Alex Scholler, an Australian DJ, was getting steady work playing graveyard shifts in Sydney nightclubs—often to just a handful of patrons—when a promoter called her with a proposition. He had a prime-time slot to offer, but only if she came up with a stage name to go on the poster. She had five minutes.
With that, Scholler—who kicks off her first major U.S. tour at Coachella 2015 and whom Diplo recently called one of the best DJs Down Under—stepped through the looking glass and became Alison Wonderland. “It’s just a DJ name. People always want me to give them some bullshit answer about loving Disney,” she says with a laugh.
EDM is now the most lucrative musical genre in the world. But if Wonderland is eyeing that $400,000 headliner gig at Hakkasan, she doesn’t let on. Last year she declined to do a regular tour, opting instead to throw a series of secret warehouse parties around Australia. “In three days, I sold 10,000 tickets,” she recalls. “And then the fact that all these people actually showed up was the craziest thing to me.”
She’s not just being coy: A few years ago, Wonderland walked away from a promising career as a cellist in a symphony orchestra, turning to EDM as a bedroom hobby, a way to get her “music fix” while she figured out her next step. Becoming a globe-trotting electro-pop party monster wasn’t part of the plan, but her ascent from the bedroom to the big stage was quicker than most. “When I’m interested in something, I tend to hyperfocus on it,” she says.
If Wonderland’s debut album, Run, which dropped in April, bears any traces of her background as a classically trained musician, they’re impossible to detect with an untrained ear. But her ability to structure a song that can make a person’s face melt right off their skull is all too evident.
As for her influences, she cites OutKast, Beastie Boys, and James Murphy. “DJ-wise, I don’t really have any,” she says, “but I always go back to DJ AM and his Elton mixes. The music is so intelligent and eclectic—you always get surprised by where he takes you.”
This being the year Wonderland goes global, there will certainly be no shortage of surprises to come.
Photos by Jack Lawrence