Alison Wonderland Sounds Off On The Unequal Gender Gap In Electronic Music

Allison WonderlandPhoto Credit: Underplayed

“A big key to closing the gender gap is just being fearless.”

In 2019, only five of the Billboard Top 100 DJs in 2019 were women. They make up less than 3% of production and technical roles in the music industry.  Which is why director Stacey Lee set out to highlight the gender discrepancy in electronic music. So she enlisted the help of DJs Alison Wonderland, REZZ, TOKiMONSTA, Tygapaw, Ciel, Sherelle and Nervo, among others, to showcase the gender, ethnic, and sexual inequality issues within the music industry in her documentary Underplayed, which was one of only 50 films premiering at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

We sat down with Australian artist Alison Wonderland (nee Alexandra Sholler), the highest-billed female DJ in Coachella history, to discuss the Bud Light Canada, Julien Christian Lutz AKA Director X and Taj Critchlow-produced film, the gender gap and why her new music will be more personal than ever.

Allison WonderlandPhoto Credit: Allison Wonderland/Instagram

Let’s talk about Underplayed and how you became involved.

[The filmmakers] approached my management and the way they approached it seemed to be genuine and not in a patronizing way. A lot of people that want to talk about women especially in my industry do it in a way where it’s not understood where we’re coming from and they felt they knew what was going on and would do it in a really tasteful way, so that’s why I agreed to do it.

In 2019, only 5 of the world’s top 100 DJs were women, one of which, of course, is you. How does that make you feel? Proud?

Honestly — and this is my philosophy on the top 100 thing anyway — I don’t think a number should define you as an artist or a DJ. The fact that people only had 5 women in their heads in the top 100 was concerning because there are so many amazing female artists out there in the electronic music scene that I don’t believe they’re getting the recognition they deserve. I think the positive note is that I never actually campaigned for that title. The fact that people are actually starting to vote for women in the top 100 is a good thing and hopefully it will open the path for women getting recognition.

Why do you think women have such a hard time breaking the glass ceiling in this industry?

Honestly I’m not sure. I think that’s a age old question. I don’t think that’s a music industry question. I try not to think about it, honestly. The less I think about the more I’m able to push myself and not make it about being a woman. When I’m up on stage or when I’m producing, my gender does not come into it at all. The more I keep doing that the better.

Who have been your role models/mentors? Not just women, but men? What advice did they give you on getting ahead in the industry?

I don’t really have any role models or mentors. It’s just kind of being me. the only person I really do think about is my old art teacher in eighth grade, who said, let your art speak for you. I think about that a lot. That’s the philosophy I use. I’m influenced by people but I wouldn’t say I have any mentors in this industry. The only person who’s kept me going is my manager. He’s believed in me from the start, for all of these years. His name is Garth [Crane]. I didn’t really mold my career on anyone or have that. I was doing it for self-expression.

Allison WonderlandPhoto Credit: Allison Wonderland/Instagram

What career milestone are you proudest of?

I’m proud that I’m able to get my art out and for people to take me serious as an artist. That’s the biggest achievement for me, being taken seriously, because for a while, I don’t believe I was. I feel like I was doubted a lot. The fact that I’ve been able to fight through that is something I’m really proud of.

Is the point of Underplayed overcoming?

It’s not about success, it’s about pushing through obstacles and I feel like women have to work twice as hard to do that but it makes us better artists. That’s the reality of the world we live in. the more that it becomes a non-issue, the better.

How did your name come to be? Are you a fan?

No. do you want the real story? My manager garth who I’ve been best friends with since I was really young, I used to play at all these underground clubs in Sydney without a name. one night someone who was running the club messaged garth who wasn’t even my manager yet, he just knew we were always together. The manager said, she needs a name for the poster this week or she’s not on. You have five minutes to decide a name. that is what he thought of. I said no this is too girly no one is going to take me seriously. He said it’s fine, you can change it in two weeks. And then I never changed it.

Do you feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole even more than ever this year?

Honestly, I think weirdly enough I’ve always been a very curious person exploring the world and trying to find out who I am. Weirdly it does feel like there’s a parallel without me having even realized it. sometimes I think things are very serendipitous and make sense later, and obviously that’s one of them.

Allison WonderlandPhoto Credit: Allison Wonderland/Instagram

How have you pivoted in 2020? By taking part in projects like Underplayed, of course, but what else?

I have just been really, really, really creative and I’ve been taking the advantage of being at home. It’s hard for me to write music on the road because it’s such an introverted thing. Being able to be in my own space in my home contemplating life and getting deep in my head, I really do think I’m pushing stuff with my music right now. luckily for me I’ve felt really creative.

Do you think people will expect a new sound from you since you’ve had this time to be creative?

I don’t think I’ll ever have a new sound, I think I’ll always sound like me, but I think I’m evolving. It will be the next branch of what I’m making. My philosophies change a little and my lyrics have changed a little bit but I think the main thing I’m writing about ow is pushing through something and giving hope. It’s more positive than my last music for sure.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life? What are you grateful for?

The greatest luxury in life is happiness. I really believe that. I believe that being happy is such a fortunate thing for people and it’s hard to find that. I wish that one day I would find that true happiness. I’m really grateful for the people that are around me that I’ve had around me for a long time. I’ve had the same few people very close to me for many years and I’m really lucky because I don’t think many people have people like that in their lives, that are real and will tell you the truth no matter what and will keep you grounded and don’t care what you do or who you are.

Any last thoughts on Underplayed, or anything at all?

I really hope that watching something like this helps you realize that unfortunately we do have to work a little bit harder due to the world right now but the more that we put ourselves out there and not worry about what anyone else is going to think the better. A big key to closing the gender gap is just being fearless.

Follow Alison Wonderland on Instagram HERE