Georg Hahn is a Hamburg native and a commissioned musician. Now he's fulfilled a dream with Finally George. "Life Is A Killer", the debut of Finally George, is a flawless art rock album. eclipsed met the 52-year-old at the edge of the Reeperbahn Festival in Zwick, the cult music restaurant with all its rock music memorabilia. So found the interview (Hahn: "This is my first interview ever. I'm a bit nervous already") right next to an original bass guitar from Sting instead - fitting to Hahn, who is "actually a bass player".
eclipsed: You're a man of your prime. You've been in the music business a long time. Now your first album is coming out. Please describe your musical career.
Georg Hahn: I come from a very musical family. My parents are both studied school musicians. I started playing the violin when I was six and was very ambitious. I also took part in "Jugend musiziert" competitions. Early on I started to listen to pop and rock music through my brother and father. When I was six I listened to my father's Paul Simon records. Or Randy Newman, Blood Sweat And Tears and Stevie Wonder. Later I played the violin in a school band. It annoyed me that the violin was so quiet compared to the other instruments. We had a bass player, but he wasn't very good and I took over the bass. After school I started as an intern in a recording studio. That was learning by doing. Dubbing, advertising, film mixing. Those were the Alsterstudios, a big studio in Hamburg. There I met other people and with the band Cakewalk there were many concerts in the clubs here in Hamburg. At some point I bought a keyboard and started playing synthetic music. I had already hung up the violin and only made pop music. Then I changed to the Hamburg Lokstudio. They only recorded pop music at first. Later they also did advertising. That's what got me into advertising music. Later I started my own business with a colleague. We had a company that we used to set commercials to music. I can make noises too, so I'm a foley artist too. Sound design, setting to music - this is totally my thing. Through my work I got to know Erlend Krauser, the guitarist of Lake and the James Last Orchestra. For a huge order from Bacardi, I brought Erlend in. With Erlend I founded a new company. For a few years we have been intensively making advertising music. I learned a lot from this commissioned music. Customers have always said, "We want something like this and that." But because of the copyrights we could of course only make it so similar. You learn to listen carefully. It's like Steven Wilson doing the remixes. He can hear the individual tracks. That's great, of course, if you can see how Tears For Fears recorded "The Seeds Of Love" or "Shout". The same applies to advertising music. If I have to listen to another title, I'll also analyze what's in it. It teaches you how to make music. The problem with commercial music is someone's always talking you into it. It is also creative and well paid work, but it is not work that has made me really happy. The Finally George record is also something of a liberation strike for me. I said to myself, "I'm gonna do what I want now." I wanted to do something where no one would talk me in and what's mine. And it was such fun.
eclipsed: On which other releases can you be heard?
Hahn: There is the record "Poptown" by Cakewalk from 1989. One song was written by our saxophonist, the rest by me. That was pretty bombastic. I've always wanted to get into that Genesis corner. You can hear a bit of that on Cakewalk. But it was badly done. The record is nothing to show. I'm not particularly proud of the record.
eclipsed: On "Life Is A Killer" you have prominent support: Todd Sucherman from Styx plays the drums, Erlend Krauser from Lake plays the guitar and Grammy winner Tim Young has taken over the mastering. How did the contact to this celebrity come about?
Hahn: All guitarists who play on the record are friends of mine. John Engehausen, who plays the solo in "Ghost", was my son's guitar teacher. I also play guitar and some solos, but I'm not a virtuoso. I know Ralf Bittermann from a long time ago. He's been known here in the local scene. I used to do some hits as well, as a producer and artist. He was already playing for me then. And Erlend is one of my best friends and the godfather of my son. He just had to play it. For me he is the best guitarist in Germany. He's an absolute exceptional talent
eclipsed: About the album: Did the songs bubble in you for years and is all this new?
Hahn: The first title, "Ghost", was created in mid-2015. Before that I had a Schlager project where I produced an artist. Luckily, that went in the pants. Out of frustration, I said, "Screw you all. I don't want to hear all the slobbering of managers, record companies and publishers anymore." Then I sat in my basement in the studio and just started making my music. I just didn't want to stick to any given schemes anymore. When the "Welcome To My DNA" from Blackfield came out, I gave it to Erlend to listen to and said: "I think that's great. This is my music. I'd like to do something like that." Erlend then asked me, "Why don't you do that?" In the quiet room I asked myself the question: "Why don't I make the music I want to make?" and just started. I had no intention of publishing this. Then one title after another was added. The composing took one and a half to two years. Originally I intended to press only 50 copies and wanted to distribute them to friends for Christmas. Actually, I didn't want any drums. But the songs got better and better and I thought I needed drums after all. Because I don't know anyone here in Hamburg who can do that, I looked around the Internet for session drummers. I found one in L.A. then. That was Matt Laug. He's already drummed for Alice Cooper and Alanis Morissette. He told me that my demos were the best he'd gotten since he started offering his services online. But he wouldn't be right for it, but he knew a great drummer who could do it and he would have sent him my demos. And that was Todd Sucherman. I didn't even know Todd before. I knew Styx, of course. But I didn't have the band on my screen anymore. Todd was thrilled and I felt like I was brushing my belly. Todd did a great job and contributed some great ideas. He was really enthusiastic. Todd has a big fanbase of drummers and the things he did for me, he has described online exactly and also put excerpts online. One clip had 35,000 viewers. A lot of people from overseas wrote to me: "When will your record be ready?" That was totally awesome. It all got more and more professional. Then I brought in Frank Reinke, who mixed the album. He's well known in the industry here in Hamburg. At the end the mastering was missing. As a Steven Wilson fan, I was in London for the Wilson concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Since I was already in London, I wanted to master in London as well. I mean, there was a lot of work involved in the whole album and I wanted to do everything right. Then I called metropolitan studios there. That's where Steven Wilson had mastered. They have a great website and presented different sound masters there. Then I decided to go with Tim Young. I spent a day with him and had him mastered. That's not as romantic as you might think. It's a factory. I didn't say anything and just let him do it. He did a great job. The mix was great. But through the mastering the album really won again
eclipsed: Your album is in the broadest sense Progmusik or Artrock. How did you get to know the prog? What is so attractive about this style of music?
Hahn: Musically I am very broadly positioned. I'm also a total classical fan. That's because of my violin training, of course. I'm a total Wagnerian. My mother and father love Wagner. My brother has been my greatest influence. He has always heard bands like Yes, Camel, Brand X, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, up and down. I absorbed that. What impressed me the most was Genesis. For me Genesis is almost classical music. Seconds Out blew me away. When I take ten albums to an island, it's number one. I know them inside out. But I always had open ears. I also heard James Taylor, Randy Newman, Paul Simon and a lot of Supertramp. Cool And The Gang or ABBA. Steven Wilson also has an influence on the fact that I made the record. I've heard a lot about the online radio station Radio Paradise. A horny station with music from all genres without advertising. They're financed by donations. There always ran "Train" and "Sentimental" from Porcupine Tree. I found these songs so great and didn't even know Porcupine Tree. That was in 2013. Then I inhaled Wilson's music. Wilson made me listen to music right again. I've always listened carefully to Wagner. But not in pop music. With Wilson I then put on the records and heard again correctly. It was such fun. There are so many really horny records. It was also nice that my brother did not know Wilson and so I was able to infect my brother with it upside down. That definitely had an influence on my record. Wilson also taught me the variety. It also does not adhere to any given specifications. There are always new parts coming. But it doesn't seem artificial. It's all coherent. In the past, I didn't care about a 7/4 beat because it wasn't commercial. Now this was new territory for me as a composer.
eclipsed: The info sheet says about your album that they are songs full of separation pain. Does the album have a central theme?
Hahn: A long time ago, when I was making hits, I wrote German lyrics. That was commercial music. I was thinking, "What they can do, I can do." Also at Cakewalk our singer wrote lyrics or an american friend. Now all the lyrics are mine. I've never written English lyrics before. That was absolutely new to me, too. The texts are also relatively simple. But I also gave it to Todd. He made some corrections to two texts. In my earlier youth, before I met my wife, I had had some relationships that ended painfully. "Remember Me and She are memories of my youth. "Way Home is a fictional story. But it's not a record to send a message to the world now.
eclipsed: You play keyboards, bass, guitar, and you sing. You produced the album. Is that exactly your thing: fiddling around in the studio?
Hahn: Yeah, totally. I actually only came to the guitar seven years ago, because I always played bass before. The technology also helped me there. If you wanted to sound good on the guitar, you had to be able to play well. Sure, you needed the equipment, too. But today digital technology has opened up a whole new world for me. The sound alone was a different world. During the Schlager production I also played all the guitars and that made me better. It was total fun sitting alone in the studio at night. So yes, the studio fiddling is my thing. I always call this "electric railroad." It's like when you were a child, when you built the electric train and everything works together. I had such feelings of happiness again when I listened to the finished songs.
eclipsed: The album's fresh out now. Do you have any plans or ideas for the future yet?
Hahn: Of course I would like to continue. But this is also a question of cost. Despite drumming and mastering, this record is still relatively inexpensive, because I could record at home. Of course you don't earn any money with selling CDs. It's a matter of the heart. I'm already working on new songs. I don't have a record company that gives me an advance. But I'm totally up for it. I'm infected there now.
eclipsed: Could you imagine playing live for once?
Hahn: I don't know. Right now, I'd say no. But you never know. On stage, for example, I wouldn't want to play guitar. Maybe the rhythm guitar. But no solos. I'd be way too insecure about that. At the moment, however, the main focus is not on this.
*Interview: Bernd Sievers