From cellist in the Sydney Youth Orchestra to world touring trap star, Alison Wonderland has had quite the journey over the past few years. The petit producer has quietly amassed a large and loyal fanbase thanks to her party-ready sound, relatable persona and quirky sense of style. With her debut LP ‘Run’ having been released earlier this year, Wonderland is now selling out stadium-sized venues in Australia and the US, but has only just completed her first European tour. We caught up with her just ahead of her London leg to find out more about her journey, her weirdest t-shirts, collaborating with Jimmy Edgar, and dealing with a cold Christmas for the first time.
So how have you been finding your European tour so far in general, and have you visited Europe many times before?
Well, I’ve only had one date so far, which was in Copenhagen. I was going to play Paris, but unfortunately that got cancelled due to the awful circumstances. But this is actually the first time I’ve toured Europe, so I’m really excited. I love Europe, I’ve travelled here a lot just as a tourist before. So it’s awesome, and London is sick.
Oh yeah? So what are you loving most about London on this particular visit?
Well I’m from Australia, and it doesn’t get this cold there, but I love getting to wear a big jacket. It’s not too windy at the moment either. The other thing that’s really cool is the how everyone has done their shop fronts for Christmas.
Yeah! Have you been to Selfridges yet?
Yeah, it was so cool! I love at night time when all the fairy lights… what do you guys call them?
Yeah, I love when the Christmas lights are on. It’s just so festive. I’ve never had a cold Christmas, so it’s amazing to be around during this time – London is awesome. And there’s so many places to discover and do things – I really like Shoreditch.
Yeah, so how are you spending your days on this tour? I read somewhere that you haven’t really brought your usual crew along with you.
Yeah, I’m basically by myself. I’m just chilling, meeting up with a couple of friends here and there, and there seem to be a lot of people I know in town at the moment. So yeah, I feel really lucky to be able to hang out with them.
So have you done any cultural or touristy stuff yet?
No, but I really need to go to Platform 9 3/4! Aside from that I’m just enjoying doing some shopping, hanging out, and I love all the parks in London too. It’s so beautiful here.
So you mentioned Australia, do you feel like growing up there influenced your sound at all, and do you think that there is some sort of Australian style emerging that you might be able to pinpoint?
I mean, I don’t know if it was growing up there that influenced my sound. I think the thing that influences my sound the most is my emotions, and the bands I loved when I was first getting into music. In terms of growing as an artist, I think life experience and how I’m feeling really helps me to write.
In terms of the sound, I think there’s a bit of a school of producers coming from Australia that are doing that future beats kind of vibe. Like there’s Flume, Wave Racer, What So Not – they are all killing it overseas and that’s amazing to see, especially when you’re at a festival and your mates are there. Another one who’s really good is Hayden James, he’s more house but kind of a similar vein with the pitched-up vocals and that kind of stuff. I don’t know, I don’t want to say that we have a recognisable sound in Australia, but at the same time it seems to be a genre that resonates.
Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. So speaking of your influences growing up, I read that you were a cellist and you’ve had a lot of training. Do you think that that helps you when you’re producing at all?
I think so, but there’s also so many amazing producers who aren’t classically trained or anything, they just have a good ear. But this has definitely trained my ear and helped me to arrange the different instruments… maybe I hear things in a different way, I’m not sure. It’s hard to tell because the training came first, so I can’t really know what I’d be like without it. I just always only loved music because I’m kind of terrible at everything else… don’t even try and taste my cooking or watch me run! I just remember being really young and knowing that was the only thing I really cared about, and that hasn’t changed.
Well it obviously paid off!
I think my parents were a bit concerned for a while, but now they’re like, ok!
Well it is quite a big contrast between the classical world and this world, is there anything in particular that drew you more towards electronic and trap music?
Yeah it’s a crazy thing, I’ve tried to think about how I got here so many times and I just can’t answer it. I never foresaw myself specifically doing this, although I always knew I wanted to do music. I’ve just always done what came naturally, I never planned any of this. It’s so surreal – that I’m even sitting in London is crazy to me!
Some people have an epiphany moment that they can pinpoint, like they were on a dancefloor and they suddenly realised that they had to do that, but would you say that for you it just naturally came to be?
I mean there was actually one thing that did solidify that idea for me – that I needed to make music and be on stage for the rest of my life. Years ago I was playing in a band, and it was my first ever show. I was playing bass guitar to about 30 people in this tiny basement of a club. I was so happy afterwards that I couldn’t sleep because of the adrenaline! So after that I just knew that that was what makes me the most happy. That for me could be that moment. 30 people probably saw me being really geeky up there!
Some people consider themselves either a DJ or a producer first and foremost, would you say that you prefer one or the other?
No, I think that they’re two such different things, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. If you’re a good producer it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be a DJ, and vice versa. I think that producing and writing music is a very narcissistic thing, you have to get inside your head and it’s very selfish. You have to be honest with yourself and become quite introverted. But when you DJ and stuff it’s very selfless, very giving, you’re looking outward. It’s a technical thing which is a completely different set of skills, so it’s difficult to compare.
So you love them both equally?
Yes, when I started producing I didn’t even tie it into my DJing. I was actually producing under a different name for a long time, White Fang. And then when EMI approached me they suggested I move it all to one project, so I did! I took the risk, and it worked I think! So yeah I didn’t even really realise the two were connected until that was brought to my attention.
Ok well speaking of your productions, the deluxe edition of ‘Run’ recently came out, and it had so many different remixes on there. Like you had Jimmy Edgar on there, how did that come about?
Oh my God yeah, I love him! I don’t know – it’s all been so organic, everything just happened. I wish I could give you a better answer but it’s just more like I got on well with people, and if you get each other as artists then something just happens. I’ve just been super fortunate that artists I love and respect are on it.
I read somewhere that some of the remixes are from fans too, did you run a competition?
Well I never ran a competition, what I did was I just gave out the stems to one of my songs. I didn’t know who I wanted to remix it, and I thought as someone who’d been a producer for so long who always wished I could get stems from artists, I thought I might as well do that. I said I don’t care what you do with these stems, you can even cut them up and make your own songs with them, but just take them so you have something there and you can hear how the song was structured, do whatever. And the music I got sent back was amazing, so I included some of those on the deluxe edition. I also included some remixes that had been sent to me via Twitter that some young producers had ripped off my Soundcloud, but they were so good that I had to put them out there.
So speaking of Twitter, you do seem to be quite active on social media. Is it important to you to interact with fans, and do you think that it’s become an important part of being a DJ these days?
I don’t know, like I’m not sure if it’s an important part of being an artist, but I just like it. I like interacting with people, like if someone is going to give me the time of day then I’ll give them the time of day. I’m very appreciative of anyone who actually cares about what I’m doing.
Well I suppose one of the reasons you’re so popular in that respect, particularly on Instagram, is that distinct sense of fashion that you have. Can you talk us through your look?
Yes, it’s called finding whatever’s clean on my floor! I wear a lot of oversized t shirts. I love vintage shopping, and I love weird t shirts.
How weird are we talking? What’s the best t shirt you own?
Hmm, good question! I have such a big collection… I have a really good Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird t shirt which is from the 90s. I’ve got a really good vintage Star Wars t shirt. I have a Jurassic Park t shirt, but it’s for the second movie, not even the good one! It was so shit haha. I also own a lot of Adidas, that’s my favourite brand. So I’m either in an oversized t shirt with high socks and creepers, or overalls – that’s pretty much all I wear! It kind of started off with me just not wanting to make playing being about me being feminine, so then I started wearing oversized t shirts, but then I got really into finding the coolest t shirts. I swear I’m forgetting a really cool t shirt that I have! I steal a lot of t shirts from my friends. My best friend – my manager – actually has some great t shirts that I take without him realising, and same with my boyfriend. I wear guy’s t shirts a lot. I don’t even really think I have cool fashion, I’ve always dressed like this!
But is very much your own style basically.
Yeah, I just remember being in school in 8th grade and it was plain clothes day. All the girls were wearing whatever was cool at the time, but I was just wearing a big Beatles t shirt which said “Let It Be” and had the 4 band members on it, and some really bad tights. I remember every girl in my class just teasing me about it, and there was this one girl who said sarcastically “Cool t shirt, is that like your band or something?” and I think that was the day that I realised that bullies are idiots, because they didn’t even know what the Beatles are! I used to get so affected by people teasing me for being a dork, but that was the day that I realised it wasn’t that bad, because she didn’t even know who the Beatles were, so I was like that’s the stupidest thing to tease me about!
Are you much of a trainers fan? – sorry, sneakers!
Yeah, I have Yeezies, so I guess that makes me a sneaker fan!
Are they your favourites for performing in?
No, when I perform I’m always in platform sneakers because I’m 5ft 1! I have these big Buffalo shoes that I love, I always like to wear those or sneakers generally.
Ok great, well that makes for a pretty comprehensive rundown! So final question, what plans or projects have you got on the horizon that you’re most excited about, either personal or professional?
Hmm… I’m always excited to write, but really I’m just excited to see what happens next year, I don’t even know. Like I couldn’t have told you what was going to happen this year, I didn’t even know that this would be my year. I’m just excited to see what happens next, I don’t want to pre-empt it because who knows. What if next year I could go to the moon, that would be sick! I’d rather not know and just get surprised.
Just get a surprise trip to the moon one day? That would be pretty good!
It could happen, maybe aliens will come early and be like here’s some technology, come to the moon! So then next year you’d be like wow, she was right! I’ll be in this crazy aluminium space t shirt, and I’ll be like “So I got this crazy vintage moon t shirt…” What are we even talking about anymore… I must be jetlagged!
Words by Miriam Johnson