Laidback Luke says he feared for Avicii’s life in heartfelt op-ed
Laidback Luke has penned another op-ed for Billboard, this time addressing Avicii’s retirement and the darker sides of DJ superstardom. The highly publicized retirement decision was handed down last month after lingering health issues finally forced the Swede to make a lifestyle change.
Luke’s article begins with the story of his role as a mentor for Tim Bergling, the young bedroom producer we would later come to know as Avicii. “Tim was one of the kids on my website forum back in the day, with whom I would run through demos and give production tips,” says Luke. “His first big hit as Avicii was “Ryu” on my label, Mixmash Records. He continues:
“The pressure on these kids to perform is intense…The first few years of heavy touring can have a major impact on a person’s life, health and sanity. DJs on tour average about four hours of sleep per night, and with drinking, afterparties, adulation and everything that comes with it, it’s easy to lose oneself.
They make many new friends — at least for the moment — and some find another new friend: alcohol or whichever vice helps them deal with feeling displaced all the time. The pressures of being on the road as a DJ are constant and relentless. Unlike pop, rock or rap, they don’t tour in cycles — they’re always on tour, virtually every week, sometimes every day.”
The piece continues as Luke describes his most recent encounter with the young prodigy in August of last year. “He looked terrible,” he says. “He gave me a very sincere but oh-so-tired smile.” It was after this encounter, he claims to have realized Bergling might not make it through his troubles.
“At that moment, I envisioned my friend, now 26, joining the infamous ’27 club’ of music and film stars who died at that age. It sounds horrible but it’s the truth, and I can’t take back the overwhelming sense of frustration I felt.
It was like watching Amy, the recent Amy Winehouse documentary, and suddenly realizing that you too were laughingly belting out her lyrics — ‘They tried to make me go to rehab/I said no no no’ — while we all watched the spectacle, seeing tragedy unfold and not doing a damn thing.”
Luke heartbreakingly recounts a recent event in which internet trolls lambasted the young producer over his gaunt, exhausted appearance in a new round of press shots. The whole exposition is gut wrenching and it’s hard not to agree when Luke sums up his piece by lauding the bravery of a largely in-demand public figure doing what’s best for them as a person.
His final statements are both a call to action for seasoned artists and a reminder for those who may just be starting out in the business.
“Hopefully this will start a conversation about more reasonable expectations and will encourage all of us to be more responsible. We, the generation of seasoned artists, need to recognize our role in guiding the next generation by pointing out the pitfalls, offering an ear, a shoulder and sometimes a kick in the ass too.
We all have to stop looking away. It’s often said that the brightest light casts the darkest shadow — so be brave, and don’t be afraid to walk away from that light.”
The full text of the op-ed is available at Billboard.