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Alanis Morissette

Pop queen makes a tricky album and believes that she is God

You oughta know that when we spoke, Alanis Morissette was at the Salt Lake City airport on her way from a gig at the Sundance Film Festival -- no, Robert Redford didn't turn up -- and heading to London. You oughta know that Morissette has just released her third studio album, Under Rug Swept. And, finally, you oughta know that the first single from that album -- the characteristically confessional and autobiographical "Hands Clean," in which the former Canadian teen-pop star assumes the role of Svengali telling his protegee to keep quiet about their affair -- is all over the airwaves, likely earning some new fans for thenow-twenty-seven-year-old who sold a remarkable 28 million copies worldwide of 1995's Jagged Little Pill. In other words, folks, it's probably time to stop making so many annoying references to "You Oughta Know." Isn't that ironic? Actually, no.

Literally and figuratively speaking, how clean are your hands anyway?

Literally, damn clean. I have a thing about clean hands. And figuratively, my conceptual hands are getting cleaner every day.

Have people been coming to you with their best guesses as to who the song is about?

A couple of people have taken stabs, but just like with "You Oughta Know," they've never gotten a denial from me and they've never gotten an affirmation, either. That's not what it's about. This is not revenge. This is me telling my story.

Do you feel better getting it out of your system?

Definitely. The more transparent, the more authentic I can be, the more liberated I feel and the less fearful. That song is so deeply personal and so specific that it begs the question of exactly what people are responding to. Is it just a musical resonance? I guess a lot of people must be interpreting it in different ways.

On Under Rug Swept, you list "21 Things I Want in a Lover." Give me a few things that you definitely don't want in a potential boy toy.

OK. Someone who doesn't ask any questions. Someone who can't listen to save his life. Someone who has a negative attitude about life. Someone who doesn't like sex. Someone who complains. That is, like, immediately not going to happen for me.

You played God in Kevin Smith's movie "Dogma." At the height of "Jagged Little Pill" mania, did you ever believe you actually were God?

Well, I believe I am God. But I also believe everybody is God. So, yeah, I believe I'm a little piece of God all the time. But so are you.

Thanks for noticing. "Under Rug Swept" had a rather long gestation period. Would you describe making this album as having been a difficult birth?

It wasn't the birth itself that was challenging for me. It was all the other hats that I had to wear. It was like I was pregnant and I was building a house and I was renegotiating contracts, and I was dealing with a bunch of different changes in all my interpersonal relationships and people who I was touring with. So the pregnancy itself was great, but it was challenging because of all the other things that were going on at the same time.

You know the headline that will emerge from this story: "Alanis Pregnant!" Recently, you were presented with the Global Tolerance Award from Friends of the United Nations. Is there anything you won't tolerate, young lady?

I don't like the word tolerate. I prefer acceptance, because tolerate implies that you have this deep-seated buried resentment about something or toward someone, and acceptance just means you're allowing the differences to just be what they are and you're agreeing to disagree. I have my boundaries and my limits in my personal life. I would never tolerate someone hitting me or touching me.

No touching at all?

Well, they can touch me, but they can't touch me in violent ways. The good kind of touching - that they can do any time they want.

As a recovering Canadian teen star yourself, give me your best advice for the world's future-recovering-teen-stars of today.

Oh, it doesn't matter what you're doing, it just matters what you're being, so don't worry about it.

So you do consider yourself in recovery, then?

I think I'm in recovery for everything. We all are for the rest of our lives.

You call the new album Under Rug Swept, but when's the last time you swept under a rug, or anywhere else, for that matter?

I aspire to not sweep anything under the rug, but I do it. I still do it. I'm still working on it, and I probably did it just this morning.

But fess up, you do have someone else come to clean the house every once in a while.

Well, my house is actually usually really, really superclean.

Like those immaculate hands of yours, huh?

Yes, I'm a cleanie beanie, but I also can be a hippie, so there's that both-ness again. Life is so about both-ness.

This could be a pretty loaded question with you, but how's your love life?

I'm single right now. I am very, very happy to be single. And it's better than ever.

OK, we've dealt with your sex life, let's get really personal: What's your reading material for this plane trip?

What do I have? I have these collected poems of all the greats. Then I have all my psychology books, as always. And I may be the only woman in the world who hasn't read The Poisonwood Bible, so I'm about to dive into that one.

Before you step on that plane and leave this country, is there anything else you care to declare about your new album?

Just that I'm so peaceful, and happy about expressing it and sharing it. During Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, there were so many people around me who had such expectations that it felt like I was trying to catch a tidal wave in a thimble, you know. And now it just feels like the expectations are so much lower. And that's when I'm happy, and guaranteed not to be disappointed.

(Australian RS 601, June 2002)