Shows, Solitude And Shitloads Of Emotion: We Interview Alison Wonderland
Getting the lowdown on her new album 'Awake.'
Since the release of her debut album in 2015, unstoppable EDM DJ, producer and singer Alison Wonderland is back and bigger than ever, having just dropped her second album Awake. Before the release, we caught up with Alison, real name Alexandra Scholler, to get the lowdown on what to expect from the new record. And, of course, we couldn't miss her secret East London pre-release show.
Thanks for talking to us! Let's get straight into it. 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.
Sounds like a pretty cool way of getting around it. It’s interesting to be able to use social media, as a producer, in such an immersive and positive way.
Yeah, I mean in terms of production, it was really good. I actually hate having a camera around me while I’m creating. But that was good. I also felt like is was important to show people my creative process when I am producing. You know, I started off as a bedroom producer and I want people that are also starting out to know that there are no rules; everyone has their own technique and there are so many ways to achieve things. So that’s how it started out and then when I was doing 'Church,' I think I decided to go online because I needed a bit of encouragement. I was kind of losing the battle a little bit. And it was a pretty good decision, I think [laughs].
Yeah, I mean, if you’ve got such a great support network behind you, why not utilise that?
Exactly. I don’t really think I thought about it like that while I was doing it. I think at the time I was just so fucking drained so I decided to go on live while I was in the studio because I didn’t know what else to do and I just needed to get my head out of going around in circles… and it ended up kind of working for me.
And you’ve come a long way since your debut in 2015 and have since been listed as the highest ever billed female DJ at Coachella. That was only three years ago. How does that feel? It feels like a pretty quick success.
Oh, there’s no quick success. I’ve been doing this for ten years. When anyone says that to me it’s like, ha! There’s been so many songs and before Alison Wonderland took off, I was producing under a different name. I had two EPs before that and then I did an EP for Alison Wonderland, and now this is my second album… So it’s been a very long journey for me and I don’t think there's any quick success. In fact, I think it’s happened for me and such a gradual rate, it doesn’t feel like anything’s happened overnight at all. I’m still just coasting along.
Still, being the first female DJ to bill so high at Coachella must feel pretty good.
Yeah, it’s been a bonus representing my gender when it has been a little bit of a struggle to be taken as seriously as men are. It’s been really good that I am starting to see more of that. And it gives other women the confidence to put themselves out there too. Because, you know, it’s not easy. And that’s an added bonus for me. I feel sort of responsible as a woman in the industry to represent my gender in a certain way and it’s important to me. I never take any show or any music I make for granted and even to this day, I’ll be making sure my set is right before I play. You know, I’m a perfectionist. And even for myself, it’s been important to represent myself correctly.
Cool. Let’s get back to the album. 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.
How different is the experience of being on stage in front of thousands and thousands of people and the immersive, solitary experience of the studio? What’s that transition like?
It’s honestly like two different parts of my brain. DJing and producing are just such different things and I don’t think people are as aware as they should be about that. When you’re DJing, you’re so kind of extroverted, giving to a crowd and letting out all this energy, but when you’re writing, you’re really internalizing and analyzing a lot of things. It’s really quite introverted. I find it really hard to write when I’m on the road, for example, because I’m in a completely different mindset… they’re just like two different extremes that happen to work well together.
Do you think it allows you to channel your emotions in different ways?
Yeah, they’re both really amazing outlets for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel most at ease either writing or performing, so it’s good that I get to do that.
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.
Thanks so much for talking to us. See you at the show!
Sweet. See ya then!
Catch the new album 'Awake' here: