For purely selfish and superficial reasons, we took Alanis Morissette’s split last year from longtime fiancé Ryan Reynolds especially hard — that is, until we remembered how well she’s been turning personal pain into bittersweet beauty since her seminal 1995 breakthrough album, Jagged Little Pill. Sweeping that former infatuation under the rug with her eclectic new Flavors of Entanglement, the seven-time Grammy winner detailed what you oughta know about her life’s many lesbian twists — including her mean girl turn on Nip/Tuck and an “awkward” kiss with Sarah Jessica Parker.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Looking back, Alanis, you’ve had quite a gay-friendly career.
Alanis Morissette: Really? That’s true, actually. I don’t even think about it, but yeah.
When did you first feel a connection with the gay community?
I’ve felt love from the gay community since I was really young because all my friends were gay. My first manager was gay, and I used to go to nightclubs with him in New York when I was 14. There’s a passion, a presence, and a curiosity with a lot of gay people that I meet, and that aliveness is such a special quality to me.
Flavors of Entanglement was produced by Guy Sigsworth, known for his work with Björk, Britney, and Madonna. Were you catering to your gay fan base on this record?
To be honest, my goal was catering to my own artists within. I wrote the record for myself, and the act of sharing it publicly turns it into an invitation, really, for the gay community or any community to make it their own.
Which theme on the album may resonate deepest with gay fans?
A couple of my gay friends have a habit of jumping from relationship to relationship — not unlike myself. I’ve been known to be somewhat of a serial monogamist, without taking much breaks between relationships, so I very much married my own self for a full year, and promised myself not to commit to anything. I not only declare it but celebrate it as well.
Are you afraid of being alone?
I’m a recovering codependent and a recovering love addict, so that explains everything.
When I heard about your and Ryan’s breakup, I said, “Well, that sucks, but at least some incredible music will come out of it.” Did you have a similar realization?
Wow. Once the record was finished, it dawned on me that so much beautiful art comes from transmuting pain. It’s always been the case. But there are two great life forces that have the power to move worlds: anger and love. For me to become empowered postdepression, I have to move through anger. So [the new track] “Straitjacket”? Angry.
Is that your “You Oughta Know” for Ryan?
I don’t speak about him or anybody specifically, but I do speak about my own personal experience. I wouldn’t say it’s a “You Oughta Know” per se because I don’t compare songs, but there’s similar emotion.
Last night I dreamed we hit it off so well that you told me definitively whom “You Oughta Know” is about. What are the chances?
Pretty slim. [Laughs] I write these songs to get them out of my body so I don’t get sick. I don’t write them to seek overt revenge.
How did you react when the media tried to stir a feud between you and Ryan’s new girlfriend, Scarlett Johansson, because both of your albums were, albeit briefly, set for release on the same day?
To be honest, Warner Bros. has changed my release date so often, I had every reason to believe they would change it again. It was a blip of a committed release date on that one.
You joke on 2002’s Feast of Scraps DVD about an attraction to gay guys because you like the “hard-to-get” type. Is there truth in that?
Well, the running joke was that I’d always fall for all these beautiful men who were gay. My standard for boyfriends has often been my gay friends, which is a dangerous thing for a woman. I like men who are heterosexual but have this beautiful balance of masculine and feminine. I’m not a huge fan of being with a singularly machismo man.
Describe the spin-the-bottle smooch you shared with Sarah Jessica Parker in a 2000 episode of Sex and the City.
Her character was meant to be reticent, so the kiss itself has got this push-pull, uncomfortable energy to it. It wasn’t like a full-blown, mutually passionate thing. The characters really dictated what that was like, so it was awkward. But can you imagine Carrie being in New York and not having questioned her sexuality?
Will you elaborate on the lesbian experimentation you once discussed on Howard Stern’s radio show?
What can I tell you about it? I think it’s a beautiful rite of passage for everyone to play with their sexuality at some point, so I did exactly that. And it was great!
Talk about how you approached your 2006 stint on Nip/Tuck as Dr. Liz Cruz’s girlfriend Poppy, who reminded everyone that lesbians can be assholes too.
All human beings can be assholes! For me, commitment is commitment, conflict is conflict, and power struggles are power struggles. The sexuality part doesn’t count; it’s no different energetically.
Would you ever get plastic surgery?
I’ve never done it, and I’m not considering it right now, but I completely get it. The amount of pressure is higher than it’s ever been, especially for actresses on television. There’s a little more pressure on musicians now too. I feel it everywhere.
What inspired the lesbian twist at the end of 2005’s “Crazy” video?
I’m always trying to impress my best friend who’s gay — she’s the best. [Laughs] Guy Oseary [who signed her to Maverick, her former record label] and I had the story laid out, and I thought, Wouldn’t it be funny if I’m stalking this guy the whole time, but it’s just because I’m upset that his girlfriend is my ex-girlfriend?
Which of your songs would you submit as an anthem for the gay community?
Over the last few years, in the last verse of “Ironic” I sing, “It’s like meeting the man of your dreams / And then meeting his beautiful husband.” So that song’s a tip of the hat now.
You became an ordained minister online in 2004 — partly, you’ve said, because you wanted to be able to marry gay friends. Have you done so?
I haven’t, but if any of my friends get married, I’d be first to put my hand up. I don’t want to marry someone just for the sake of it; they’ll be divorced six months later.
The YouTube video for your cover of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” has been viewed more than 13 million times since April 2007. Was that all in good fun or a comment on the music industry’s perpetuation of negative female stereotypes?
There are 15 different interpretations, and they’re all true. Some of it is me not being precious at all. I was in the studio with Guy Sigsworth and he would say, “What horse from the apocalypse are you bringing in today, Alanis?” Because every song was this tsunami of emotions. So I said, “I wish I could just write a really simple song — a song like ‘My Humps.’” Then we had a pregnant pause, looked at each other, and said, “All right, let’s do it!” Within moments we were recording the piano version of it, and within a week we were shooting the video in my garage here at my house. However it’s been interpreted has been entertaining for me to watch.
Here’s another silly question—
Another dream? I like your dreams.
No, worse. If you had one hand in your pocket, what would the other one ideally be doing?
[Laughs] Oh, dear. Well, I was just in Amsterdam, and that was really, really fun…
Meaning, the other hand would be smoking pot? Hey, I’ve seen pictures of you hanging out with Matthew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson — don’t think I don’t know what’s going on.
[Laughs] Well, I just think life is about balance: A little bit of debauchery here and there, combined with some serious self-care, is the ultimate combination for me.
he Advocate, July 2008; extended online version.