GQ talked to Rickly about Someone Who Isn’t Me, ibogaine, perfume, and the similarities between being a sponsor and a producer.
GQ: When and why did you start writing this book?
Geoff Rickly: Pretty much immediately after I got sober. A lot of it was literally just to give me something to do so I wouldn’t end up on the street corner buying drugs. I just needed to know that I was not going to leave the house, no matter what happened. And writing has always been my favorite part of being a musician. I felt more like a writer with a microphone than a proper singer.
What was your writing process like?
I would wake up with the sun, make coffee, and pick a random perfume and write, “This is what I’m going to spray on my wrists and think about.” Then I would just write until 11ish. Five hours is about my limit for working straight. I also have a ridiculous playlist with no lyrics, it’s about three weeks long. I’d just put that on.
What’s on the playlist?
Sakamoto, who just passed, I have a lot of his work. William Basinski. A lot of noise stuff and house music, too.
Tell me about the perfume. How did you get into fragrance?
My father’s a chemist. He was the one who was like, “Yeah, I solve chemical problems, but there are these artists that compose these beautiful things using time as their medium, because the evaporation curve of each material is how you know what you’re smelling next.” So when I was a kid I respected it.
Then, I think it was when I started getting sober, my sense of smell came back because I wasn’t jamming heroin up my nose all the time. My friends gave me some samples, I got really into it and it started spiraling.
What are some good perfume entry points for the uninitiated?
One of the most talented perfumers is Christophe Laudamiel. He’s worked for everybody, and he famously did the Abercrombie scent that they pumped out of their stores in the mall. But he also did the first Tom Ford scent and he has his own indie line that wins all these awards. [Playing live] I wear one of his scents, Rich Mess—it’s like a leather. It’s beautiful and a little intimidating, which I like.
So if an intimidating leather scent is good for performing live, what’s good for writing?
There’s a material I really like called oud. It’s a certain kind of tree that grows in the Golden Triangle, the aquilaria tree. When it gets damaged, it produces a resin as an immune response. Over centuries this resin builds up. You can distill it and it makes this strange, resiny scent. Some people think it really stinks, but it’s got some kind of an activating [effect]. It makes your brain buzz a little bit.
How thin is the border between you, Geoff, and the character Geoff in the novel?
It’s really hard to say. There are things that I did to craft the story better. I flipped the genders of characters, I changed names, I combined several people into one person. But other than that it’s basically all