Inside The Mind: Josh Meyer

Josh headshot

We often hear stories of passion taking control of someones life. Not unlike an obsession, passion drives you past fatigue, frustration, anxiety and whatever else you think may be impeding your ability to push forth. Some time ago, our founding editor Corey Knight came across a brand so full of passion and amusement he went ahead in A&H style and did some digging. Portland-based Imaginary Authors is the product of a passionate pursuit by perfumer Josh Meyer, concocting colorful, engaging scents that carry you away, just like a good book. We had a chance to sit down with Josh and discuss his exposure to the niche perfume market and his impact on the industry.

You went from a band to real estate to the fragrance industry, how did that happen?

I’ve always felt a heavy artistic bent, and Real Estate wasn’t scratching that particular itch like I hoped it would. After a handful of years, I stopped and decided I wanted to spend a year or so just experimenting and seeing if I could hone any skill creating fragrances that were deeply interesting.

It’s not a lot different from music, there are layers and chords and structures which are embedded in history that are all important to keep in mind.

What was everyone’s reaction to quitting your job to make perfume?

I’m really not sure at all… I am pretty confident with knowing my own path. Not to mention, everyone around me is exceptionally supportive. I think there may have been a few eyebrows when I use the words “Niche Perfume”, most people don’t even really know what i’m talking about. I need to use the term scents or fragrances more often, most folks thing i’m referring to woman’s scents, when most of what i make is very ‘dude-centric’.

It seems that  you really have to be a chemist to be a perfumer, how did  you pick up the art?

I don’t see it as chemistry at all, I think of it more like painting. However, you can’t see the colors, you can only smell them. It was harder learning to make a scent that I had a vision for than I initially thought, and I thought it was going to be hard… For me, it just comes down to understanding how the elements work together and doing a lot of experiments.

Do you remember the first scent you created and thought this is it?

The first scent I made for what became the Imaginary Authors line was Bull’s Blood. It, along with The Cobra & The Canary, are perhaps the most adventurous for someone who isn’t familiar with the niche perfume world. For me, when the scent obsession began, I started with anything that didn’t have that “perfumey” smell that I’d always associated with that bad scent in the elevator or moms who’d take me elementary school. But, as I got more and more accustomed to interesting things, the bolder my tastes grew. So initially, when I started the things I made were all exceptionally strange and not-necessarily-very-good-smelling, but interesting to say the least.

Bulls Blood really stuck out to me. Where did the inspiration come from? How in the hell did you get it to smell like blood but also make it inviting?

For me, fragrance is the sum of it’s ingredients. If we take a pomegranate oil and blend it with ambergris then it becomes an accord and something completely new. The idea with the Imaginary Authors line is to create more of these accords and call them what they are. In Bull’s Blood, we use castorium, sandalwood, civet and patchouli to create a fairly heavy austere animalic accord. No there is no blood in the scent, just as there are no Fresh Tennis Ball’s in The Soft Lawn.
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We live is a world of excess, with that being said, small batch and curated product are making a return in some fashion or another. Does that create a niche for you, or a potential change in your future marketing?

I think this concept is the sole reason Imaginary Authors is a brand at all. While I’m not going to say my fragrances are immediately awe inspired upon initial application, I think people would say they are interesting before they are able to make a judgment call on how they personally feel about the way the scent smells.
The idea of a scent being pretty drastically different than something found at like Sephora or in the mass market, is the primary reason I believe Imaginary Authors is doing so well and creating such an impact. I hope that our branding and presentation also follows this ethos.

In the running for great perfumers, where do you see yourself? I mean to say, what is the future for imaginary authors?
I actually don’t feel much like a perfumer… I am not trained by a school in France nor did I apprentice for years under a great ‘nose’ – I would be eager for both of those opportunities, but for Imaginary Authors and for me personally, I think it’s been an attribute. Who is to say I’ve used too much guaiacwood in a formulation other than myself or a customer?

The future for Imaginary Authors is a simple one: keep making scents. I was recently approached by a cosmetic line and while I don’t want to rule out interesting concepts or expansion, for now I’m going to keep making fragrances and getting more familiar with the raw materials. It’s powerful and I love it to death.You must have a keen sense of smell now, more so than ever. Do you feel like that is something someone can develop or is innate?I don’t know if it’s something that is different for other people, but I don’t think I have a particularly keener nose. I think it’s simply practice. If you think about strawberries, you can recall perhaps what they taste like, but can you bring to mind their scent? Once you get your nose on these sorts of things day in and day out it’s just something that can become something malleable for blending. I think associating color and texture to fragrance is also something that can get stronger with practice, which is a big part of making sense of the materials.

Give us a clue as to what the next fragrance will be.

It’s been a really productive last few months and have a few current concepts in the works. I’ve been very excited about a dark ambergris accord. But, I think our next release will be this summer, a creamed fig scent that takes in the entire tree, it’s bright and juicy fruity out of the gate and very woody and masculine in the dry down. It’s a really fun frag and super immediately appealing.

What would you say to the next young kid that wants to become a perfumer?

I would say, “DO IT!, start blending, always try new things, and above all have a vision for something new. There are an enormous amount of fragrances released each year, make something really interesting and fun that people will either swoon over or be disgusted by.

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Corey Knight

Founder of A&H Group.