You may know Alison Wonderland as an international DJ, or for her ARIA-nominated singles “Run” and “U Don’t Know”, her bold hair decisions, or maybe her IDGAF attitude. But to us, she’s Alex Sholler, an electronic DJ queen that us Aussies love to claim as one of our own (one of us, one of us).
Alex made her first official foray into the electronic scene back in 2012 when she played Parklife. Unofficially though, Alex has been kickin’ it classical style on the cello since she was young.
Whilst musically her taste has shifted to digital tunes, Alex’s work is still very much influenced by her classical background—her latest album, Awake, even features an electric cello.
This year saw Alex play huge international festivals Tomorrowland and Coachella, where she made history as the highest billed female DJ at Coachella...ever.
We sat down and spoke to Alex about music, magpies and how Americans don’t understand bindiis.
How did you get started DJing?
I was playing around the Sydney circuit with some underground bands and I kind of just discovered techno. I started DJing in underground clubs in Sydney. Literally everywhere and anywhere you can think of I was there. Every night.
I’ve always been a musician and I’ve always loved music. I started producing early on and didn’t understand that producing and DJing are connected. So, when I realised I could do both I just fell into it and fell in love with it.
I kind of loved being able to play to a room and mix different types of music and create a whole new vibe. It just made me so happy.
Tell us about your new album Awake.
I feel like this album has really changed me. It sounds cheesy, but my emotions were and are what inspires my writing. Any time I go through something I can sit and write about it. It’s a way for me to verbalise and externalise what’s going on and try to work it out.
I feel like everybody says this, but I was going through a phase of self-discovery. I felt like when writing this album was the first time I felt I had self-worth. It was like as I was writing I was discovering things and could make changes in my life. I was just having all these epiphanies.
So, writing is like your own version of therapy?
It’s the best type of therapy because there’s nobody there judging you. Like a therapist obviously doesn’t judge you, but they would have their own opinion. My pen is on paper and pen and paper don’t judge you. And you can read things back and understand them fully.
What’s your favourite part about the album?
My favourite part is probably the order. It’s all chronologically written. As a DJ who likes to create sets and moods, I find this so satisfying.
What was it like to perform at Coachella?
It was crazy. I’d only released the album two weeks before, so I was so really nervous and just wanted to bring the best set I could. I performed on the opening night in the Sahara tent and the crowd was huge, something like 20 thousand people. It was so fun.
Let’s talk about the set for a second
I put a lot into the show and worked hard with my design team to design and build the entire set and visuals from my own vision. I wanted it to feel super dramatic and for people to just forget about their phones and be sucked into what they’re seeing. I think we’re too connected these days and music is both sound and visual. It’s a whole experience.
Pls read: last night I played the @billgrahamcivic in San Francisco for my Awake tour. It holds 8500 people. I was nervous bc I didn’t think that many humans would come. I remember calling my manager Garth freaking out saying things like “I don’t know if I can do this venue etc etc”. Just before the show.. I got a call “holy shit you might sell this out” I ended up SELLING OUT the show. It is my biggest ticketed show to date ever (to be clear it was not a festival..it was my own show). I played cello, sang, played old stuff, played new stuff. I couldn’t believe my view from the stage. It’s so surreal. I just want to say thank to anyone who listens to my music and comes to my shows. I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank u for being there and keeping me going whenever I wanted to give up. I will continue to give you guys my everything. I love you with all my heart. I can’t believe I keep selling out all these type of venues it legit makes me cry when I walk into stage (ps I included a pic of my manager in here while I was doing soundcheck. He has believed in me from the start when no one else did)
Did we see a cello?
I’ve always used cello in my music but hadn’t performed it live much before. So, when I did Coachella I decided to open my set with it and I brought out my electric cello and sung live.
What’s it like being an Aussie basically living in the states?
I’m always trying to explain to my friends what Brown Cardigan is and why it’s funny. I just love it.
I try to explain to my American friends what it’s like being swooped by a magpie. I just try and explain magpies to so many people and when the explanation is coming out of my mouth it sounds honestly terrifying and many people don’t believe me. You’ll be walking to school and there will be a group of magpies waiting for you at the top of the steps just waiting to swoop you. Every day. It’s the worst.
I was trying to explain what bindiis are, because they don’t have them here. It’s so weird! I’ll be walking on the grass just waiting to get stung, but it just doesn’t happen. And ice-cream bucket hats, where you’d cut the holes for eyes and wear them around. These were good times.
Who are you listening to right now?
Joji from 88rising, he put out a new song that I’m really into. I’m also listening to a lot of underground electronic artists. There’s a kid called Blush I’m really into.
I try and search for people that aren’t as big yet. I run a radio show, so I try and play a lot of up and coming people.
Oh, and Brockhampton and Travis Scott.
What’s something your fans don’t know about you?
My fans know everything about me, which is awesome and scary at the same time. I’m pretty open on social media. I’m the same on Instagram and Twitter as I am normally.
Oh, I know! I sleep on my stomach and my face is face down. I don’t move the whole time, so people have to come and check I’m still breathing.
Any last words?
I just want to say thanks. Because I’m playing so much around the world I get nervous to return but Australia because I don’t want to let anybody down with my acts and shows. But you guys are the reason I’m able to travel the world playing my music and I’m just so grateful.
Check out the dates for Alison's new Awake tour over here. She's hitting up Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in Nov/Dec.
Image credit: EDMTunes