Into the life of Jeff Finley

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If you keep up with design, then you should be familiar with Jeff Finley and Go Media. For a number of years now Jeff has cranked out some awesome work in the music industry and other arenas. You can find his work with a simple search.

But there are some things about Jeff you might not have found or didn’t know anything about. With a handful of interviews currently in circulation, we wanted to find out more about the guy behind the work… keep reading.

Profile photos taken by Chris Casella. Other photos provided by Jeff Finley.

All images are property of their respected owners.

A partner at GoMedia, you just released your first book, you’re the drummer for Parachute Journalists, an aspiring b-boy and you are organizing and promoting the second Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. On top of that you are an extremely talented illustrator, designer and artist.

As an outsider looking in, it appears that you wouldn’t even have time to sleep with everything you’re involved in – does it feel that way, to you? How do you manage your time and keep everything organized?

That does sound like a lot! Not to mention being a husband and a homeowner! Things can be crazy, but I manage pretty well by compartmentalizing most things. I try to get as much done during the 10-6 work day as I can. And currently the band is on hold and pretty much has been since my singer started his own recording studio called Bad Racket. Around that same time is when I took up breakdancing, so I feel like the time I normally spent in the band is now spent in my basement practicing moves.

The best way I can say to manage is to have synergy between your projects. I have a lot going on, but they all benefit from each other. So when I spend time on one thing, it’s either supporting or indirectly benefiting the others.

I still manage to rest, hang out with my wife, keep up with the house, see my family, and relax. That’s important to me.

You’ve found a way to maintain working with the things you enjoy the most. How did you make this happen? Was there ever a time you were working on projects that you didn’t enjoy?

Certainly, although I don’t talk much about those! Being busy allows me to accept which projects I choose to take on, which I usually only take on projects that excite me. But for the longest time I have always tried to pursue projects that interested me.

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About 4-5 years ago I realized I didn’t have to “suffer” doing things I didn’t want to do. There are still clients from hell and even projects I enjoy have parts that are annoying, but every designer has those! Even WMC Fest can be irritating at times because I simply have to do so much myself. Even the stuff I am not good at or don’t like. But once this gets more established, I’ll get others to do those for me.

Looking at your works and interests, how much has music played a role in your life, creatively and personally?

Music has played a major role. Ever since discovering how much I loved punk rock back in the 90’s listening to bands like The Offspring, Rancid, Blink-182, etc. The music really spoke to me and I dreamed of playing in a band one day. I didn’t play any instruments, so when I discovered FL Studio (Fruity Loops back then) in 2000, I used that to make my own music.

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My favorite parts to compose were the drums. My love of the punk/emo/metal scene helped get me through college and by the time I graduated I was burnt out on animation. But I always went back to the music and was an avid Alt Press reader. Through that I discovered artists like Derek Hess, Rob Dobi, and AngryBlue and my life changed ever since. I dropped the idea of being an animator and wanted to do band art. I liked how they didn’t “have a job” so to speak, and they did it on their own. This felt so awesome to me and inspired me to start freelancing under my own alias, Mylkhead, at the time.

You’re the drummer for Parachute Journalists. What is it like playing music for you?

As a band, we’re actually on hiatus as I write this, but only because we’re busy with other projects and our “music itch” is being scratched by other things. But writing and composing songs with other band members is actually quite fun.

I started drumming when I was 25 because a friend of mine wanted to start a band that sounded like Latterman, my favorite band of mine at the time. We found a singer and called ourselves By Bread Alone. This was where I “really” learned how to play drums, because I had to! Otherwise we couldn’t make any music. So I took lessons and practiced with the band until we got good enough to release some songs. We don’t really sound like Latterman though! We played one show before we broke up. That’s when we started Parachute Journalists when my colleague Adam Wagner and I got together and started making music.

One of the best parts of being in a band though was creating art for us. I could do whatever I wanted and explore my style. That’s why you see so many cool posters and album covers for us, even though we never really played a show for more than 30 people!

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Tell us a bit about Parachute Journalists. Can we expect any new releases in the near future?

We have a back log of recordings from 2009 that we did and we were regularly releasing singles with original album art throughout 2010. But with our time being so limited, we got behind and haven’t put anything new out for a while. Our goal is to release all that material and make an full length record and put it out. But as far as writing new material, not any time soon. But most of our material is “new” to everyone anyway!

You have some 8-bit tracks up on myspace under “boxomylk”. Tell us about that.

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Boxomylk was the alias I used when I composed my own music with FL Studio. My friend Dan actually named me, and I promised him whatever he named me I would use. Granted I had like 3 songs at the time, I never expected to go on using it as long as I have. But the name stuck. I started in 2000 when I was 18 and I’ve done hundreds of songs over the years. Mostly without vocals, but the ones that do generally don’t see the light of day! My influences ranged from Funk/Hip Hop and B-Boy Breaks, to punk/metal, and Nintendo/Chip-Tune. But since I have been in bands, my solo productions have slowed to a crawl. I just don’t have time anymore.

Tell us about becoming a b-boy. You have posted up some videos of you practicing. What got you involved with breakdancing? Have you always been a dancer?

My breakdancing actually started as a result of Boxomylk actually. Around 2002, I would be away at college and be making new songs and when I’d come back home, I’d show my friends and we’d play it at a party. We’d all be going nuts dancing in the basement to the new Boxomylk tracks. We loved it!

A friend of mind showed me the 6-step, a fundamental move in b-boying. He also showed me the wave and some various other moves that are technically considered “popping.” For the laymens out there, it’s more advanced “robot” type moves. Once I got into that, I was hooked. I was looking up videos on the internet and discovered the underground world of b-boying and was blown away. So, for a while Boxomylk was all about putting out fresh tracks for my friends and I to break to. This culminated in my 2004 senior project at The Art Institute when I created a music video for one of my songs called “Amorous Thorns.” It featured me, a bunch of “Mylkheads” – aka worshipers of Boxomylk – and a hand-animated CG b-boy. As an animation student, this was a huge challenge and I studied clips of b-boys from the internet and modeled my animation off that. It’s pretty ridiculous and it turned a lot of heads at school! I still really like it to this day and is one of my best memories of college.

Once I got involved with Go Media in 2006, I moved to Cleveland and rarely saw my friends much. So the breakdancing sort of stopped and playing in a band became my priority in music.

However, this started back up again in 2010 when I felt very out of shape and was looking for more interesting ways to get my work out. Jogging and lifting weights are boring! I found some classes taught by a legit b-boy Swift Ali. I was intimidated at first, not because I wasn’t any good, but because I was so old! Most of my class was around 5-10 years of age and I was 28! Also, on my first day I accidentally kicked a 5 year old kid during the freestyle session and knocked the wind out of him. It was not a good first impression and it was very difficult to go back knowing I was “that guy.” Later, my wife came to watch me in class and had to stand out with all the other visitors who are moms and dads of the kids in the class, who all happen to be around my age! Not knowing my wife was nearby, she overheard negative gossip about my presence in the class. She told me about it and I was pissed! I was about to quit! I told my instructor and the owner of the dance studio my intentions on leaving the class, but they coaxed me into staying. I’m glad I did, because it’s seriously been so great to do this again. It’s no longer awkward in class because other older kids joined and I’ve just been around for a while, so everything seems normal now.

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And I feel proud for sticking to a goal and not giving up. People always pat me on the back for not giving up on the class, and I’m happy about that.

With everything we’ve discussed so far, what do you do when you are NOT doing any of those things? Do you ever get bored?

My wife and I watch movies and we both enjoy our pet rabbits Cocoa and Daisy. I’m a huge film fan, so Netflix is a weekly indulgence of mine. It’s nice to relax and zone out sometimes! But I’m never bored, I have no idea what that’s even like!

How do you manage so many relationships with so many creative outlets? Do ideas from one tend to blend over into the others? Do the ever get in the way of each other?

Like I said before, synergy is really important. All my projects need to benefit each other. If not, I can’t do it. For instance, WMC Fest is a good way for me to promote Go Media and the Parachute Journalists played a set last year. I got to showcase my design work too. And blogging and writing tutorials and making products for the Arsenal benefits Go Media and my expertise as a designer. I’m also taking on public speaking opportunities because that’s another avenue to get my projects out there to more people. When I have to write a tutorial, not only do I get to talk about what I love, I come across as someone who knows what they’re talking about – IE worth hiring for a job one day. So I’ll do a tutorial on a poster for the Parachute Journalists – which promotes my music. It all works hand in hand.

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How much of your work is done by cookie scented candlelight? Is that the preferred candle fragrance of Jeff Finley?

Haha, all of it! No just kidding. I do love scented candles though, they put me in a good mood. If a candle is not lit on my desk, it was probably because I was too busy and forgot!

Normally, I would ask what percentage of your work is personal vs. commercial and do you prefer one over the other. But you seem to apply a lot of yourself into all of your work and projects – blurring the line between personal and commercial work. Is this the case?

Yeah I’d say so. Although when I work for a client, it’s all about the client. But because I’ve done so much personal work over the years – I’ve developed a sort of style or aesthetic that clients actually request. So I end up doing something in that style for a client and it all starts to look similar. So I’d say there is a blurred line there.

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You deal with every aspect of this arena: the creative side and the business side. Is there ever a disconnect between going back and forth from being creative to critical thinking and back again?

Actually I think knowing and understanding the business side really improves the creative side. I can’t think of the hours I’ve saved by having the intuition of what the client needs rather than just shooting in the dark. Understanding business helps me with clients tremendously as I can help them make decisions by thinking of what I would do myself if I were in their shoes.

What was it that influenced and motivated you to write Threads Not Dead? You also mentioned that this was your “first” book, does that mean we can expect another book soon?

This was the first “book” I’d written yes. But before that I was writing tutorials and articles for our blog GoMediaZine, which helped get Go Media lots more exposure. I started putting out video tutorials and selling those via The Arsenal and through that I felt like I was really building an audience. It felt like people were actually listening and learning from what I was teaching. So that just encouraged me to do more. They were some of our best selling products in a long time. The eBook idea came as a result of reading The Four Hour Workweek actually. I read it last summer and it inspired me to continue to pursue informational products. An eBook was something I’d never done, it seemed like an epic challenge. I took a subject I know a lot about and found all my friends in the industry and did an “expose” so to speak. To kids in the scene, it’s kid of preaching to the choir, but there are thousands of potential customers out there who can gain from it. And eBooks have legs, they are products that continue to sell for years. They also educate the readers for the long run – giving them the information and motivation to do things themselves.

Rather than simply giving them a piece of stock vector art, we give them ideas.

My goal initially was to interview a bunch of people and write the book in a month. I severely underestimated the amount of time it would take. What happened was that I felt the book wouldn’t be very good if I just rushed it, so my internal quality quotient was satisfied until I made it just right. But I’m not so much of a perfectionist that it prevents me from launching. I had to bust my ass for a solid 6-8 months to finish it. But I knew once it was out it was going to be fun to market and sell it and finally earn money from it.

My long term goal is to sell a million copies of course! But in all seriousness, we wanted a product that could also help promote Go Media and what we do. To give us more exposure and more opportunities. I would like to get it published into a physical book and see it on the shelves at Borders in my town. That would be a dream come true.

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Back in the day you were designing shirts for bands and clothing companies on myspace under the alias Mylkhead. Looking back, how do you think the design community has changed? Do you feel that it has developed into more of a scene than it was back then?

Yes, it certainly has! When I first started, it was before social networking really existed. Now, everyone is connected and constantly aware of their peers work. Trends seem to REALLY latch on and get burnt out quick. I think the scene is definitely bigger and more connected. When Emptees came on the scene, it brought so many t-shirt designers together. There’s niche sites all over the net for different breeds of designers. Dribbble is another one that’s helping create more of a community around what we do.

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How did Weapons of Mass Creation Fest come about? What are you most excited about this year from the last?

Two things happened. First, the recession hit and sales were slumping. One idea we had about improving Arsenal sales was a rebranding campaign. We thought the perception of the Arsenal was getting “less cool” and we wanted to change that by bringing in our favorite designers and having them endorse the Arsenal. To help improve the image of the brand. We imagined “ads” with the artist standing there next to his work with the tagline “I am a Weapon of Mass Creation.” Obviously it played on the militaristic/WMD thing which fit right in line with the Arsenal. Professional design weaponry. Weapons of Mass Creation. Tools you use to make art. It all went hand in hand.

So we flew in a handful of our favorite artists from around the country to Go Media for a day. We hired Chris Casella, a rockstar photographer out of Columbus who has worked with big guns like Slayer, Slash, Slipknot, Disturbed, etc. He was going to make rockstars out of these designers and we loved that. The private photo shoot was a hit and all the artists were clamoring to do it again. The place was buzzing!

But unfortunately, we just didn’t have the money to properly execute the entire ad campaign. And when push came to shove, we had to shelve the idea because there was no guarantee it would make us money. We had just laid off 3 people due to the recession and we had no choice.

Around that same time – unrelated to Go Media – I had the idea to start a fest. This is the second thing that happened.

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I’d been going to punk/folk fests like Berea Fest, DIT Fest, and The Fest down in Gainesville, FL. I had tried to get involved with those events by doing t-shirt designs for free in exchange for sponsorship. I wanted to support the DIY punk scene that I felt extremely attached to at the time. That was cool and rewarding, but somewhere deep inside I wanted more. I wanted to be more involved, but I didn’t feel like I quite fit in or didn’t know the right people to feel truly a part of their scene. Then one sleepless night I had the idea to start my own fest. With my own bands – except I’d also screen movies. I’m got peculiar taste in movies and I thought it’d be cool to combine both my passions into one fest. I found a couple other people who shared a similar enthusiasm. We planned for a few weeks and still didn’t have a name, and then I had a talk with my business partner at Go Media, Bill Beachy. He reminded me how awesome it was bringing in those artists for the Weapons of Mass Creation photo shoot. A light-bulb went off!

Why don’t I invite them back, except this time make it a public event and do it up big? Bands, artists, films? Awesome!!! I ran with the idea and called it Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. That’s how it all began! The first WMC Fest was May 22-23 of 2010.

One of the main aspects of WMC Fest is that it is presented as a “young, grassroots conference with a DIY / Indie flavor”. What was the reasoning behind styling the conference this way?

This is a very interesting question because of the term DIY. Last year I was calling our event DIY to say that WMC Fest was starting from nothing and we’re all doing this on our own time the way we want it. We felt like events like SXSW were too expensive and far away.

So we were going to scrounge up resources and get the help and donations to make it happen. The bands I listened to at the time were big on DIY and it felt like the right thing to call it. However, that didn’t come without some criticism. Last year I learned that the word DIY has a lot of meaning to a lot of people. You know how if you say Green Day is punk, you can get a riot started in the wrong crowd? Well, DIY is kind of like that. Apparently, there is DIY and then there is DIY. One pertains to simply doing things yourself, on your own terms, and the other is a lifestyle with its own ethos. DIY is a lifestyle, and by calling our event a DIY event, it attracted a certain crowd that didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that we had sponsors or was being put on by a for-profit business (Go Media). It kind of opened up a can of worms that made it tough to mix my passion for the music I liked and my passion for the business I work in.

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So this year, I’ve ditched the DIY terminology but I still want our grassroots, volunteer, do it yourself attitude to still be prevalent. I don’t want to send the wrong message. But the spirit of doing things your own way and building community is still a core value of mine.

Knowing everything you know now, is there any thing that you wish someone would have told you in the beginning?

I thought hard on this, but I must say no. Because my ignorance has led me into areas I probably wouldn’t have gone had I know about the risks beforehand. Sometimes you just gotta dive in and learn. When you’re a noob, people help you out and you can always pull the noob card when you mess up. “This is my first time doing this, sorry!” I think my drive is mostly fueled by trying to figure things out myself. If someone tells me all the answers, it eliminates my curiosity. I think that’s a vital part of why we do what we do, because we’re curious and want to peek our head into the cave to see what’s in there. And plus, making mistakes is totally cool. I just need to get better at not trying to please everyone and accepting criticism. Even though my actions are pure and my intentions are good, there are going to be people who will be like “Meh, WMC Fest was ok… They should have done this or shouldn’t have done that.” Or “Jeff’s eBook was just ok, I didn’t learn anything, it was a waste of money.” Haters gonna hate! But that won’t stop me from pursuing my dreams and visions.

I’ll keep on keepin’ on knowing my heart is in the right place.






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Last words?

We are raising funds and recruiting backers for WMC Fest through Kickstarter. We have to raise $7,000 by June 3rd in order to achieve our goal. Backers only pay if we reach our funding goal!

Special thanks to Jeff for taking the time from his hectic schedule to do this interview as well as an beautiful type treatment for BOL.

As a bonus, Jeff has hooked up the BOL readers with a discount code for purchasing Threads Not Dead. Just enter tndlions for 15% off your purchase.

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One Comment

  1. Jeremy wrote:

    Great article

    This part is so true : “Actually I think knowing and understanding the business side really improves the creative side.”

What are your thoughts?