ALISON WONDERLAND: DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
With her contagious effervescence and imaginative foresight, Alison Wonderland is dance music's newest badass on the block.
There is a fine line between trying and doing. Alex Scholler, aka Alison Wonderland, is undoubtedly doing … and on her own terms. Effortlessly cool and blissfully self-aware, the young "love trap" luminary's multi-dimensional talent continues to amass swarms of international revellers who are magnetically drawn to her seductively electrifying vibes. Typically adorned in an oversized graphic tee and knee-high socks that casually sync with her blonde tussled hair, Scholler recalls the opportunity she got just one year ago doing a mix on BBC Radio 1's Diplo & Friends, virtually propelling her career after years of hard work seemingly overnight.
"I think that drew people's attention to what I was doing because I put a lot of effort into that mix," she says. "I just put it up on SoundCloud and two days later, it was just serendipitous timing, and 'I Want You' came out and people were listening to it and that's kind of what motivated me to write a record. I tried my hardest to make it completely what I am as a DJ and producer."
Born in Sydney, Australia, Alex's zealous determination grew its wings starting from her childhood as a trained musician and classical cellist. The intense discipline of years of daily practice transformed her into a skilled virtuoso, which she credits as a primary factor in her long-term success.
"I hyper focus and I have ever since I was a really young kid. I've kind of always known," states Scholler. "I would sit down and practice for hours when I played the cello which I now do with this. I think the more you think about what you've been told, the less good it is for you. I think the more I think about harmonies and chords and tones and all that - the theory part of it - the more it stops you from writing something that comes from quite a primal place. I think that's where you should write music … to be a producer you need to be a musician, 100-percent."
Before her start spinning till the wee hours of the morning at underground nights in Sydney, Alison's budding passion for electronic culture was ignited upon hearing Swedish duo The Knife's 2006 critically acclaimed ‘Silent Shout.’ "That kind of changed my life," she admits. "It made me go 'OMG. I wish I made this. How do I make this?' I just started learning about electronic music and how it can evoke emotion." Inspired to quit her call center desk job, Scholler scrounged up enough money to buy a laptop and "crap version of Ableton" from a producer friend and used his drum samples as her self-taught entryway into producing.
Noting how far her sound has evolved from those bedroom production days, she nostalgically posts her early musical efforts from her former teen alias Whyte Fang on SoundCloud, pulling back the curtain for fans to witness her sonic growth. "That's where I actually became comfortable with production and I also realized it wasn't about being a scientific nerd to understand and produce music," states Scholler. "I was listening to my early stuff the other day and was like, 'Oh, God!' I had a Will Smith a cappella, like a repeated one, and I made a nu disco beat," Alex pauses for a moment of hysterical snort-induced laughter. "OMG! I just snorted! It was really bad but, hey, I made it."
FIRST IMPRESSION IS THE ONLY IMPRESSION
Alison's goofy and party-hard persona is on full display for her recently released Billboard number one debut LP ‘Run’, featuring notable collaborations with Mad Decent's Djemba Djemba and Lido. From infectiously crunk-style heavy hitters like ‘I Want U’ and 'Carry On' featuring Johnny Nelson and GANZ to more chilled trap records 'Run' and 'Already Gone' alongside Brave and Lido, the exemplary body of work is the kind of first impression artists who plan on longevity should follow. The conceptualization process doesn't always come easy though as song writing inspiration is often reliant on her moodiness.
"Fuck that! I honestly have to be either super happy, super depressed, super frustrated, or super excited and motivated," details Alison. "I have to be feeling extreme. Who knows, maybe that's an artist thing. To create is a very narcissistic thing where you have to really get into your own mind and I think it's like the complete opposite of being a DJ." Noticeably, those extreme emotions can be spotted in her visually titillating music videos for 'Run' and 'U Don't Know', the latter featuring long-time friend and actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse or "McLovin" as the world will eternally refer to him.
With Alison bound and duct taped, the two portray volatile lovers rather intrigued by a game of twisted catch-me-if-you-can foreplay which she says got a bit too real on set. "I was genuinely scared in that video, I'll tell you that right now," she recounts with nervous laughter. "I was literally duct taped for hours, they kept repeatedly ripping off duct tape and my mouth had like a rash over it or a red beard. I just forgot about everything and tried to actually feel kidnapped. We were driving up the mountain and Chris was actually shouting at me. It was quite scary."
Another intimidating moment came this past April. It was not fear for the release of her album but for her very first gig on American soil at the iconic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. Knowing the pivotal platform she'd been granted, Alison feared nobody would give her set a shot.
She vividly reminisces about the high-pressure performance: "I was having nightmares. My friend was standing in the crowd on the first weekend and there was no one there before I started, and I text him like, 'What if no one shows up? What am I doing? Why am I here?' He was like, ‘Relax and press whatever buttons you press.’ Then the tent turned out to be full and everyone was super positive and I couldn't believe everyone knew my music. The important people in my life were there, and it was just a really amazing experience."
Alison's performance style doesn't rely on psychedelic jumbo screen visuals, but an immersive communal aesthetic that sees her leaving the booth and interacting often with the crowd. A technique brought to light by critics who allude to the notion that she's not spinning live, which she subsequently responded to in her sets by adding a live GoPro that films her as she performs so fans and naysayers alike can clearly see that she is. "I started doing it because I was getting doubted … about what I was doing.It frustrated me," she states, clearly annoyed.
"And that fucked with me because I practice a lot and I put everything into this. I know how to DJ and have been doing it for a long time. People have to understand there are techniques to doing things … people need to know that DJing can be a live show."Alison continues, "I think standing at a desk with a silver back of a laptop with a big Apple symbol lit up in front of your face is going to completely disconnect your performance with the audience. I need to connect with the crowd so I made an effort for all of us to see what we're all doing."
Much of the backlash is largely credited to the double standards that plague women not just in music, but society as a whole. Alison initially treaded lightly with a more covered up sense of style to not be pigeonholed by a certain image, particularly in regards to the over-sexualization of female musicians.
"Originally I performed like that to not make it about my appearance," she comments. "I didn't want to make it about boobs honestly; I wanted to make it about music. It was to get taken more seriously starting out because it was not necessarily the easiest part back then for a woman." She seems to be doing just fine in her baggy print tall tees and an extra long sock, which she half-jokingly says hides the "bruises all over my shins from jumping around."
Fans who have experienced an Alison Wonderland party know all too well the mayhem that ensues. Her most creative endeavor being the sold-out Wonderland Warehouse Project, a vision she and her team devised in various cities across Australia where she would post clues inviting her fans to meet up at random locations to then be driven to one of her massive secret warehouse parties. When asked if US fans could expect to see the concept stateside, she teases, "You'll see!"
Alison Wonderland's time is now. While her success may appear swift, she rebuts, "It didn't happen over night, I'll tell you that much." She overcomes all hurdles with a voracious appetite for both music and life. A young, identifiable woman whose captivating energy and daring confidence make her trip down the rabbit hole more like a heroic live journey.
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