Most DJs didn’t start their careers as classically trained cellists, but then again, Alison Wonderland isn’t exactly most DJs. While the Aussie artist has spent the past few years establishing herself on the club circuit, her debut EP demonstrates the diversity of her own production. ‘Calm Down’ is a compelling collection of tracks that spans the range of party bangers, to sombre instrumentals. With a full-length album release next on the horizon, it’s about time you join the party.
Alison Wonderland wears the adidas Originals ZX Flux in Black/Purple, a Hype DC Exclusive.
Your background is in classical music. How did you make the transition to what you’re doing now?
Well, I was studying at the Conservatorium of Music and then I went to Germany. I thought that I was going to be a cellist. I was practicing six hours a day in a little room playing Bach and Elgar. When I came back to Sydney, I had a little bit of a crisis and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. There’s not much of a classical music culture here. I didn’t see many people doing it because they loved it, and that’s the whole point of being an artist, right? So I quit and I just picked up the bass guitar to keep the music up.
You then played in some indie bands, right?
Yeah, in some local bands around town – but that actually led me to DJing in a really weird way. I would play all these weird indie nights, and when they needed the band to do a DJ set I would do it.
So, you were a DJ by default at that stage?
I fell in love with it without even realising. There was never a goal to become a DJ. Honestly the reason I sat in my room and practiced was because I thought it was really interesting. It just blew my mind.
What can you tell us about your EP Calm Down?
It’s something I’m very proud of. On the last track I’m actually playing cello. I also collaborated with a couple of producers on the record, which I wasn’t really used to doing.
Who did you work with?
I worked with Djemba Djemba and guy called Lido, who’s a Norwegian producer. Djemba and I did two tracks on the EP together and Lido and I did one. Usually I’m used to creating by myself in my bedroom, so having another creative person in the room is cool because we meshed really well.
Was it hard to give up some of that control?
Djemba and I were really on the same wavelength, Lido and I had quite a few little bickering arguments. We still laugh about it because I’m quite a dark person, deep down and he’s very happy. Somehow we met in the middle with this track and it’s kind of positive but with a dark message [laughs]. I don’t know, we definitely had a few arguments but we came together in the end and it’s probably my favourite track. It’s kind of empowering, it’s called ‘Cold.’
Your touring schedule is pretty crazy, right? How do you cope?
I think when I’m touring, the reason I get so tired is when you play a show, it’s an hour and a half of concentrated very, very high energy. I’m giving everything. Everything I do is genuine and real. When you’re giving all of yourself, you’re basically getting naked in front of a few thousand people – they’re seeing all of me there.
Do you ever feel like you just can’t do it? Are there ever nights where it’s just not working?
Not really. I think if you are someone who is on stage a lot you find a way to get yourself into that headspace. I mean, even if I was to play a gig and five people turned up; those five people want to see the show. I’m doing this for a reason and I love music.
You snuck one of the new singles into your ‘Diplo and Friends’ mix on BBC 1Xtra, right?
I snuck two. I did ‘I Want You’ just before it came out and another track called ‘Lies’, which is an instrumental. I was so nervous. ‘Diplo and Friends’ is probably the coolest thing I’ve done in my career.
That’s a career marker right there…
Honestly, before it got aired I was shaking. I was in the backyard in LA streaming it, shaking, with quite a few whiskey shots down the hatch. I would’ve really missed out on an opportunity if I didn’t put those tracks into it. That was a mix I thought about for a long time and really cared about, put a lot of love into. I even announced on the radio that those were my tracks and I was like, ‘I wonder how many people are actually listening?”
A lot, probably.
In the back of my mind I was like, ‘what if they hate it?’
How’s the reaction been?
You’re pulling from a lot of different influences as well…
I don’t really want to discriminate against genre or when a song was made. I genuinely think if a song is a good song it has longevity and you can play it whenever.
You’re not playing a top 40 playlist?
I don’t want to just focus on new tracks, I love music. I definitely think that it’s helped me, I listened to a lot of different music growing up, and I don’t want to forget about those great songs.
And you’ve got another full-length release coming soon right?
I’m going back to LA for a couple of months to work on the record there. That will come out at the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next year.
What can we expect?
I don’t even know yet. I don’t want to preempt anything that I’ve written, but I think the best thing to do is just write how I’m feeling at the time and it will come out how it comes out. If it’s good it’s good.
‘Calm Down’ is out now via iTunes.