With a sound as big as her name is punny, Alison Wonderland is a Sydney-based EDM producer and DJ who began her music career on the opposite side of the spectrum, as a classically trained cellist. Born Alexandra Sholler, she spent a few years DJ’ing before releasing her debut single, “Get Ready,” in 2013; then in 2014 she signed with the EMI label and released the ironically titled Calm Down. The EP earned accolades from tastemakers like Annie Mac and Diplo, and it featured the hit single “I Want U.” A year later she released her debut album, Run, which featured guest spots from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Lido, and Slumberjack. The DJ celebrated the release with a series of launch parties at different strip bars dotted across Australia. Released in 2017, the single “Happy Place” revealed the first offering from Wonderland’s follow-up album, Awake. An additional pair of 2018 singles, “Church” and “No,” preceded the album’s April release. The set was her second to top the U.S. dance chart and land in the Top 10 in her native Australia. In the beginning of 2019, she joined fellow electronic producer Dillon Francis for an American tour, and the pair released the joint single “Lost My Mind.” She followed with the single “Peace.”
Catch Alison Wonderland At We Are Connected (Pecatu Indah Resort)
Could you tell us a bit more about how you got your start in the industry?
I was a classically trained cellist; I thought that was going to be my profession. Then somehow that completely changed; it was a weirdly organic thing though. I was studying in Europe and I came back to Australia because I had kind of fallen out of love with it. I’d be playing a show and there’d be the crowd in front of me and no-one would be reacting, it’s just old people unwrapping candy. I never felt any type of spark when I played and so I actually gave that up and I came back and was like “fuck this, I don’t know what I want to do.” So, I started playing in bands, producing and DJing and I didn’t think I’d get here with it – I was literally doing it to stay sane and happy. Seeing the crowd interaction and being able to control the vibe of a room was so interesting to me and so fun, you couldn’t take me off the decks I’d be there for like eight hours sometimes.
How have you seen representation of women within your area of the industry change over the years?
It has 100% developed. It was very hard when I was starting out for women – it still is very very hard for women – and I said this the other day, no-one will ever understand what it’s like to be a woman in this industry except for a woman in this industry. You can try and empathise with it but you’ll just never see the subtleties that are kind of against you. But in saying that, I think it’s really important to just keep powering through, keep working hard and let your art speak for you and I think that the more women there are representing electronic music at a higher level the more it’s going to give other women the confidence to put themselves out there. I am seeing it happen a lot more. When I saw a couple of people in my field starting to get attention it gave me more confidence to put myself out there as a musician within that genre. It’s such a crazy thing, because when I’m up on stage I’ve never felt female or male or anything at all, it’s never once entered my mind.
Tell us about your new album ?
Well it is my second album. Writing an album is a really crazy process; it basically sucks out all of your emotions [laughs]. It’s the only thing you can really think about when you’re making it. This one’s called Awake. It’s got 14 tracks and I’m super excited to release it. And it’s happening so soon, which is so crazy.
And there are plenty of collaborations on there too. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yeah, I worked on tracks with Trippie Redd, Chief Keef, and a guy called Buddy which is awesome. And then I have BLESSUS and SLUMBERJACK featuring on a couple of tracks too. And I mean, yeah, I was super, super stoked to work with all these people because I’ve known a lot of them for a while, so it was super good to keep that going. Especially with SLUMBERJACK because I actually did a collaboration with them on my last album as well. Weirdly enough, when we made the track that’s on this one, it was done in a day in a kitchen in LA, so that was really funny.
How does involving a second person change the whole process?
It is different, obviously, because I think when I’m doing stuff on my own, I’m vibing, you know. It’s super concentrated and I’m not really aware of anything that’s going on around me, to the point where I forget to eat or sleep… But when you’re collaborating with someone, it’s great. Because not only are you bouncing ideas off another person, which is awesome, but I feel like you learn a lot from watching another person’s process as well as your own. So I feel like every time I get in the studio with someone, I learn something or I take something from it.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
Erm… no. I don’t. I love all my tracks the same. Like children [laughs]. I mean, I do… but then it keeps changing so I don’t really want to say.
Which was the most challenging?
Oh, the most challenging one to make was ‘Church’ because it actually almost didn’t make the album. It was the first song that I wrote and the last song I finished producing. I couldn’t get the music right… the whole of my album process, I was struggling with ‘Church.’ There were so many different versions of it and I was like, Fuck this, we’re cutting ‘Church,’ it’s not making the album, it’s not right. I’ve tried too many things and I can’t hear it anymore. And as I was handing in my album, something in the back of my head was just telling me to maybe have another go at it and so I ended up going on Instagram Live and producing the music with my followers watching for some of it. And it kind of helped me get out of that rut… because I don’t know, I felt encouraged or something, I’m not sure. But yeah, looking back now, I’m really glad I handed that song in.
What influences are going into this new album?
I don’t know… because of the type of artist I am, I’m not really influenced by things going on around me. I’m kind of just heavily influenced by my emotions. I think the more you live, that gets subconsciously put into your music. I think possibly… I wasn’t as worried or scared to take risks on this one, you know, and that’s been really cool. Like, this song’s gonna be more pop and I’m okay with that, or this song’s gonna be more experimental and I’m really excited for that, instead of worrying. It was like, well, you know, whatever happens, happens.
After the release of the new album, is there anything else in the pipeline?
Honestly, I don’t know. You know, I tweeted this the other day and people always ask where I see myself in the future but I don’t even know what I’m going to do tonight. I always go with what I feel and put all of myself into that. I think it’s important not to focus on preconceived ideas of the future. For me, anyway, maybe other people are different. I don’t really like to guess where I’m going to be, because even six months ago, I wouldn’t know where I am now. So… it’s an interesting question, I wish I was able to answer it better but I’m not gonna put that out there. I’m just gonna do my best and just grow as best I can. Whatever path that takes me on, is what it takes me on.
And finally, if you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Severely fucked up [laughs]. I’ve thought about it so many times and I’m just like… I’m terrible at everything. For me, writing keeps me sane. I feel I wouldn’t be a very balanced human without it.