"I'm giving you everything right now." Alison Wonderland talks AWAKE, collabs and home
The Aussie producer/DJ heads to one of the world's biggest festivals ready to rumble.
A few weeks ago we cited What So Not (currently basking in the glow of his own debut album's release) as a quintessential part of the Pilerats history, and it's very fair to say right alongside him is Alison Wonderland. The same festival - Wonderland 2013 - that What So Not play ridiculously early at, Alison Wonderland took to the decks only an hour or so after. It was a set this getting-to-old-for-this-shit writer remembers distinctly. "Who was this DJ?" I thought to myself. All flailing hair, massive rap shirt and super high boots just so she could see over the decks, but most notably an untouchable ability to mash any kind of genres together seamlessly so that she had the crowd absolutely eating out of her hands.
Belvoir Amphitheatre 2013 by Adam Nalapraya.
Fast forward a few years and those mash-up/party DJ sets are (mostly) done with, in favour of top-billing-festival sets featuring a huge smattering of her own tracks (from 2015 debut album Run and last week's follow-up, AWAKE), quite often sung by her own voice, with that commanding stage presence that's been there since day dot. It's a set she'll be taking to Coachella this weekend and next, playing as the highest billed female DJ on the lineup in the mega festival's entire history. Which is fucking. nuts.
More so than nuts though, it's quite simply well-deserved. Alison Wonderland has spent the past few years building a profile on the global stage, one that finds her now currently residing in LA to make world dominaton a little easier: "[LA is] a melting pot for artists, a lot of my friends are there and a lot of the people close to me are there and it’s also very central."
Aiding and abetting that mission is AWAKE, a 14-track LP that shows her clear evolution as an artist, one that's more comfortable with her own voice and her own capabilities. While it features artists like Trippe Redd, Chief Keef (!) and our own Slumberjack, the album really serves as a showcase for Alison Wonderland to flex her own production skills and perhaps more tellingly, songwriting chops, in the process blending elements of pop, trap, future-bass and electronica as smoothly as those party DJ sets in years gone by.
I had the pleasure of catching up with her just before the album dropped to find out how she was feeling about her ever-rapidly increasing career trajectory, still having to prove herself two albums deep, and potentially providing some inspiration for other young producers - and women - who want to get into this world:
Alison Wonderland on using Instagram to get Church done and finish the album:
So the first single Church is the first song I wrote for the album, but the last song I finished. It was prolonging the release of the album because I was having such problems with the production of it and there were so many versions I scrapped and I almost took it off the album. The production came from me sitting down in my studio putting Instagram live on and writing the verse and chorus on Instagram live, so I was seeing reactions and pushing myself a bit because people were watching and it helped me move forward.
Going on Instagram live and producing some of my album like that was a move I wish I didn’t have to do but I wanted people to see that there is a process and see what happens and I’m open about everything and will continue to be. And I hope that it motivates bedroom producers, like I started off as a bedroom producer and I want kids out there to know there’s right or wrong way, so I’m happy to show my process.
On still having to prove herself in 2018:
I think every artist feels like they have something to prove. It’s really hurtful when you get doubted... I know what I did - I was in the room - and I’m very open with my collaborators as well, which I think a lot of people are not. Anyone’s that worked with me will vouch for me, and it kinda just sucks that people doubt you. But it comes with putting yourself out there as an artist. It still hurts, I’m not gonna act like it’s fine, because when you make something so personal and you genuinely put in your heart and soul and you really cried and worked hard for this music and these songs, it sucks when people doubt you.
It’s like fuck man what else do you fucking want from me? I’m giving you everything right now. It’s the same when people doubt me when I’m playing a show... You still have some fuckin’ idiot there who will call you out even if there’s a GoPro getting projected behind me while I’m scratching, like what else do you want me to do?
On the impact Australia has had, and continues to have, on her as an artist:
I wouldn’t be where I am without Australia. I think what’s different here is that Australia is a very humbling country to artists, and I think that’s a good thing. Because I think it keeps you grounded, in touch with your roots and I think that it’s necessary and endearing. Different countries deal with artists in different ways. I am very fucking grateful of anyone that listens to my music and will contact me. Since Church has come out a lot of Australians have contacted me positively and I wasn’t expecting that at all. The other thing is I’ve always been super real and nothing’s been contrived, and what you see is what you get. And I think that’s worked in my favour.
Also there’s girls out there who wanna put themselves out there, and I’m someone who looks up to artists so I’m sure there’s someone who would look at me and be like, ‘hey if a girl can do that maybe I can put myself out there like that.’
On pushing herself with AWAKE:
With AWAKE I just wanted to push myself, I feel like I’d done what I could with Run and I wanted to see how far I could go with my writing. I’m playing cello on it, I have some great features on it too, with artists I absolutely love. I’m still shocked I got the opportunity to even be in the same studio and vibe with these people, it’s been really cool to be able to have the opportunity. I don’t wanna let anyone down and for me it’s really important that people hear me the right way. I also don’t want to let Australia down, I dunno why it’s just in the back of my head. I just wanna feel like I’ve come home and done the right thing.
I collaborated with Joel Little on this album and before that I didn’t collaborate. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could go as a writer and bounce ideas of people. It was awesome because I’d come in and I’m a lyricist I’ve been a lyricist forever, and I come in with these ideas and songs and he would show me little things that would help me elevate it which was sick. It’s cool when you collaborate with people and they don’t have an ego and they get you and they let you breathe.
There’s so many people that have ghost producers, which is fine but I sat at the computer and wrote those chords, got those drums sounds and did that. Other people worked on the music too but that’s amazing because it helped it and elevated it and I vibe those people, they’re the best people of all time they’re my friends. There wasn’t a huge amount of people who worked with me, I’m pretty selective with who I collaborate with because I want to keep it to myself – this is my baby and not anyone else’s, so I have to come out knowing that I went in.
On mental health and being open online:
I’m open about basically everything... I think more and more people you’re going to see coming out and talking about mental health. It’s a thing, especially being a creative you’re constantly hyper-analysing yourself. And especially when you’re writing music and songs you’re constantly sitting in your own head, looking at yourself under a magnifying glass, which is just crazy. Then you go out and play to thousands of people and go back an hour later to a room in silence with no one and just think about what that’s gonna do to you.
As an artist, putting yourself out there with your heart and soul giving it to the world, there’s always gonna be an opinion, which adds to that stress. It’s just 2018.
On being bored to be creative:
I think a lot of people forget that social media is a highlight reel and you’re only looking at everyone around you’s best parts of themselves. My manager said something to me recently which was super interesting, he said you know for creative people it’s very important to be bored to come up with ideas. And it’s hard for people these days because if you’re bored now what do you do? You pick up your phone and scroll through Instagram. SO I stopped doing that for a little bit and WEIRDLY ENOUGH all these ideas came back to me and yeah, that’s my little piece of advice.
Belvoir Amphitheatre 2017 by Jack Lawrence.
Follow Alison Wonderland: FACEBOOK