completed interviews with his tight-knit family and members of his professional team. The result is an intricately detailed portrait of Avicii: from a shy, hesitant, but ultimately strong-willed boy, to his arrival at the pinnacle of fame.

Supercharged by its narrativisation, Tim is a testament to the story-telling abilities of Mosesson; the passion and acuity with which he attacked this project is palpable. As such, when he describes how Bergling took a sideways step from video gaming into shifting MIDI clips around the screen of his computer, the thrill is contagious.

Similarly, when the budding house producer connects with the intensely ambitious Arash Pournouri (a central figure in Avicii’s rise to global domination), the excitement leaps off the page. Within a couple of very short years, the afraid-of-flying Bergling was living out of a suitcase, sharing Ibiza bills with his idols, and very quickly accumulating more money than he knew what to do with.

And that was just the beginning.

Avicii rocketed through several layers of fame, became the pre-eminent electronic act in the world, moved to L.A., and had the ear of everyone in the upper echelons of the music industry. He was in his early twenties.

Tim Book Cover

But the walls were closing in. On the shoulders of Bergling was built an entire ecosystem of industry — the personal commitments and travel were one thing (it wasn’t uncommon for Avicii to do more than 300 shows in a year, sometimes two or three DJ sets in a single night in multiple timezones), but the Avicii machine employed an entourage that depended on his continued success and ability to inject crowds with euphoric energy, night after night.

It was a state of constant emergency. One particularly instructive moment was when one of his staff members, Filip Holm, involuntarily vomited blood after hearing that an incredibly important Avicii event would be cancelled (when Tim was hospitalised). Unbeknownst to Holm, he had developed a stomach ulcer that ruptured and found its way into the toilet bowl; even those on the periphery fell victim to the Avicii stress machine.

Bergling himself suffered the most. He was in constant pain and regularly hospitalised, which led to prescription opioid addiction. “He had become a pro at pretending that everything was fine,” writes Mosesson. And with all that responsibility — not to mention the legion of fans, some of whom had unrealistic expectations of their hero — what choice did he have?

A life-changing intervention eventually took Bergling off the touring hamster wheel. With it came renewed inspiration and an increased focus on the search for meaning and inner peace. This is one of the key points that Mosesson illustrates: despite the tragic conclusion of Bergling’s life, he was ultimately motivated by creativity and curiosity.

He sought to understand himself more deeply through meditation and built a dependable team of inspirational collaborators. Mosesson points out that he was eager to broaden his musical horizons and eventually, he succeeded in transcending the EDM genre to become “one of the greatest songwriters in Swedish music history.”

In depicting Tim Bergling’s life in the way that he has, Måns Mosesson’s biography is a fitting tribute to an influential artist who was lost too soon. Beyond Avicii, it’s a vital account of the rise of EDM — which was no less than a musical revolution, one born from laptops rather than electric guitars. This honest and painstakingly compiled account is a vital document of a musical phenomenon and the human — with all his fragility and heart — who was at its epicentre.

Tim: The Official Biography of Avicii is out now via Hachette.

If you need support, there is always help available:

Sane Australia

Lifeline

Beyond Blue