This is what went down when our man Peter Murphy met her in Dublin 1...
How do you follow an album that sells 26 million copies? Since Jagged Little Pill, this is the dilemma that has haunted Alanis Morissette. A decade on, she feels able to come to terms with her whirlwind success.
It’s 10 years after, and Alanis Morissette’s got the spiritual auditors in. Hot on the heels of an Unplugged remake of her breakthrough album, Jagged Little Pill, comes The Collection, ostensibly a greatest hits culled from four albums’ worth of material, plus various rarities and soundtrack selections.
Among other things, the record demonstrates that the Canadian singer has done well to survive the once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that was her de facto debut (she’d released two albums in her native Canada as a big-haired teenage dance-pop prodigy before moving to LA and signing to Madonna’s Maverick label). Nevertheless, the Ottawa-born daughter of a French-Canadian father and Hungarian mother will always be best known for that 1995 record, which shifted a mind boggling 26 million plus copies and scooped four Grammies.
Jagged Little Pill was a dialogue between grunge-lite, riot grrrl and sensitive singer-songwriter workshops, from the woman-scorned yowl of ‘You Oughta Know’ to the defiant ‘Hand In My Pocket’ to ‘Ironic’, a song so ubiquitous it became a shop-worn standard target in stand-up comedy clubs (comedians having observed that the lyrics weren’t, in the least, ironic).
Subsequent albums Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, Under Rug Swept and So-Called Chaos couldn’t ever hope to equal that initial success, although Morissette, like her peers Sinead O’ Connor and Tori Amos, has remained a viable touring and albums act (a decade later, she can still demand that the record company flies in a full band to mime a cover of Seal’s ‘Crazy’ on the Late Late Show.)
We find her billeted in a room in the Morrison Hotel a couple of hours before show time, a short, sweet and, it must be said, quite stunning woman of 31.
She’s sotto voce but in possession of a robust laugh and reassuringly plain-spoken. I’d seen and read interviews with the singer where her conversation was so peppered with New Age touchy-feely therapy jargon it was hard to comprehend a word she’d said.
Her songwriting often reflects this. The Collection oscillates from the furious and forensic to the woozy and woolly-headed. Sequencing-wise it eschews straight chronology, instead allowing the songs to arrange themselves according to mood and tone – although it seems significant that the whole thing starts off with ‘Thank You’, the first post-Pill single, written after its author took off to India in order recover from sudden celebrity bends.
“It seemed pointed,” Morissette admits. “Sequencing – I don’t actually write it in order. I’ll just get a piece of paper and put a song where it begs to be. They group themselves, and ‘Thank You’ just wanted to be on top.”
Can she recall where her head was at when she wrote it?
“Well, I think that during Jagged Little Pill I’d, quote-unquote, achieved everything I’d been taught by society to achieve, and once I was in the midst of that I thought, ‘Externally so much has changed, but not much has changed internally’. In terms of my aspirations for bliss and peace, I hadn’t gotten that much closer. In fact, some would say that I’d even gotten farther from it, so I just went away to India to just get off the radar and step away from mayhem, and while I was there I just really got back to what was important to me. And so when I came back to the studio after that, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude and that’s where that song came from.”
‘Thank You’ was accompanied by a video clip in which the singer appeared naked but for strategically placed blurry bits – an emancipating move for a woman who’d hitherto been self-conscious about her appearance. The turning point for Morissette came when she began training for a triathlon, a process that helped her regard her own body as a functioning machine rather than eye-candy.
“I’d always been taught from a very young age as a female that there was more importance in the ornamental part of myself rather than the instrumental part,” she admits. “I saw my brothers being encouraged to really physically use their bodies in a way that I wasn’t encouraged to do, not so much my parents but by society.”
“I struggled with eating disorders and all kinds of things, and then during the time that I was doing my triathlons I was thinking, ‘I just want to use my body to the best of its ability rather than trying to control it or change it or have it look a certain way or decorate it some way.’ Just use it as a machine in the positive sense of the word. It was very healing to do that. I just started to feel really grateful for what this (body) was actually doing, carrying my spirit or my soul around, doing a lot of work everyday that I was taking for granted before that point. But I don’t need to do any more triathlons!”
What brought about the eating disorders?
“I think it was a combination of (looking at) magazines and people that I worked with when I was quite young. There’s that pivotal age in a young woman’s life when she turns from a pre-pubescent, and her body’s changing, and a few bad comments, or a few challenging comments from people at an ill-opportune time, can be very pivotal. I was working with a lot of older men and spending a lot of time with adults when I was a young person, so there were a lot of comments made that were just confusing.”
I’ve a 14-year-old daughter. The thought of her being entrusted to a bunch of middle-aged male record company executives is pretty horrifying.
“Yeah, it is horrifying. And that’s how old I was when I signed my first contract. And I had a lot of people saying, well, you have to lose some weight, and be careful, and I was ill-equipped.”
Did she view the record industry as inherently patriarchal, an old boys’ network?
“It’s always been that way. And some would say that it’s still that way. It’s changing a little bit. I think in terms of female artists it definitely changed, for the single reason that record companies – and frankly radio stations too – viewed women artists almost as a requisite. Like ‘We’ll play our requisite female this hour.’ They used to literally say things like ‘We already have three females that we play on this radio station.’ But it got to the point where they began to see women artists as more lucrative, and in their business-minded headspace I think that shifted things.”
True enough, Jagged Little Pill, along with the mid ‘90s success of the Lilith Fair Tour, represented a watershed in terms of the record industry waking up to the possibilities of the suffragette vote. Artists like PJ Harvey, Liz Phair and Ani DiFranco nurtured their own niche constituencies, while Kim Deal, Courtney Love and Kim Gordon infiltrated the indie clubs.
How does Alanis feel now when she hears her younger self wailing away at the powers-that-be on the Jagged tunes?
“I look at that record and that state of wailing against the proverbial machine or whatever as a rite of passage, from having been slightly passive, certainly in my creative environments as a teenager, and encouraged to write about certain subject matters and discouraged to write about others.”
It was, she says, a rite of passage to explode after all that repression and then to almost start from scratch. “After Jagged Little Pill I felt like it was, ‘Okay I’ve gotten that urgent explosive stuff out of my system – now what? What do I care about, who am I, what matters to me now?’”
Although Morissette has written fine tunes since that debut, much of her later work (‘Eight Easy Steps’, ‘That I Would Be Good’, ‘Hands Clean’) takes the form of journal entries set to music, a methodology that can produce mixed results. It’s a thin line between the confessional and the self-obsessed.
“Right. My friends have said that to me before too. (Laughs) It’s such a fine line between horrifying and unique and rare and special so I’m wire-walking all the time. But what are ya gonna do? These songs are basically diary entries and conversational, that’s how it is.”
For my money, the best tunes on The Collection tend to contemplate the divine and the transcendental. ‘Uninvited’ from the City Of Angels soundtrack is one of the best things she’s ever done, and I say that as someone who regards the film – a remake of Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire – as an act of sacrilege.
“You’re not alone!”
Having played God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, does she consider the Almighty to be male, female, or neither?
“Depends on the moment, but in general I just consider it to be a source energy, a compassionate, wise gentle force. Every once in a while I’ll image it into human form, like a goddess of compassion, talk to her for a little bit and that’s my godly moment.”
Was she brought up in any orthodox denomination?
Well, that prepares you for rock ‘n’ roll.
“The ritual’s stunning and that’s something I’ve held true to forever. I love ritual. I missed it when I walked away from Catholicism.”
Why did she walk away from it?
“There’s just so much fear in it, and it’s also so dated to me. I think we’ve been taught that it’s so complicated and so suffering-filled. I love challenging that. I’m an updater. I’m an evolver through and through, and if there’s something that can’t continue to update, I have to move on.”
Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio is being heavily criticised after he proclaimed this year St Patrick's Day as a "Gerry Adams Day" in New YorkRead More
Bret McKenzie has broken his hand, forcing The Flight of The Conchords to cancel their world tour.Read More
It wasn’t all plain sailing in the second half, but Ireland delivered the performance required to finish a thrilling season in style.Read More
The special fund-raising event, scheduled for June this year, will be hosted by the the broadcaster and writer, Dermot O'LearyRead More
Among other burning issues of the day, the controversial US TV host will discuss his views onUS President Donald Trump.Read More
A stupid error on the part of the social media platform Snapchat has had a dramatic effect on the share price of the parent companyRead More
In a special ceremony at Fender’s Dublin HQ today, the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins dedicated the boardroom to the legendary Irish guitarist, Rory Gallagher – who was always closely associated with the battered Stratocaster that he played from early on in his hugely successful career...Read More
Almost the entire Irish music community descended on the village of Kill in Co. Kildare this morning, for the funeral of the legendary Planxty uileann piper, Liam O'FlynnRead More
Here's a roundup of the new shows, documentaries and movies available this weekend on the streaming giant...Read More
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Arts & Heritage Niamh Smyth has written to the Clerk of the Public Accounts Committee apparently seeking to invite officials from the Creative Ireland programme to appear before members to explain programme costs.Read More
The Taoiseach is in hot water after he admitted during his US visit yesterday that when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he phoned Clare County Council on Donald Trump's behalf over a planning permission issue.Read More
Senator Ivana Bacik has welcomed the success of the campaign being organised by the students to oppose the proposed imposition of a new fee for supplemental examinations within the College.Read More
The Trainspotting director has been picked to take over from Sam Mendes who made the last two 007 movies.Read More
New light is cast on the reasons for the sudden closure of Film Base – though the matter is unlikely to rest here, given the financial pressures under which the organisation has been operating, and the fact that auditors from the Arts Council were unhappy with the responses received to questions asked of FilmbaseRead More
When Massive Attack decided that they'd meet the press in Dublin, Stuart Clark got just thirty minutes to prepare for the interview. But he still managed to talk to 3D about music, football, the band's then new album Mezzanine - and the difficulties of making sweet leurve to the sound of your own records!Read More
Smalls Change: Meditations Upon Ageing features guest turns by Chad Smith, Taylor Hawkins, Steve Lukather and many more...Read More
A full-blooded R&B affair, As Long As I Have You is being released in June.Read More
Revamp: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin will be with us in April.Read More
Dua Lipa, Ben Howard, St. Vincent, George Ezra, Wolf Alice & Jungle are also on their way to Laois...Read More
The former Disney star, who is celebrating six years of sobriety today,has started a fiery debate on Twitter amongst her followers after she lambasted the so-called "diet culture", telling her fans that "you are beautiful no matter what anyone says".Read More
She was the "unknown pop star" with a distinctive voice who appeared as a backing singer on records by the likes of Pink Floyd, The Beatmasters, Dusty Springfield, Elvis Costello The Specials, The Jam, Marilyn, Joe Cocker and with Irish band The Hot House Flowers.Read More
More must be done to help encourage more people to enter the teaching profession, says Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne TD.Read More
A delightful new theatre and dance production called 'Penguins', which is inspired by a true story reported in the New York Times that touched hearts worldwide, will be staged at the Pavilion Theatre for two shows only on Good FridayRead More
Labour Party Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has condemned the Taoiseach for extending an invitation to Donald Trump to visit Ireland.Read More
It is with great sadness that Hot Press has learned of the death of the legendary Irish piper, Liam O'FlynnRead More
The legendary rapper has passed away at the age of 47, reportedly dying from a heart-related disease.Read More
Both Labour Party Education spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD have spoken out against the proposed introduction of new fees for supplemental repeat examinations at Trinity College Dublin.Read More
The celebrated scientist passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning at the age of 76 - some 55 years after he was told he'd only two years left to live after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.Read More
When Rejjie Snow pointed up to one of the reserved boxes at the Olympia Theatre and paid tribute to his 89 year old grandmother, who watched his entire 24 song performance with a smile on her face, it finally became apparently that this flourishing Dublin rapper was exactly where he wanted to be – home.Read More
Kilkenny will be a sea of green and gold this St. Patrick’s day when top Irish acts descend upon the Marble City.Read More
Adam talked to our man Stuart Clark about battling his personal demons, and why mental health treatment is a human right. The Sopranos, childhood, reggae and, yep, U2 were also up for discussion...Read More
The actress, who is married to Irish actor Michael Fassbender, reckons the two countries have a lot in common.Read More
The Government is being called on to prioritise the National Cyber Security Centre following media reports that Russian intelligence services have increased their activities in Ireland to spy on technology, engineering, and scientific sectors.Read More
The Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs said he will engage with members of the Government to advance the establishment of a cyber-safety programme for our schools.Read More
Cork Airport has been voted through to the final round in an online competition to be named as a new route for German airline Eurowings. The live vote takes place on the Eurowings Facebook page tomorrow, Tuesday (13 March) from 2pm-3pm Irish time.Read More
Yes, you read that right! "The Force" will be strong at this weekend's St. Patrick's Day Parade.Read More
They last toured as a package in 2014. But this latest joint venture should be one of the hottest tickets of the summer...Read More
The band's eagerly awaited album hits the racks on April 27; we've had a sneak preview and it's a cracker!Read More
A spokesperson for the 90-year-old comedian said this morning: "With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety. He was a comedy legend and genius.'Read More
The Irish model turned actress has taken to Instagram to announce her engagement to Welsh rugby star, Dominic Day.Read More
Pearl Jam has unveiled a new protest song 'Can't Deny Me', which is actually their first piece of new original music since the LP 'Lightning Bolt' back in 2013.Read More
The new song ‘Space For Two’ is the lead single from Mr. Probz’ forthcoming EP.Read More
The new Technological Universities Bill has taken a step closer to becoming a reality after its passage through the Seanad.Read More
Welcome back to the sprawling Southern California suburb of Santa Clarita, where the weather is good and the undead are... still adjusting to life among the living.Read More
Born in 1939, Garech de Brún was one of the most important patrons of Irish culture for many years...Read More
Complaints have been made of a culture of bullying in the South African office of the ONE charity, which the U2 frontman co-founded.Read More
The song, ‘The Blue Wave’ was performed by well known Norwegian star, Helene BøksleRead More
Eric Eckhart will mark his 50th Birthday on March 14th by releasing the video for his new single, 'I Stand With Love', a stirring rallying call to no longer staying silent in our ever more polarised world.Read More
As she gets ready to play some Irish gigs on her globetrotting tour, Eleanor McEvoy is also set to release a new single ‘The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls’ (Remix edit with Eleanor McEvoy & Ruadhri Cushnan) on 23 March.Read More
Everything’s heating up for Catherine McGrath. After selling out her first headline show at The Camden Assembly earlier this week, she’s now preparing to play at C2C at London’s O2 this weekend where she’ll perform on the BBC Radio 2 Stage.Read More
Following sell-out runs in both Dublin and London, David Ireland’s black comedy 'Cyprus Avenue' returns to the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre in April.Read More
As International Women’s Day was marked around the world yesterday, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has called for the progression of Labour’s Gender Pay Gap Information Bill.Read More
From a Taliban attack to a Nobel Prize to Oxford, Malala walks Dave through her extraordinary journey, her life's mission to empower women and local leaders to continue to fight for women's education.Read More
The TV show's creator, David Chase is planning to make a prequel movie based on The Sopranos, it has been confirmed.Read More
It was a momentous occasion, as the lesser-known Ships triumphed in the Choice Music Prize – leaving more established artists like James Vincent McMorrow and David Kitt (New Jackson) trailing in their wake. Meanwhile Chasing Abbey took Song of the YearRead More
The Cabinet has approved the bill that will allow for a referendum on the Eight Amendment to be held this May.Read More
Friends and admirers will gather in the Treaty City on July 5 to celebrate her life.Read More
The British music magazine will print its final edition this Friday, it has been announced.Read More
But Paul Ronan, who recently joined the cast of RTE's 'Fair City', also reckons his daughter has a great chance of eventually winning an Academy Award.Read More
New proposed legislation will make it a separate criminal offence to groom or incite a child to commit a crime.Read More
A showcase performance of the most outstanding competitors from this year’s Festival will perform at a celebratory Gala Concert in the National ConcertHall at 7.30pm on 11 April.Read More
4FM radio presenter Gareth O'Callaghan has revealed that he's "devastated" after he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.Read More
Prepare to blast off on an edge-of-your-seat adventure with the Robinson family by checking out the full trailer for Netflix’s upcoming drama series 'Lost in Space'. which is released today, exactly 50 years after the classic sci-fi series signed off the air.Read More
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will bring out a special collection of remixes of latest single ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ which will be released exclusively for Record Store Day 2018 on 21 April.Read More
Fianna Fáil Women’s Network will host a seminar event tonight called “Press for Progress” to mark International Women’s Day, 2018.Read More
The Irish TV presenter has taken to her Instagram account to announce the birth of her first child.Read More
With Kevin Spacey no longer in the picture, the main focus will now be on Robin Wright when 'House of Cards' returns for its sixth and final season this autumn.Read More
Netflix has just announced that its utterly addictive, Emmy Award-winning anthology series has been renewed for a much-anticipated Season 5.Read More
Dublinia, Dublin City Council and the Irish Walled Towns Network are delighted to announce that the free online learning platform Viking & Medieval Dublin has been enhanced and is now iPad compatible with additional new hotspots and video content for the Junior Cycle History student.Read More
Druid has just announce the inaugural Marie Mullen Bursary, which is opened to female theatre artists working in Ireland in the fields of design, directing and dramaturgy.Read More
The ex-Talking Heads singer-songwriter has taken to Instagram to issue an apology over the fact that he didn't collaborate with any female artists on his new album, 'American Utopia'.Read More
The English-Irish director loved the three billboards that were put up in his honour.Read More
The behind-the-scenes look into Buckley's life and music comes to the Olympia.Read More
The Fare Thee Well tour stops off in Dublin and Belfast this month.Read More
The 75-year-old actor, who played a leading role as a surgeon in the iconic 1970s/80s TV show, has died after a battle with bladder cancer.Read More
Jordan Peele has become the first black screenwriter to win a Best Original Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards.Read More
The special efforts made to provide beds to the homeless during the extreme weather last week should continue, says Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Barry Cowen TD.Read More
Great news for U2 fans: three of their classic albums are to be reissued as remastered vinyls pressed on 180gsm.Read More
As the clock counts down to the beginning of the Academy Awards ceremony, Irish hopes remain high. But only one winner seems assured…Read More
The best-selling author and campaigner had fought a long battle against cancer. She leaves behind a remarkable legacy...Read More
To celebrate what would've been his 70th birthday, we look back at some of Rory Gallagher's best live performances.Read More
Emerging from an intense depression that fuelled his last two albums, Chris Corner aka IAMX released his latest LP Alive In New Light last month, and he's premiered the newest single of that album this afternoon.Read More
Today, the late, great Rory Gallagher would have been 70 years of age. Here, his genius is remembered by Hothouse Flowers guitarist and broadcaster, Fiachna Ó BraonáinRead More
Ahead of the launch of their long-awaited Wilderness album, Snow Patrol take a trip down memory lane as they watch 20 years of their own videos...Read More
The promotional casualties of the Big Snow continue to mount, as a decision is taken to cancel all activities in the National Concert Hall till after the weekendRead More
If sumptuous goth pop is your bag, you're in for a treat!Read More
There's a week of cracking gigs to look forward to in July!Read More
Having professed that “rock n’ roll needs an injection of new blood”, Jack is back with a banger...Read More
The supreme court in Spain has overturned a controversial sentence that was handed down to a student who joked on Twitter about the assassination of a Spanish prime minister back in 1973.Read More
The Hollywood heartthrob will now star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the director's new movie about the Charles Manson murders, which will be called 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood', it has just been confirmed.Read More
In his first special in seven years, filmed at the Apollo Hammersmith in London, the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning British comedian returns to the stage in London with a scathing special that touches on aging, becoming spoiled, his perspective on having kids and more.Read More
This new four-part documentary series tells the stories of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre — one the son of a Brooklyn longshoreman, the other straight out of Compton — and their improbable partnership and surprising leading roles in a series of transformative events in contemporary cultureRead More
Sky and Netflix announce a new partnership to bundle the full Netflix service into a brand new Sky TV subscription pack.Read More
He has had his battles with 50 Cent and DMX – but the feted US rapper's latest beef is with Aer Lingus...Read More
Music is the victim once again, following the decision that public transport would not operate in Dublin tomorrow...Read More