Finlay Cowan is a Brand Consultant, Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Writer with experience in music, publishing, advertising, digital marketing, branding, film and TV, interiors and retail. He is the second son of Scottish parents and was born in Oxfordshire in 1966.
MUSIC INDUSTRY DESIGN
Finlay worked as a creative freelance with Storm Thorgerson at Stormstudios sporadically from 1993 until Storms death in 2013 and was responsible for conceiving one of the most popular images for Pink Floyd (titled ‘Back Catalogue’ or ‘Backs’) as well as many other designs, films and animations for the band. He worked with Storm and his team (including Peter Curzon, Rupert Truman, Lee Baker, Dan Abbott and Jon Crossland) on creative design briefs for Audioslave, Muse, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Janes Addiction, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Biffy Clyro, Talvin Singh and The Mars Volta amongst others.
He has written and illustrated five practical art books for David and Charles which have been translated into more than ten languages and have been published in over twenty countries. His first book ‘Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures’ (2003) was a bestseller remaining on the UK art books chart for three years and spawning a genre of copycat titles.
He has contributed to a further seven books and has worked for numerous publishers including Harper Collins, Quarto, Taschen and Bloomsbury.
He has designed bookcovers for Will Self and Tobias Wolff among others.
ADVERTISING & MARKETING
Since 1988 Finlay has worked as a creative on marketing strategies for clients including Swatch, Uniroyal, Universal Pictures, Sony Entertainment and Columbia Tristar (on film release campaigns including Men In Black, Godzilla, Still Crazy and others).
With his former business partner, Bill Bachle, he was creative director from 2003 to 2010 for Luxuria (conferences at Claridges, The Royal Opera House and Badrutts Palace in St Mortiz) and The Luxury Marketing Council Europe and has contributed to marketing campaigns and design for clients including The Royal Exchange, The Royal Opera House, Liberty and CNN.
INTERNET & COMPUTER GAMES
Finlay has art-directed numerous web sites for a variety of clients, he has been commissioned by various games companies to develop stories and characters and worked with award winning game designer Jane McGonigal. He has worked on numerous European marketing campaigns for games including the launch of the first Playstation, Crash Bandicoot and Tekken 2.
TV & FILM ANIMATION
He worked as an armour designer for the late Richard Hooper on Oliver Stones ‘Alexander’ (2003) and Ironclad (2009). He worked on costume illustration (on costumes for Jeremy Renner and Famke Janssen) working for designer Marlene Stewart on ’Hansel and Gretel: Witchhunters’ (2013), and costume illustration for Trisha Biggar on ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ (Season 2, 2014).
He has developed fiction and non-fiction for the BBC, Noel Gay TV, Jeremy Isaacs productions and other production companies worldwide. He was commissioned by the BBC in 2001 to conceive and develop a six part animated series and has worked with numerous production companies developing drama, animation and documentaries.
Finlay with his son Tyler in Lyon, France, May 2014
Photograph © Richard Bellia 2014
INTERIORS & RETAIL
In 1998 Finlay designed, built and managed Café 1001 in London’s Brick Lane. The success of this led to commissions for numerous bar, restaurant and retail areas. Whilst living in Italy between 2003 and 2009 he produced architectural visuals and designs for many country house renovations.
He writes fiction for adults and illustrated fiction for children – he has been nominated as an artist and storyteller at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, which he has loved since early childhood, the museum has been one of his major influences.
TEACHING / LECTURING
He has taught illustration as a guest at primary and secondary schools and colleges including The Chelsea School of Art and has hosted art projects at schools in Italy and the UK. He has lectured on creativity at executive level to various companies. He mentors informally.
Finlay on the day he moved to London, 1985
Photo © Jill Reading
Finlay has designed sets for several stage plays in the UK and Italy.
SPECIALIST SUBJECTS & RESEARCH
Myth and folklore (global with a focus on Scandinavian and Celtic)
The 1001 Nights and the life and work of Sir Richard Francis Burton
The Indian Mutiny of 1857
Jungian psychology, mysticism and quantum physics.
He paints stylized watercolours of beautiful women (and sometimes men). His work has been exhibited in London, Slovakia, Milan and Atlanta.
He has performed at concerts and festivals in the UK, Italy and Sweden.
He played bass guitar briefly for Johnny Thunders at the age of 18… along with most other guitarists living in London at that time… although not all at the same time.
Born and raised in Belgium, Wes moved to London to study audio technology in 1998, returning to live here in 2003. Initially dividing his time between being a visiting lecturer in Audio Technology at City of Westminster College and building a client base for freelance recording, mixing, mastering and live work, Wes moved to full-time engineering in 2006.
Wes has made live recordings of The Kooks, the Buzzcocks and Cat Stevens, amongst others – including distinguished classical pianist Alfred Brendel.
Wes Maebe, known to Finlay as ‘The Duke’, London. Photograph © Alain Volery 2014
He’s worked in some of the loveliest studios in London, including:
Mickie Most’s RAK,
Trevor Horn’s Sarm West
Mark Knopfler’s private paradise, British Grove.
Wes has mastered more than 100 albums for clients including Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, folk heroes Fairport Convention, punk icons Stiff Little Fingers and post-punk icons New Model Army.
He has recorded and mixed for artists including:
New Model Army.
And he has had the pleasure of working with many great producers such as:
Clients compare Wes’s sound as a ‘bridge between old school edgy British engineering and lush American production values’.
FRONT OF HOUSE
Wes has worked as a front of house engineer in over 300 venues and festivals all over Europe, and has toured with Sting, Chaka Khan, Hugh Cornwell, Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant, heavy metal rockers Exit 10 and classic blues/rock singer Deborah Bonham, sister of the late-lamented John ( and he’s played Bonzo’s iconic gong too…)
Wes is on the Grammy P&E Wing Advisory Board, he’s a board member of the APRS, has done presentations for the AES and is a regular reviewer for Mix Magazine U.S. and Audio Pro International magazine, in which he also has his own column, which means he gets to play with lots of lovely new gear for nothing….
John Klein,London.Photo © xxx 2014
Jon Klein is a well known guitarist, producer, film maker and artist.
He first came to the publics attention as a founder member of seminal Goth band The Specimen who are considered largely responsible for refining the definitive Goth sound and look through their music and their infamous club ’The Batcave’ which spearheaded the Goth movement.
He was renowned for his ‘exploding horse, falling off a cliff guitar sound’ and became Siouxsie and the Banshees longest serving guitarist after joining them in 1986. After leaving The Banshees he went on to work on projects with: Talvin Singh, X-Lover, T-Love, Lucia Cifarelli, David Devant, Dirty Harry, Cubanate, Ali Zapak, Sinead O’Connor, Baron Puppett, Thomas Dolby, Shriekback, Lucia, Space Tribe.
He had known Finlay Cowan for several years before working with him on a variety of tracks and was attracted to the Subway Slim project because of its ‘cinematic vision’. They began a prolific collaboration which lasted several years.
Finlay said of Jon “He’s a tireless creative, no single medium is enough for him and in the twenty or so years I’ve had the honour of knowing him, he has never stagnated… always challenging himself and learning something new, moving through a variety of instruments, producing, painting, writing, shooting, directing and editing film… he has a prodigious amount of creative energy. He also has tremendous tolerance and patience and will always help out newcomers, contributing his immense knowledge and experience to help dozens of younger musicians and artists along the way… he is a true artists artist”.
Chiara graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in London with a degree in conservation of organic materials and went on to further specialisation in the restoration of paper-based art objects including antique currency. She joined Finlay Cowan in Le Marche, Italy in 2006 where she worked with him for over two years as a studio manager and design assistant, producing books and artworks. During this time she also worked as a costume and set designer for various theatrical productions. After returning to Milan in 2009 she trained and worked as producer on video content (or video productions) for tv and web.
She began studying digital marketing strategy and has returned to work on Subway Slim in that capacity, working to produce inspiring social media content for the project.
Chiara Giulianini, Milan.
Finlay said of her; “Chiara has an amazing ability to focus deeply on a task – she is a great believer in the essential idea of craft, the desire to develop a finely honed skill and apply it consistently for a long period of time until she masters it. Basically, she likes to be given a huge pile of complex work to do and be left alone to get on with it”.
Legendary jazz rock guitarist Elliott Randall is known for his work with Steely Dan and a host of other artists such as The Doobie Brothers, Tom Rush, Elkie Brooks, Carly Simon, Carl Wilson, Peter Wolf, Peter Frampton, James Galway, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and The American Symphony Orchestra, among many others. He was also a music consultant for Saturday Night Live and Oliver Stone and worked on projects with producers Gary Katz, David Kershenbaum, The Tokens, Steve Lillywhite, Eddie Kramer and Jerry Wexler. Wes asked Elliott to contribute guitar and special effects to some Subway Slim tracks after Elliot had commented that the project was “a concept album”, saying “people don’t do that these days… and they should !” We look forward to collaborating with Elliott on more music in the near future.
Jules’ academic achivements include an Honours Degree in Recording Arts, Train the Trainer certification, Course coordinator and trainer for SAE (Asia). He worked as and Assistant Engineer with Wes Maebe at Sonic Cuisine before founding Abstract Source records.
Jules has covered many bases from Funk through to Detroit Techno, pushing musical boundaries while maintaining an old school approach to Production.
His alliance with Wes Mabe enabled him Jules to apply rock style mixing and mastering techniques to his productions, giving them an analogue edge that many modern production lack. It was this technique that attracted Finlay to Jules work: “We worked on two songs with Jules, ‘Animah Projector’ and ‘Minotaur’ from The Ghost In Me and he just completley transformed them with the his choice of sounds and samples… his worked just elevated the songs to… something else”.
Mireia graduated from the University of Barcelona with a degree in Slavic Studies. She speaks Catalan, Spanish, French, English and Russian. She is currently Brand Ambassador for Bodegas Miguel Torres wine merchants. She met Finlay whilst living in London and the two became close friends, after several years he asked her to produce a Spnish translation of ‘The Ghost In Me’.
Finlay says of her, “Mireia had known me for long enough to really understand my deep interest in mythology and folklore so when she came to translate The Ghost In Me into Spanish she really understood the turn of phrase and elegance in the language that I was searching for… she has that dedication of all great linguists to find the perfect equivalent of metaphors and idioms”
Debbie is an experienced marketer with a background in hospitality, partnership marketing, music publishing, brand and general marketing & communications as well as event creation and management. She was Director of International Communication & Marketing at both PolyGram International Music Publishing Ltd and Universal Music Publishing International Ltd and has worked as a marketing consultant and/or manager at Fairwood Music International Limited, Apple Corps. Ltd, Carluccio’s, Paul UK Limited and many others.
Finlay met Debbie when they both worked at the Luxury Marketing Council and he introduced her to Wes Maebe… whom she married some time after. Debbie has been a staunch supporter of Subway Slim acting as a general business consultant, legal advisor and informal creative consultant.
Alma worked as a singer with Finlay from 1999 onwards and contributed vocals to several tracks, although Miss London is one of the few tracks that found their way into the Subway Slim project. Alma’s major contribution, however, came when she invited Finlay to visit her family home in Småland, Sweden in 2000. “I immediately felt I had a found a spiritual home… it resonated with me in a very deep way and I feel a tremendous gratitude to Alma and her whole family as well as many of her friends from Sweden and Denmark… it is a place and people I will always return to”. Alma appears in several drawings in Convergence and many of the locations and themes in the Ghost In Me came as a result of her introducing Finlay to her family and country. “The Scandinavian influence was always there in my work but Alma helped bring it to life”.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Lou Smith (Photographer, Film maker, Artist) | Richard Bellia (Photographer) | Adam Fuest (Producer, Musician) | Annemarie Moyles (UX Designer) | Andy Kotonous (Accountant)
Subway Slim would never have evolved without the input of these allies who have made a huge contribution to the project…
EZDZ is a ‘strangely intense’ musican and producer “The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a genius”, said Finlay after a long night in the studio with him. EZ has worked with a host of artists and has produced some phenomenally well known tracks – unfortunately we daren’t mention any of them… “I can’t even tell you his name” says Finlay, “He believes in moving forward and doesn’t want to be judged by his past work”. EZDZ brought his unique approach to several of the songs while Finlay and Jon Klein were working together.
Janette was Finlays life partner for 27 years and the mother of Tyler. “Janette made, and continues to make, a huge contribution to my work – she is the first person who reads everything so she’s a script doctor, analyst, collaborator and gets involved in the art direction of just about everything I do… she’s also always there to keep me going when I get run down , giving me a push when needed – and it was thanks to Janette that I took off in a new direction when I started ‘Convergence’… which led to Subway Slim getting going after a long gestation period”.
Finlay’s son Tyler grew up with his Dad working on Subway Slim. Now that Tyler has grown up Finlay has turned to him to advise on graphic design, film, editing, internet and social media. “We have a lot of common interests”, says Finlay, “But it’s clear that Tyler has a view of design and communications specific to his generation and he has really refreshed my understanding of media as younger people see it and interact with it”. The two formed ‘Observe’, a film production company, in late 2014.
THE ANTI-MARK (THE BESPOKE PIXEL)
Finlay was introduced to the Anti-Mark by Jon Klein and the two went on to work together on numerous projects including various web and digital collaborations for Pink Floyd. “Every conversation I have with Mark, I come away with future shock – he’s always so far ahead… I can barely see the horizons he’s on… he’s one of those guys that is building the future”. Marks company Bespoke Pixel now builds advanced internet systems but somehow finds time to advise Finlay and contribute to key elements of the digital strategy.
Åsa and Finlay started working together after being introduced by Alma and the Swedish born actress contributed to several songs and live performances. Åsa had a significant influence on the writing process during the making of Convergence and Finlay has said that her knowledge of theatre and performance “gave an aspect to the music that wasn’t there before” and their shared love of the power of traditional storytelling sparked parts of the storyline in The Ghost In Me.
Finlay met Annemarie when she came to him for work experience while studying Graphic Design at University. She went on to study web design and ‘all that code stuff’ but remains passionate about illustration and painting. “Annemarie has given me a lot of advice on the web side of things and she has been invaluable because she can see things from the perspective of an illustrator… but has a deep understanding the technical aspects of the internet… so she can give insights as to how I can create a good digital experience with Slim”.
STORM THORGERSON & STORMSTUDIOS
Finlay worked as a freelancer with Storm on and off for around twenty years. As far back as 1997 Finlay and Storm worked on a very early version of the The Memory War when it was being developed as a computer game. Throughout the two decades he knew Storm, Finlay also worked closely with Peter Curzon, Rupert Truman, Lee Baker, Jon Crossland, Tony May, Mark Griffiths, Dulcie Fulton and many others including Storms son Bill and his wife Barbie. All of these designers (and Storms family) have had an influence on Finlays work.
“Everybody who worked at StormStudios… they weren’t directly involved in Slim… but I want to namecheck them because we all influenced each other as designers and creatives… and I think I would be doing things differently now had I not worked with these specific people over such a long period of time”.
SUBWAY SLIM LTD
Director: Finlay Cowan
Company Registration Number: 07804048
Registered Office Address : 55 Denmark Hill, Camberwell, London SE5 8RS