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“I have become so much more sociable and forgiving with myself.”
Alanis Morissette, who wrote music history in the mid-nineties with the album "Jagged Little Pill" and songs like "Ironic" or "You Outta know," originally wanted to come to Europe to promote her new album "Havoc and Bright Lights."
But, at the last moment, the 38-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter decided to stay home in Los Angeles with her husband Mario and her 20-month-old son Ever Imre.
On the phone, a happy Alanis reports that she has been up since 4 o'clock this morning, played with Ever for a couple of hours, had a short nap and is now ready for the interview.
Q: Alanis, for a young mother the general notion of daytime loses its meaning, right?
Alanis Morissette: Totally. Since my son is in the world, I have entered into a deep, deep love affair with coffee. They should invent something so that I can take this stuff intravenously (laughs).
Q: The most furious and hardest rocking song from your new album is called "Down Woman." In that song you attack men who hate women and use every opportunity to humiliate them. What inspired the song?
Morissette: My eyes and my ears (laughs). I grew up in a world of misogyny, of women's oppression and chauvinism. As a young girl that did me in, killed my confidence. In 2012, aspects of this way of thinking are still around, both in people's professional and private lives. "Woman Down" is my encouragement to all women to be strong and fight back with their own weapons.
Q: In the past 20 years, you have made an international career for yourself, selling more than 60 million albums. Do you believe it's still harder for women succeed in the world of business?
Morissette: Often enough I've witnessed how men treat women as sex objects. Especially in the entertainment industry, this kind of behavior is still very widespread. There are glass ceilings. These ceilings aren't as low as 15 or 20 years ago, but they're still there. I will continue fighting to ensure that they'll disappear altogether.
Q: With the album "Jagged Little Pill" (1995) you became an icon for young, angry girls and a pioneer for many strong women in the world of pop and rock. Who should teenagers today look up to?
Morissette: Still to me! My music is not the worst, if you are looking for inspiration, stimulating and intelligent entertainment (laughs). I am in touch with many people who have followed my songs since the nineties and have grown up with me. Partly the topic have changed, partly they've remained the same: Now it's more about becoming parents, having a stable relationship, but like before also about doing clever and stupid things, to incite revolutions and to save the planet.
Besides myself there are loads of people who can entertain and aren't stupid. Lady Gaga for instance says some very smart things about how she tries to keep her life balanced.
Q: In the song "Celebrity" you take a very critical look at today's celebrity culture. You became famous at the age of 17 already. Is it harder today to be a star than it used to be?
Morissette: In those days it was cooler. In just a few months I got to know the entire world, but I was still sexy, mysterious. The complete screening that you get these days didn't exist yet. If today, I'd go to the playground with my son, the photos will be online one hour later. I don't mind being transparent and visible, and I still enjoy being famous. But it's become more difficult to draw your boundaries and to keep them.
Q: Apart from the tracks just mentioned your new album sounds conciliatory and relaxed, intimate and almost soft. Since 2010 you've been married to musician Souleye aka Mario Treadway, and your son Ever Imre was born Christmas 2010. To what extent did starting a family influence your music?
Morissette: It is the central theme of this album. It's always been like that with me, my private life - both the drama and the triumphs - slightly filtered maybe, is clearly visible in my songs.
Q: About which your former fiance [actor Ryan Reynolds], erm, excuse me, can bear witness. Your album "Flavors of Entanglement" (2008) is almost entirely about your separation.
Morissette: I am always writing about what moves me. He was ok with it - he knew very well that could happen; anyone who gets into a relationship with me, can expect to turn up in one of my songs (laughs). If I didn't write from my perspective, I wouldn't be an artist. And all in all, I've treated him fairly.
Q: On "Havoc and Bright Lights" there are many gentle piano ballads such as "Win & Win," "Empathy", "Receive" or "'Til You." Has love made you soft?
Morissette: Very. I am so much more sociable and forgiving with myself. It's always been difficult for me to. I am not so self-critical anymore. Marriage is wonderfully beautiful and challenging in many ways, yes it's cured me. A complete, dedicated, serious partnership is a wonderful vehicle to grow as a person.
Q: Did you have a clear idea of marriage?
Morissette: Neither my husband nor I had experience with this situation. Because we are two very different people, we had imagined it to be difficult to live in permanent harmony. We are both so very much convinced of our partnership and family life, that it covers our incompatibilities.
Q: In what way are you so different?
Morissette: My husband is very open and goes up to everybody. He charges his batteries with basketball and sports. I'm more introverted and often need quiet and time to be on my own.
Q: Which can be difficult with a toddler around?
Morissette: Of course. Ever is the center.
Q: You have written all new songs in the months after his birth. How did you manage to do that?
Morissette: I have composed the songs in the living room and recorded them along with my producer Guy Sigsworth in the studio that we built at home. Luckily I managed, as always, to write very quickly. Most of the songs were written in one sitting, within one to two hours.
Q: In your single "Guardian" you sing about Ever Imre and your relationship with him. That must be something special, to write a song about your own son?
Morissette: Oh yes, you can say that, really. The verses are about him, the chorus is about how I take care of the inner child in myself. As a single woman, I always just thundered through life, but as a mother I've become very responsible, much more conscious of responsibility. If I sleep too little or neglect my health, that was never a problem before, because nobody else was concerned. But now that's just no longer the case.
Q: Before the birth of your son, did you have any idea of what kind of mother you would be?
Morissette: More or less. As usual with me, my head understood it all intellectually, the various emotional and physical stages of development, so I was prepared. I was very curious and really into the adventure of becoming a mother. And I still am. Ever is just coming into his research phase, he's always looking around and wants to try everything. When I play some music, he puts his hands on the speakers and is completely fascinated.
Q: Are you still breast-feeding?
Morissette: Yes. I am a mother hen, and I'm a really happy to be a mother hen. I think that to have the closest possible, trusting bond between parent and child is very important. I am also very open to the idea of having more children, God willing.
Q: Ever since "Time" magazine did a cover story on the subject, long breast-feeding is highly controversial in the United States. What is your attitude to this?
Morissette: I want to breast-feed for as long as Ever wants it. That's totally normal. Here in America, people even turn away when they see women breastfeeding in public, as if breasts are something sick. I think that's crazy. In Europe it's much more relaxed in this respect.
Q: Speaking of relaxation. In three of your new songs, "Havoc," "Numb" and "Edge of Evolution," you sing about expansion of consciousness through drug use. I always thought that you were living very healthy and vegan.
Morissette: Being a vegan doesn't mean that you have to give up all stimulants (laughs).
Q: So you are quite familiar with alcohol or marijuana?
Morissette: Oh yes. I've tried some, within limits though. I have gained much wisdom from such experiences. I know it's a weakness of mine that I've always wanted things to be perfect, always have been and still am an overachiever. But now, I'm no longer that super-clean girl, or so keen to be the perfect girl. I just want to be happy, and live my life in harmony with my family and to enjoy myself.
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