Main character Alecto
15 Minutes of Fame: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has got to be one of the more idiosyncratically inclined fragrance companies out there today. How did the company develop its particular direction?
Brian Constantine: My sister started BPAL back in 2000. She had apprenticed as a perfumer just for personal enjoyment for many years and started the company as a way to share what she loved with other people. It took off, and I joined her in 2003 -- which, oddly, is the same year I started playing WoW.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is a small, handcrafted fragrance house that creates scents inspired by books, artwork, comics, games, fantasy lit, mythology, and all sorts of awesome weirdness. We have several comic and literature-based fragrance lines, including The Last Unicorn, Alice in Wonderland, and the works of Neil Gaiman and H.P. Lovecraft. This year saw the release of a line of scents based on classic pen-and-paper roleplaying games.
We do what we can to help others through our companies and give back to the community as often as possible. We support fair trade and self-sustaining growers and host fundraisers for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Hero Initiative the Orangutan Foundation UK, AIDS Project Los Angeles, RAINN, the Red Cross, and the Humane Society. Every holiday season, we host toy and food drives at our full moon events at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, Calif.
Black Phoenix Trading Post is BPAL's sister company, and it is run by my brother-in-law Ted. Black Phoenix Trading Post is the licensed creator and distributor of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab tertiary products and logo garments, and Ted manufactures and distributes one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing designs, and handcrafted bath, body, and products scented with BPAL fragrance. We're very much a family-run operation.
We understand that your passion for gaming is not a new development and that you've played WoW for a long time, is that right?
I've been a fan of the Warcraft franchise since a friend brought over a 3.5 disk with the v.1 demo on it, so I was really excited to see how they would turn it into a MMO. I was also, however, very skeptical because I'd been playing Ultima Online and that was a study in what not to do with a MMO. So, my brother-in-law managed to get two alpha invites and I jumped right in. I took a break for a few months at the beginning of BC due to eye surgery, but I've played and raided pretty regularly since.
The bulk of my character names come from scents in our catalog like Alecto, Megaera, Malediction, and Anathema. "Name Unavailable"? No problem! I open up our catalogue and start picking!
15 Minutes of Fame has interviewed its fair share of executive and professional types, and most of them end up eschewing raiding to play more casually when the demands of work call. It sounds like you've switched the balance around a bit.
It's getting to the busy time of year for us at BPAL, so I'm mostly raiding and can't devote as much time as I'd like to other aspects of the game. At the moment, we're working on some of the hard modes in Firelands. When I find some extra time, I work on getting all my chars to 85 (three more to go) and maxing out one of each primary profession. I'm also trying to decide who to gear between my disc priest and blood DK for the Raid Finder.
My playstyle varies a lot. One week, I'll max out justice points on three characters through the Dungeon Finder, and the next, I'm fishing or farming while watching Billy the Exterminator
. So what exactly do you do at BPAL?
I oversee the production half of the shop. Basically, I make sure the product gets out the door. I do all the more mundane things that keep the place running: pay the bills, take care of all of the IT, make sure we have the stock we need, and reblend the bottles so production can keep moving.
I don't know if there's one thing that really fires me up at work. I love my job, and I love what we do. I love that we are able to help others through our business. I love that we're able to share the things that we enjoy, either the products themselves or the ideas behind the products, with others.
If I were going to pick one thing that was a catalyst for me getting really into my job, it would be whenever I need to do some hardcore troubleshooting, either with our computers or the supply chain or whatever. I also really enjoy it when I can get out there and meet our customers at conventions or other events. It means a lot to me to be able to talk one-on-one with our client base.As gaming and geekdom in general becomes more mainstream, has the typical BPAL customer also evolved? How would you link and characterize the various influences, interests and motifs that make up the BPAL experience?
I don't think the core essence of our customer base has changed over the years; it's just grown. Because of the nature of our product and the influences we draw from, we tend to primarily attract artists, historians, writers, librarians, geeks, and gamers. Most people don't come to Black Phoenix just because they like perfume. They gravitate towards our company because of a shared interest in mythology, horror, comics, fantasy and sci-fi, history, gaming, or literature.
Though I do think that since being a geek has gone a little mainstream, moving past the stereotype of a nacho-dust-covered, bearded shut-in playing an MMORPG 24/7, our customer base has probably expanded a little. We're the world's first Geek Perfume House and proud of it. Where does gaming (and, of course, World of Warcraft) fit into that mix?
We make scents that are inspired by things we care about, and all of us at Black Phoenix are gamers in one way or another. Almost all of us play WoW
, and most of us played RPGs (pen-and-paper, MUDs once upon a time, video games, MMORPGs). Gaming is a huge part of who we are and what we enjoy, and it was natural for us to use it as a springboard for inspiration for our products. We don't create some random scent and attach a snazzy name to it; we really delve into the ideas behind a literary, scientific, historical, or gaming concept and try to bring it to life. We have fun -- we're serious about what we do but we don't take ourselves too seriously, and I think that appeals to people.We've definitely spied plenty of literary and pop references in the BPAL catalog of products. Do you try to snag licensing for products you think would be a great fit for BPAL, or is there generally too much red tape or cost to make it worthwhile? Do you offer any products directly related to or inspired by World of Warcraft?
The properties we license are inevitably things that we already love. The real meat of the business is our interpretation of existing concepts, including classic art and literature, through scent, so as we progressed, it was natural to explore how we might interpret more modern works. Our first partnership of this sort was with Neil Gaiman, one of our favorite authors, and things took off from there to the point where we have creators approaching us now on occasion. At this point, it really is a combination of us continuing to seek out properties that really speak to us and having some of those same people come to us wanting to see what we can do with their stuff, which is incredibly cool.
As for WoW
, we would love to work with Blizzard but sadly have not been able to secure rights for directly WoW
-inspired scents. We've got some ideas for Goblin Grease, Orc Pheremones, and BELF Love Potion scents, and we're hoping some day they come to fruition.OK, Brian -- you're sending a BPAL product to a member of each WoW race. What do you give to each, and why?Worgen Fenris Wolf
or Loup Garou
. Total werewolf scents. Both of these are foresty musks, really feral. We have a WILF
scent (yeah, it means what it seems like it means -- my sister thinks she's funny) that is very Worgen, too. Draenei
This is a hard one. I'm not really sure what a Spacegoat would wear. Probably 51
? It's very Ziggy Stardust, and I think that would appeal to a Draenei.Dwarf
I'm not copping out on this one, I swear! Dwarf
from our RPG line is probably the best Dwarf scent we've got. Smells like stone, dirt, leather, and hops.Gnome and Goblin
Since Gnomes and Goblins rock the steampunk aesthetic, I think pretty much anything from our Steamworks
line would work for them, especially Smokestack for the Goblins. Human
We didn't do a human scent for our RPG line because well ... Humans smell like humans. I reckon we wear perfume to avoid smelling like human. Night Elf
I'm going to go with ethereal and mysterious on this one. Muse of the Night
from our Halloween 2011 line is the first thing that comes to mind.Blood Elf
A lot of the scents in our Ars Amatoria
line are very BELF, especially Snake Oil, Carnal, La Petit Mort, and Sed Non Satiata. These are dark, hedonistic, heavy-on-the-sexy sorts of scents. Or Lampades
. That one has a sort of Galadriel Going Bonkers ("And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!") feel to it that a BELF could totally rock.Orc
Needs to be a leathery, battle sweat sort of scent. Our leather heavy-hitters are the Great Sword of War and the Bow and Crown of Conquest from our Sin and Salvation
line, Red Rider, Black Rider, and White Rider in our Marchen
line, and Fighter or Paladin from the RPG
Tauren would probably appreciate earthy, herbal scents like the Coiled Serpent
, and the Apothecary
Scents in our line that are on the tropical side are nice and Troll-y: Baron Samedi, Yemaya, Oya, Shango, Tezcatlipoca, and Xiuhtecuhtli in our Excolo
line, and El Dorado, the Hanging Gardens, Havana, and Machu Picchu in our Wanderlust
Wow. Didn't realize I'd have so many Troll recs.Forsaken
Everything in our Old School Supergoth Gloom & Doom line (Ars Moriendi
) would work for Forsaken. And for all the Bloodsail Admirals / Buccaneers
, we've got Jolly Roger, Anne Bonny, and Grog
. We are so there. And speaking of being there, we're going to see you and BPAL tonight at the WoW Insider Reader Meetup at BlizzCon! What's on the agenda?
We'll have samples there for sniffing, and we're going to doing some giveaways of scents in our RPG line. I'll be there with some of the crew if anyone has any questions! Thanks, Brian – see you at the meetup!
"I never thought of playing
WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from a player battling Alzheimer's disease to
Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), gaming industry insider Liz Danforth and El of El's Extreme Anglin'. Know someone else we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.