Devastating new details emerge about DJ Avicii’s last days, new doc reveals

Tran Hanh
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June 11, 2024

Avicii was so strung out on painkillers towards the end of his life that he looked like a ‘zombie’, a new documentary reveals.

The late Swedish DJ and EDM producer, who killed himself in 2018 aged 28, overdid it so much that the blacks of his eyes looked like ‘pins’, said Jesse Waits, who became like an older brother to him.

During one dinner Avicii was ‘not there’ even though his eyes were ‘wide open’, Waits said in ‘I’m Tim’, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday.

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The film features Avicii, born Tim Bergling, himself giving a haunting narration from an interview given late in his career.

He says that he suffered from crippling anxiety and admits that ‘I was killing myself’ with his relentless touring.

Documentary 'I'm Tim', which premiered at the Tribeca Film festival on Sunday, features Avicii himself giving a haunting narration from an interview given late in his career

Documentary ‘I’m Tim’, which premiered at the Tribeca Film festival on Sunday, features Avicii himself giving a haunting narration from an interview given late in his career

Avicii grew up in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and was so sheltered that he spent most of his first 19 years in a five block radius

Avicii grew up in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and was so sheltered that he spent most of his first 19 years in a five block radius

Avicii’s dream was not having to be ‘grinding constantly’ and pushing himself to work ever harder but he couldn’t stop.

In a bone chilling moment one of Avicii’s most famous collaborators says that SOS, the first single from his posthumous album Tim, was a secret cry for help.

Aloe Blacc, who sang on Avicii’s mega hit ‘Wake Me Up’, said that it was a warning they heard ‘way too late.’

The documentary, which got rapturous applause at Tribeca from a theater full of Avicii fans, features appearances by some of Avicii’s most famous collaborators including disco legend Nile Rogers and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

They reflect on the toll that touring took on Avicii, who became famous before he was 20 and performed more than 800 shows in six years, sometimes playing in two cities in one night.

But he struggled with mental health issues, drug and alcohol use and was forced to stop touring in 2016 at the age of 26.

Avicii was found dead in the city of Muscat, Oman, after reportedly cutting himself with a broken wine bottle and bleeding to death.

After his death, his family released an open letter saying that he was an ‘overperforming perfectionist.’

They said that he ‘could not go on any more’ and ‘wanted peace’ for himself.

He struggled with mental health issues and drug and alcohol use while performing and was forced to stop touring in 2016 at the age of 26

He struggled with mental health issues and drug and alcohol use while performing and was forced to stop touring in 2016 at the age of 26

Documentary ‘Avicii: true stories’ reveals Swedish DJ’s true self

‘I’m Tim’ details how Avicii grew up in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and was so sheltered that he spent most of his first 19 years in a five block radius, which included his school.

In the film he says even back then he was ‘insecure’ and only had three or four close friends.

Avicii admits he ‘wasn’t a nice person’ to other kids and blamed his anxieties. He changed his ways one summer and became a people pleaser.

At school his friends remembered him as a computer geek and photos shown in the documentary depict Avicii with severe acne in his youth.

At school he met Filip Akesson, the DJ known as Philgood, and the two of them began making music together, skipping school to spend hours in Avicii’s bedroom.

Avicii began uploading his music to house music blogs and soon he caught the notice of Swedish promoter Arash Pournouri, who promised to make him a star.

Given Avicii’s astonishing gifts for creating a melody, within a year he was already an in-demand DJ.

As he says in the film: ‘I went from being young, from school, to touring.’

One of Avicii’s early hits was Alcoholic with the now prophetic refrain: ‘Call it what you wanna call it, I’m a f****** alcoholic.’

He chose the name Avicii because Tim Bergling was already taken on MySpace, the early social media platform, and so was Avici, the name for one of the 28 hells in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the beginning the touring was a dream and Avicii says that it ‘didn’t feel real’. He was ‘young and hungry’ and loved the lifestyle.

He had a rapid rise to success and by the time 'Wake Me Up', the lead single from his debut album, True, was released in 2013, he was asking almost $750,000 to play live

He had a rapid rise to success and by the time ‘Wake Me Up’, the lead single from his debut album, True, was released in 2013, he was asking almost $750,000 to play live

Emotional moment bells ring out songs by late Swedish DJ Avicii

Avicii’s career went up another notch with the release of Levels in 2011 which became an international hit.

And by the time Wake Me Up, the lead single from his debut album, True, was released in 2013, he was asking almost $750,000 to play live.

Yet appearing on stage was not easy for Avicii, who was naturally introverted.

In the film Avicii says: ‘I realized how stiff I was when I wasn’t drinking so I found the magical cure of having a couple of drinks before going on to loosen you up.’

‘I just took everything on that I could. I didn’t realize you could do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday but once that opened up you could tour the whole year.’

‘I was killing myself. The touring went even more crazy because the fees were getting higher… everything went so fast from that point on.’

The toll on Avicii’s health began to mount and in January 2012 he was taken to hospital with pancreatitis, a condition caused by excessive drinking which is normally seen in middle aged men.

Doctors told him to stay sober for six months or his stomach would not heal.

Writing in his diaries, Avicii said he had a ‘hard time accepting never drinking again’ and admits he only listened to the doctors who told him to drink in moderation.

In the days after his death, it emerged that he had been dating Czech-American model Tereza Kačerová

In the days after his death, it emerged that he had been dating Czech-American model Tereza Kačerová

In letter, she revealed he was a doting step-father and planned children of his own

In letter, she revealed he was a doting step-father and planned children of his own

She also posted a video of photographs from their time together, showing Avicii's close relationship with her son Lucas

She also posted a video of photographs from their time together, showing Avicii’s close relationship with her son Lucas

In February 2013, Avicii was rushed to hospital in Australia after his pancreas became inflamed for a second time.

He lost a significant amount of weight which left friends and his family deeply concerned.

Avicii says in the film that he knew his decision not to rest and recover from pancreatitis was going to ‘bite me in the a**’ but he did it anyway.

He says: ‘I was a lot happier before I was famous than after I was famous. I started feeling very unhappy. I was on autopilot mode. I started really f***** wondering why I was feeling like this. I had been acting away because this is how you’re supposed to be acting.’

‘I think I didn’t give myself enough time to figure out if there was something I wanted to change.’

Waits, the managing partner of Las Vegas nightclub XS, tells the film that Avicii ‘lost himself’ amid his success.

Waits says that he regarded Avicii as a ‘younger brother’ and encouraged him to take a new, more personal direction in his career.

The result was songs like Wake Me Up which had a bluegrass influence and became a worldwide hit.

But there were bumps along the road, including Avicii’s infamous 2013 set at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami where EDM fans were shocked to see him playing songs from his new album Stories with a live band.

The toll on Avicii's health began to mount and in January 2012 he was taken to hospital with pancreatitis

The toll on Avicii’s health began to mount and in January 2012 he was taken to hospital with pancreatitis

Waits said that Avicii was ‘really broken about it’ and refused to leave his room. ‘He was shattered, looking at the Twitter and Instagram feeds’, he says.

In the following years, Avicii was taken to hospital twice more and needed his stomach pumped for drinking too much and taking prescription drugs.

An intervention by his family left Avicii initially ‘furious’, his father Klas tells the film, but he agreed to go into a $13,000 a week rehab center in Ibiza.

Still, Waits was left deeply disturbed after one dinner in Stockholm where Avicii seemed out of it.

Waits told his friend he was making more money in one gig than some people make in their lives and had a supportive family. From the outside there was no clue of Avicii’s inner turmoil, Waits says.

He tells the moviemakers: ‘I realized he was taking painkillers. I grew up with family that did drugs and I saw when people do opiates their eyes change. The pin, the little black parts of their eyes.’

Stockholm city centre flooded by fans in tribute to DJ Avici

‘His eyes were wide open like a zombie, he was not there. At the dinner, his demeanor changed and his eyes dilated.’

‘That changed everything, those pills change how you act and how you feel. You wake up feeling like s*** and have to have another one to feel good.’

‘For him it was to suppress his anxiety but it just created more anxiety.’

In the most powerful parts of the film, Avicii describes in detail his struggles and says that he was ‘so anxious’ all the time.

‘I could feel it physically’, he says. ‘It was like a stone in my guts, and it was constant, a constant emotion.’

Avicii tried psychiatrists, doctors and various diets, he says, but it was all ‘stupid stuff’ that wasn’t the real problem.

‘It’s really hard. It got to a point where I didn’t like it (touring and making music) any more.’

He went on: ‘It’s me trying to be something that isn’t me. The dream would be to be completely at ease with what I have already and not have any aspirations to do a billion other things, not be grinding constantly… then I’ll be happy.’

‘I want to be free from the ideas of living life. That kept me from living a life… that would be life for me, being content.’

In the following years, Avicii was taken to hospital twice more and needed his stomach pumped for drinking too much and taking prescription drugs

In the following years, Avicii was taken to hospital twice more and needed his stomach pumped for drinking too much and taking prescription drugs

Avicii brands guidance from his record label that he had to capture the audience’s attention in five seconds as ‘stupid.’

With his voice becoming audibly angry, he complains how he was ‘thrown into an industry where it’s about chasing how many views you have, how many comments – it’s become almost impossible to stay away from.’

He says: ‘You can’t have a meeting with somebody in the industry without them mentioning 60 times different statistics and why this is better than that.’

Avicii’s decision to stop touring in 2016 led to him being the happiest he had been since he was 18, he says.

He was trying out transcendental meditation and friends said that he was in a good place making music with new collaborators.

But Avicii’s demons never left him and he told friends he was still in great pain.

The day before he died, a fellow traveler in Oman called his father to express concern over Avicii’s meditation practices.

He said Avicii was crying, not speaking, refusing to eat and sitting in the blistering sun.

Among Avicii’s final messages to friends including one unsettling text which said: ‘The shedding of the soul is the last attachment, before it restarts!’

In the documentary, Aloe Blacc, the singer on Wake Me Up, says that Avicii could have been using his music to say just how hard life was for him.

He says: ‘I wonder what made him write the lyrics to SOS, what was he thinking when he wrote those first lines?’

The lyrics to the song begin ‘Can you hear me? SOS, help me put my mind to rest.’

Confronting footage shows Avicii unwell in an Australian hospital

In the documentary, Aloe Blacc, the singer on 'Wake Me Up', says that Avicii could have been using his music to say just how hard life was for him

In the documentary, Aloe Blacc, the singer on ‘Wake Me Up’, says that Avicii could have been using his music to say just how hard life was for him

Blacc says: ‘It seemed as though we had this call for help and I’m receiving this letter from Tim way too late.’

Avicii’s suicide shocked the EDM community and in the days after his death, it emerged that he had been dating Czech-American model Tereza Kačerová, and was a doting step-father to her young son.

In the statement released by his family, they said that he ‘battled thoughts about the meaning of life and happiness.’

They said: ‘When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to feel good and be able to do what he loved the most – music.’

‘Tim was not made for the machinery he ended up in, he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans, but shunned the spotlight,’ the statement read.

‘Tim, you will forever be loved and missed. Who you were and your music will carry on the memory of you.’

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