“Can you put that on silent?” Doe-eyed Alex Scholler relays to someone in her humid artist trailer about their phone. “Yeah, I just..sorry I lost my train of thought. I’m really tired.”
Scholler, aka Aussie DJ and producer Alison Wonderland, was due for her first EDC Las Vegas performance. After just wrapping up a tour in Australia and New Zealand, along with making her U.S. debut at Coachella promoting her first full-length album Run, she may have admitted she was tired but her passion on stage said otherwise.
Now that she’s a staple in the U.S. summer festival circuit, Wonderland still has a long summer ahead of her. Shortly after her EDC performance, she was whisked away to the backwoods of Michigan for Electric Forest, and then earned herself a spot playing her unique mix of house, trap and bass music at Lollapalooza. The festival invites keep piling up for the classically trained cellist-turned-DJ. Her fame in Australia for dabbling in unconventional performances, like having warehouse parties which she’d personally invite all her fans via text to a secretion location, is what makes Wonderland rather unique to a U.S. EDM audience used to a certain type of artist.
Americans were singing the songs she didn’t think they would know at the Sahara Tent at Coachella. They were tweeting her during EDC saying things like, “you were my favorite set the entire weekend.” Not bad for a summer of firsts.
Usually going nuts on stage in a retro Adidas T-shirt, sneaker wedges and knee-high socks, Wonderland has this incredible habit of making every stage she performs at sorta her bitch.
I know it was your first time playing at Coachella this year. How was it?
It was actually my first show in America! Coachella was amazing. The tent was full and it was earlier in the day, so it was completely unexpected and people knew my songs. I was super nervous. I was having nightmares before actually, and I was thinking, “oh what if I turn up and 20 people are there and no one knows what I’m doing?”
And now you’re playing EDC for your first time.
I don’t know what to expect. I really on purpose tried to avoid researching EDC too much. I’m really excited because obviously it’s a massive festival dedicated to electronic music, and I just hope that the people out there are super open minded and I’ve heard they are, so I’m really excited to play all my stuff and experiment a little bit and see what happens. I love feeding off crazy energy so I hope it’s like that.
I thought your warehouse tour this year was amazing. What was the vibe of the tour like?
We had five and a half thousand people in a warehouse and we were doing every single state in the country. I even did New Zealand this year. It didn’t even feel like a dance concert, it felt like a punk show. Everyone was swinging off the ceilings and going mental. I loved it because I’m really about a crowd having a sense of community instead of being there just to be seen.
When you look up at the lineup for EDC and even Coachella, there aren’t that many female artists. What are some of the challenges of being in this industry as a woman?
I don’t really find any challenge. I think the moment you make it an issue it’s an issue. The less I talk about it the less it’s an issue for me. I’m just doing my thing and being honest with what I do. I work really hard and I don’t think it should matter, and when you’re up there performing you’re an artist regardless of gender. Hopefully other women do see the women that are succeeding in this industry, and have the confidence in themselves to do it.
What was your first experience with Playboy?
Oh, I have a good one. I went on a treasure hunt thing when I was little and they would give you clues. My parents and I went and did this activity when I was kid, and we had to go and get all these things around Sydney and bring it to this secret place. And one of the things was to get your child to go into your news agency and buy a Playboy. My dad let me look at it, and I thought it was cool because I didn’t have boobs! I was like “wow.”
What’s one song of yours that always gets the crowd going?
“I want you” always goes off. It’s the song that I guess got me first attention overseas, apart from my Diplo and Friends remix.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Yeah! I jump up and down in a corner and I can’t speak to anyone for a half and hour. I savor up all my energy and I chew green spearmint gum. I just have to hype myself up, but I cannot speak to anyone. I’m completely socially awkward before I play because I’m in my own head.
What’s one of your biggest pet peeves?
People eating bananas really loudly and you can hear the watery sound in their mouth. I hate it so much.
That is such a specific, amazing thing and I will never be able to eat a banana again without thinking about that.
[Laughs] I know right?
What was the first song you knew all the words to?
Octopus’s Garden by The Beatles. I dressed up as an octopus for dress-ups in Kindergarten, and my mom made me a paper mache costume for it and none of the kids got the reference.
What’s your favorite thing to do after-hours in Vegas?
This is my first time in Vegas! So I don’t know.
What do you normally do after shows then?
I party. Yeah, if I don’t have an early flight I’ll party. I kinda just want to see where the night takes me. I don’t want to have these crazy expectations.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about being a DJ?
I mean touring isn’t super glamorous [laughs]. I hardly sleep on tour because of all the early flights and traveling. I also think people saying “button pushers.” That sucks because I really do work hard on my craft, and there’s a lot more that goes into it like intuition, understanding tracks and making sure that they flow and are in the right cue and that the beats are meshing well together. I try to use hot cues, I scratch, I do a lot of things to try and make it interesting.“
And then there’s being a producer versus being a DJ…
The whole "DJ producer” thing is weird for me because I think they are two completely different things. I think the two things are more different than most people think they are. Writing and producing is a very, for me, narcissistic thing and that’s not a bad word for it, but you really have to get into your own head if you want to come up with something from an honest place. And then as a DJ you have to look outwards, it’s quite selfless, and you have to give yourself because if you’re not getting into what you’re doing, who else is going to get into it? I often find it hard when I am in a period of writing and producing and making music, to then go and play that night because my head is just in such a weird place.
I write and produce all my records. All the top lines, all the lyrics are all mine. That was a big risk I took because in Australia I was known for a while as a DJ, and I was producing under a different name. I didn’t actually have a face to that name because I didn’t want any preconceived opinions. Then when I finally started making music under Alison Wonderland, I was nervous about it because I legitimately sit in my room and produce and write. I also chose to write songs for this record, not necessarily club jams, and that was another risk I took because it was how I have always naturally written. Everything I’ve done in the past has purely been from a very passionate place. I think people can smell bullshit and I hope the fact that I really love what I do communicates to people. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be miserable.