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In micro-/nanomachined devices and systems, aluminum nitride (AlN) thin films are widely used due to their piezoelectric properties. This work evaluates the potential of modifying the interface between the AlN thin film and the silicon (Si) wafer serving as bottom electrode for optimized crystallographic orientation and, hence, improved electrical and piezoelectric properties. The films were analyzed using temperature-dependant leakage current measurements, transmission electron microscopy, and x-ray diffraction. By preconditioning of the Si substrate surface applying sputter etching prior to film deposition, leakage current levels are substantially decreased and an increased (002) orientation of the AlN grains is observed.