In the latest issue of GQ, writer Jessica Pressler followed the superstar Swedish DJ Avicii around for a few nights leading up to his New Year’s Eve show. The result was a long profile that attempted to document what, exactly, today’s crop of megawatt DJs are actually doing onstage at a marquee performance, and what a once-underground culture looks like once a few years’ worth of insane money and attention have soaked in.
The article was especially notable for a few quotes where Pressler says Avicii admits that much of his set is pre-planned, and that he’s mostly just mixing volumes and a few effects onstage.
“You’re not performing like a guitar player or a singer is performing, you know what I mean? So it’s weird to be in the same type setup as one of those. ‘Cause I’m not really doing much, you know, like technically it’s not that hard,” he said. “Yeah, it’s mostly volume ... Or the faders, when you’re starting to mix into another song, you can hear both in your headphones, you get it to where you want and you pull up the fader."
The DJ, born Tim Bergling, has written a long reply to the piece that accuses Pressler of getting it wrong -- both the technical aspects of DJ’ing and the audience and the scene around contemporary electronic dance music.
“Anyone reading this article should know it’s very subjectively twisted by someone who has a) no experience of this scene or insight to a DJs profession at all and b) has no interest in really understanding it either,” Bergling wrote. “I wouldn’t adress this and bring more attention to it if I really didn’t feel that this article was truly unfair and incorrect.”
He then ripped into the piece’s portrayal of fans of EDM, which Avicii said was characterized as “constantly high, ugly, uneducated” and “dumb,” amid other phrases. “Sure people do drugs and party but that is nothing exclusive to this music genre,” he argues.
Pressler, for her part, has been having fun re-tweeting some of the nastier replies that Avicii fans have sent her way. In a message to fellow music critic Jonah Weiner on her public Twitter, she said, “Some day we’ll commiserate about why it’s so confusing to these dudes when you actually write what happened.”
Regardless of who is right about this GQ piece, it’s important that as EDM becomes entrenched in mainstream pop, fans and artists are having a conversation about what exactly constitutes a “performance” for each artist, and that fans know what’s going on before they pay for a show.