“Throughout the twentieth century, perfumery flourished as one of the great popular arts, in the same way that fashion, music, and design flourished, contributing more and more to the everyday life of the everyday person. Yet perfume is probably the least understood and least appreciated of the arts”. Tania Sanchez, Perfumes A-Z
Gorilla On Tour-The Golden Hour: Infused and Bemused Tour essentially is about the art-form of perfume. The vintage bus, filled with writers reading, musicians singing, Beat books strewn about, records in scented sleeves, and bottles upon beautiful bottles of perfume seems to make perfect sense to us. “Perfumes are like books and pieces of music” says Luca Turin, co-author of Perfumes A-Z, and one of the leading scientists of olfaction.
In most perfume houses, the perfumers are anonymous. Most people will never know the name of the person who created the lovely symphony that is their signature scent, if they buy it from one of the big labels, which has a bottle titled only with the name of the fashion house/cosmetics company, with no nods, no hints whatsoever, that there was a talented perfumer who spent time, creativity, and genius (at times) composing it. They think Christian Dior made Diorissimo. But that was perfumer Edmond Routniska- who laboured for years and years to get the smell of Lily of the Valley right. He made many perfumes for many different fashion houses. Ernst Beaux is the name of the man who created Chanel No. 5, not Coco Chanel. He created Chanel No. 22, Cuir de Russie and many more creations for the brand. Yet his name is nowhere on the bottle. Contemporarily, perfumers like Maurice Roucel, Jean Claude Elena, and Calice Becker are amongst a small set of people, (there’s more employed astronauts than employed perfumers is an interesting fact that gets bandied about) all make many of the perfumes that glitter under fluorescent lights in Duty Free, that sit on clean mirrors atop glass cabinets in department stores. Modern perfumers have more worries than anonymity however. They have to answer to big-time cosmetics firms who, for the most part, think about perfume in fiscal terms. Essential oils are a terribly expensive business. So a perfumer who has a recipe for a composition may find his or her lilting lullaby dullened by cheap aromachemicals and synthetics. In addition, past masters’ works- like the aforementioned Diorissimo– are often altered, over time- which would be like Glenn Gould’s interpretation of the Goldberg Variations being “updated” with a few techno beats, here and there. Can anyone scream RE-E-E-E-E-E-EMIX?
For our sake and for yours, we’ve tried to avoid the whole world of mainstream perfume. Flip through a magazine and try to avoid perfume adverts by the big-players. Look at Hollywood stars posed in contemplative positions in high budget photo shoots, or in live-action: commercials that cost millions of pounds to make, starring the currently popular starlet or rugged actor. Christmas is coming soon. Count the perfume commercials you see. We don’t advertise. We instead invest in our perfume. Tania Sanchez, in a review about one of our perfumes, states this about our company:
“If I ran the world, this is how fragrance would work: all the money spent on the juice, the bottle a mere afterthought, not the sad, common reverse. These people are getting it right”
We know our perfumer’s names. Gorilla Perfume is Mark and Simon Constantine. We know their conceptions, the stories behind the perfumes that they have composed. We know Simon was listening to a Magnetic Man song called The Bug, and was inspired by CCTV culture, the phone hacking scandal, police informants, and worked with high quality essential oils to create an unsettling, but lovely fragrance called The Bug. We know Euphoria is Mark’s blend of the most euphoric essential oils, a fragrance whose very composition got him through a rough winter. We know both worked on The Voice of Reason while being inspired by listening to the words of William Burroughs about decay and death above the Poole Lush shop, in the “secret rooms”, in their office, where they sit across from each-other. They were further inspired by Beat writing and the Bill Callahan song, I’m New Here, sung by Gil Scott Heron- and remixed by Jamie XX (listen to both, back to back, here and here). We know the point of view of The Voice of Reason was not merely being nostalgic of the Beats- but in remembering them, knowing there was a distance between them and us- as if you’d just seen a parade of people, people like Leonard Cohen, people like Bob Dylan, Kerouac, Ginsberg, the whole lot, waltz right by you, who go into a secret door, and are gone, and all you have is the smell of them lingering. The perfume is abstract- it is not being part of them, but being merely a bystander as they came and went. It smells of French cigarettes and whisky. And to my nose, it is a masterpiece.
We know this because Mark and Simon told us. We know also that Mark and Simon didn’t have to scrimp on the materials to make the scents. Whereas, other perfumes may be made with the composition dictated by the price of essential oils, Simon has admitted that he never even looks at the price, until his perfume is finished, uncompromised. And then when they told Plastic Crimewave about the perfumes they’ve just made, he made a comic book about it. And so we thought, Mark and Simon have been inspired by music and literature, how about we put the perfumes on tour- as performers in their own right- alongside some of the loveliest and most talented performers in the UK, and give free performances to cities.
We put together a modern Beat poet of sorts, Ryan Van Winkle, and a choreographer, David Beer, with his Collisions dance troupe- and we set off as you’ve read on the blog. They’ve scented performances of The Golden Hour: Infused and Bemused. Direct experience is the only way to experience scent. Instead of paying a celebrity to hang off a billboard, instead of trying to appeal to the MOST amount of people in the LEAST thoughtful ways, we’ve instead had some small performances, where there may have been three or four people hearing poetry while smelling our scents; there may have been a lone visitor, flicking through the LPs, looking at the beautiful apothecary in the bus that Lush hero Jo so thoughtfully designed, there may have been a hundred or more people at the venues we’ve played in various cities. We’re presenting the perfume as an art-form, as the most ephemeral art-form. Beautiful photos and videos are being taken to try to capture some of the glorious events and happenings. However, we can’t smell how it all smelled. That privilege rests with the people who came out, who took part, who were there. Yes. In this case, you really have to be there.
“Nothing can be smelled without disappearing. You don’t use up a picture by looking at it, but each time you uncork a perfume, the bit that evaporates is the bit you enjoy, and after you’ve smelled it, there’s no getting it back into the bottle” Tania Sanchex Perfumes A-Z
All of this may be a primer in perfume for you, or it may not be, you may know all about the world of perfume (it took a photocopy of Pia‘s notes on perfume that got me hooked into the history of perfume). However, we make no distinction between those who know and those who don’t. Perfume shouldn’t be elite. Perfume is for everybody.
“There is a base pleasure in perfume, in just about any perfume, even the cheapest and the most starved of ideas that is better than no perfume at all. It decorates the day. It makes you feel as if the colours of the air have changed. Its a substitute for having an orchestra follow you around playing the theme song of your choice”. Tania Sanchez, Perfumes A-Z
Perfume contributes to the “everyday life of the everyday person” and as such, it shouldn’t cost the moon to be able to indulge. By not advertising, you are not paying for our advertising campaign. Also by keeping our design and packaging reasonable (because, just so you know, there are some perfumes on the market in which the box it comes in, in addition to the bottle, which make up the majority of the percentage of the price. The perfume the afterthought. (Some people are buying 30£ boxes out there.)), we thought we could spread the word this way, to perfumistas, to people into fashion, to people who know nothing about perfume, to people who know nothing about fashion, for everyone to think how marvelous! How marvelous it is just to smell! How very now-and in the moment it is- how very delightful the now is!
In saying that, the bus is for everyone, we did invite some people who are “in-the-know” so to speak, about perfume. The Silver Fox writes one great blog about perfume. If you’ve been at all inspired by the world of perfume, we can advise that his blog is a great resource. He is a true arbiter of perfume and writes both knowledgeably and passionately about fragrance.
He wrote this on his facebook wall:
“Gorilla-tastic. I was invited to the Gorilla bus on Thursday to indulge in the new perfumes. There are 11 in total and two new typically quirky takes on incense. The hand-painted bus is beautifully kitted out inside like a traveling man’s lotions and potions sideshow; snake oil, virility and illicit draughts a speciality! The concept is wonderfully inviting; they are travelling with artists, poets, dancers and musicians and everything is designed to draw you in, invite you closer and let you experience something quite unique. The bus is awash with the new style bottles with packaging by Plastic Crimewave (who decorated the bus), various random objects, little wooden drawers with herbs, bibelots, books, posters and little personal touches of visitors to the bus. It reminded me of the Greenham Common caravan they have at the Transport Museum at Riverside in Glasgow.
I took Rachel, my colleague from work. Our guide Cassie was so alive and passionate about the scents and carefully talked us through them. I am already a huge fan of ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ so I don’t need to be convinced that Gorilla make weird and wonderful aromas. But these are a step forward with a pagan and folkloric slant, re-connecting us to our very British landscape and past. I am preparing a longer blog post on my experience and a more in-depth look at my favourites. But I adored ‘The Voice of Reason’ all smoky wood chips on my skin, BBQ sauce, smoked jalapenos, hash smoke in cars, blaring endless soul music into the night. Fabulous. ‘Furze’ is an amazing take on vanilla, working with gorse and coconut. The vanilla actually smells yellow, like Walls vanilla ice cream, but there is an underlying windswept edge to it which sets it apart. And ‘The Bug’. Quite something. I hated and loved. It deeply unsettled me as I stood in the bus gazing up at the castle. I normally loathe galbanum, but this buzzes down into a very and I mean very odd metallic, tongue on battery note. It smelt to me like the inside of clean cold fridges. I am still sampling and sniffing. ‘Hellstone’ is suffocatingly sexy and the mandarin note in ‘Sun’ is truly delicious, one of best I have ever smelt. So, if the Bus is near you… go and say hello. The fragrances are amazing. The Gorilla peeps a delight and if you take something to decorate their van and they like it…. They might…. Just might…. Trade you for some fragrance…”
We look forward to further musings by The Silver Fox!
We have included some of his stylish photos here also. We like his style.
In addition, we’ve quoted quite broadly from Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin’s perfume guide book Perfumes A-Z
. They helped start the trend towards thinking critically about perfume. It’s not merely that our fragrances, for the most part, rank extremely well in this industry bible, that we refer to it so heavily. Rather, it’s because both Ms. Sanchez and Mr. Turin write extremely well about this topic- which extends to their reviews in their book (think, there is no vocabulary for the olfactory sense- their reviews, themselves, are astute, creative, and make one think differently, and in a more nuanced sense, about perfume). This book is often the first step for an appreciation of perfume.