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alanis makes sense of her so-called chaos
alanis morissette

Singer-Songwriter Returns with 10 New Confessionals

ALANIS MORISSETTE’s career can best be described as a voyage in self-discovery. After tasting stardom at an early age in her Canadian homeland with assorted teen-pop albums and TV roles, she found herself responsible for one of the most widely publicized songs to come out of the ’90s — "You Oughta Know." Seven Grammys and tens of millions of albums sold later, she has become one of the most universally recognized solo recording artists of her generation.

All the while, the content behind Morissette’s albums — from the 16-times-platinum Jagged Little Pill to 2002’s under rug swept — has reflected the trials and tribulations of a maturing young female coming to grips with her inner self — and trying to reconcile that identity with a turbulent outer world. Recent travels to India and a Navajo pilgrimage have decorated her later works with a sense of worldliness that did not appear previously.

Excluding 1991’s Alanis and the following year’s Now Is the Time — both high-selling, but nonetheless teen-pop, releases — So-Called Chaos (Maverick, February 24) is Morissette’s fourth proper studio release as a singer/songwriter. It consists of 10 new confessionals and is the result of the loosest recording process she has engaged in thus far.

ICE spoke with Morissette in early December, as she was participating briefly in an off-Broadway, Bob Balaban-directed theatrical production called The Exonerated.

"I started writing on and off throughout mid-summer, and then realized I wasn’t gonna overwrite this time," Morissette tells ICE. "It isn’t as physically draining to access my inner world now, so I’m just not as spent when it’s finished. The last time, I wrote about 25 songs… I overdid it, and wound up having two records [under rug swept and its DVD/CD companion, feast on scraps: inside under rug swept]. This time I knew when to stop myself — it’s a good thing, self-editing."

Morissette, who turns 30 on June 1, recorded So-Called Chaos in two phases at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters Studio in Santa Monica, CA this past summer. She and Tim Thorney (under rug swept) acted as producers during the first phase; Morissette then invited John Shanks (Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge), whom she had never worked with before, to lend his talents for the second half.

Joining her throughout the process were guitarists David Levita (Jewel, Five for Fighting) and Jason Orm, bassist Eric Avery (under rug swept, Jane’s Addiction) and drummer Blair Sinta.

Morissette provided ICE with track-by-track commentary for the effort, which she says "has a nice element of schizophrenia to it."

• "Eight Easy Steps" — "Encapsulates my quickness to be self-deprecating. It basically says I’m not very precious about my subject matter — but reflective, certainly. It’s so easy for me to run away or just be in denial."

• "Out Is Through" — "This is a song I would listen to in the middle of conflicts with my boyfriend, to give myself the inspiration to keep going." A lyrical sampling: "Every time you raise your voice I see the greener grass / Every time you run for cover I see this pasture."

• "Excuses" — "Once again, it’s me busting my chops. There’s always a certain amount of years that can go by before I get sick of hearing myself be a little victim. So it’s time to take a little responsibility, not only me and my personal life, but I would go as far to say the entire planet."

• "Doth I Protest Too Much" — "In my estimation, this is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever written. It’s very sarcastic and mid-tempo." Lyrics: "I’m not needy / I don’t get clingy much / I am not scared / I’m not afraid as such / I’m not dependent / Rock solid stays in touch / Doth I protest too much."

• "Knees of My Bees" — "This is my infatuation ode to my boyfriend." She adds, "All of my records are pretty present tense, so whichever boyfriend I’m talking about is whoever I’m dating at the time I write the record." Lyrics: "We share a culture, same vernacular / Love of physical humor and time spent alone / … You make the knees of my bees weak."

• "Not All Me" — "It’s so easy for us to project our shit onto someone else. In relationships, I feel it’s so easy for people to think that what’s being triggered is all about the other person. I’ve been on the receiving end of boyfriends over the years, thinking that whatever it is that’s bothering him about me is all about me… and I’m, like, it’s not all about me. You gotta take mutual responsibility with me or I’ll smash you!"

• "So-Called Chaos" — "Being overburdened by the doing-ness that this society so encourages. Our consciousness is so low that we need things like police, government and laws. If we were to really raise our consciousness, we’d be able to self-regulate, and we wouldn’t need all these restrictions that we feel we need to keep our world safe — even though it’s not fucking safe at all."

• "This Grudge" — First lyrics: "14 years 30 minutes 15 seconds I’ve held this grudge / 11 songs 4 full journals, thoughts of punishment I’ve expended." When asked if this is the same boyfriend she fiercely addressed in "You Oughta Know," Morissette simply replies: "Different person, same era."

• "Spineless" — "The most sarcastic songs are the saddest ones to me because they’re the most pathetic. But I often find that, if I can go all the way into the most embarrassing thing, I can somehow transmute it by writing about it in that way. If I can write about the part of me that is utterly afraid of being the stereotypical woman, then maybe that won’t take over my life."

• "Everything" — "There was some encouragement on other people’s part to move that song up higher in the sequence, but I very much stood my ground. I think that song is the ultimate conclusion song — it just says we are everything. I don’t think my journey is ultimately a journey of trying to become as good as I can be, but to become as whole as I can be, and that’s what the song really says." The closing stanza to the CD: "You see everything you see every part / You see all my light and you love my dark / You dig everything of which I’m ashamed / There’s not anything to which you can’t relate / And you’re still here."

Although it had yet to be finalized as of press time, accompanying video material was poised to be released either as an enhancement on So-Called Chaos or in the form of a separate DVD. (Morissette calculates more than 400 hours’ worth of footage was shot during the studio sessions.) A 5.1 DVD Audio version of the album will be released soon after the standard CD version hits stores.

Morissette also discloses a recent jaunt to Vancouver during which she recorded 14 acoustic versions of selections from So-Called Chaos, feast on scraps, under rug swept and Jagged Little Pill. An actual release has yet to be solidified, but there’s a chance the recordings could be made available on

She hints at another recording that has yet to see the light of day: "I wrote a song with Ryan Adams a couple of years ago but never put it out. It was called ‘1974.’ Wonderfully self-indulgent and fun. He has a song with that title on one of his new records [Rock ’n’ Roll], but this is a different version."

Even more loosely, Morissette has toyed with the idea of creating an alter ego — but has no concrete plans for enacting one just yet.

"At some point, I would love to make a record that isn’t even in my name," she divulges. "Just some random name that allows me to go in certain areas that would be really self-indulgent and ultimately non-communicative."

–Kurt Orzeck

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