In April, shock waves hit the music world when news broke that electronic DJ Avicii had committed suicide. Many fans were left wondering what this worldwide star had been dealing with privately.
In 2016, he retired from touring and was seemingly happy, making new music, and focusing on himself. But as the documentary Avicii: True Stories reveals, Avicii (born Tim Bergling) had been struggling with mental health issues for years.
Avicii: True Stories was originally released in October of 2017, but was removed from Netflix after Avicii’s death. The film begins streaming again on Dec. 28. In the aftermath of his passing, it takes on an eerie new meaning and helps explain his life leading up to his suicide.
Shot over four years by film director Levan Tsikurishvili, the documentary follows the Swedish DJ from his humble beginnings to stardom. At the start, you see Avicii as an introverted kid that simply liked making music. Then in 2011, the progressive house single “Levels” became an EDM hit, and Avicii became a worldwide name. He started getting booked for more and more gigs, and he loved it.
“Every show was like a party,” Avicii says in the documentary. “I didn’t realize before that you could do Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Once that opened up, you could tour a whole year, and that’s kind of what we did.”
From 2008-2012, Avicii performed 550 shows around the world. But he struggled with anxiety and would drink before every set to settle his nerves.
In 2012, Avicii was hospitalized for acute pancreatitis, due in part to his excessive drinking. Instead of taking the time to rest, he left the hospital as soon as he could and began working again. The film shows Avicii was a severe workaholic, and his managers encouraged his unhealthy exertion and lifestyle. The more Avicii toured and dropped new music, the more money they made.
His schedule took a toll on him, which is apparent in Avicii’s physical appearance throughout the film. He becomes extremely skinny, with dark bags under his eyes. This is especially evident when juxtaposed against his more recent interviews, where he appears much healthier. He almost looks like a different person.
There’s one particularly disturbing part where Avicii sits in a car talking to his tour manager about setting up interviews, an upcoming show, etc. All the while, Avicii is in obvious pain. His eyes twitch and slightly roll back into his heads. He’s pale, with a faraway look in his eyes.
Through this, Avicii continued performing globally and making new music.
The documentary shows just how serious and potentially unhealthy touring can be for an artist. Avicii didn’t know how to balance work and self-care. His managers were money hungry and self-interested. With no one looking out for Avicii’s best interest, not even himself, the combination of alcohol, little rest, hectic schedules, and avarice compounded.
Eventually, Avicii realizes his drinking is connected to the stress and anxiety of performing, and announces his retirement from touring. He had already booked gigs for the summer, however, and his manager, Ash Pornouri, tells Avicii that those commitments needed to be met
Then, in another cry for help caught on camera, Avicii begs to cancel them all. He says he'd be filled with dread and stress days before he was even set to perform. But Pornouri doesn’t listen, and by the time Avicii plays his last show, his performance tally is up to 813.
In the media, the life of DJs is glamorized. Constant parties, money, and sex. But, Avicii: True Stories shows a different side: issues with mental and physical health, the stress of being a global star, and what happens when you let the unrelenting lifestyle consume you.
Avicii: True Stories will be available on Netflix Fri., Dec. 28.