Q&A WITH GEO HÖHN – CAMPUS MANAGER AT ABBEY ROAD INSTITUTE JOHANNESBURG
Geo Höhn was raised in South Africa as well as Germany and Switzerland but received his initial musical training whilst in school in Germany. His work spans many genres from opera to commercial music including recordings/artists such as Johan Foley, Juanita Nel, Nathan Winkler and Richard Phillip Wolff.
Geo has scored the musical soundtracks of many local and international feature films as well as myriad international and local TV series. He has also been involved in other aspects of film post production such as audio and video QC for international deliverables of various feature films.
Not only has Geo been involved in the judges’ panel of events like the SAFTAs but he has also been the CEO of Insomnia Studios since 2015 and has mentored a number of composers and sound engineers in their quest to become industry professionals. Many of his students have excelled in their craft and have become very successful in their careers. Currently he is running the Insomnia Studios Team in Sound and Music post-production.
Welcome Geo! You have been called a prolific, multi-talented composer and music producer. What sparked your original interest in the music industry?
I was brought up partially in Switzerland and Germany. There I was exposed mainly by my mother to classical composers like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, List and many more classical composers. Classical music always has been an escape for me, and as a child I dreamed of being a conductor. In Europe musical education in school is compulsory, and this introduced me to music theory in many ways. After a long career in IT and large corporate companies, I embarked on a mission to follow my dream. I always have been involved in music, playing in church and singing in a youth choir. I was especially drawn to film music since it was the closest thing to classical music that was still a viable career in Africa. From there things developed organically. I also started as a novice sound engineer in my early 20’s and always have been involved in somehow recording music, stories or anything related.
Was music always what you wanted to do?
This was a desire since I was 8 years old.
How did you first get into composing?
I have always tinkered with synths since the late 80’s and created music on the cumbersome interfaces of the first digital synths of the time. I only started using a DAW (digital audio workstation) after 2000. My first real compositions came for a demo reel that I put together the day I decided to make a career in film music and sound.
Tell us about some of your favorite compositions and what did you learn from the project?
The hybrid score of the feature film “Broken Darkness” by director Christopher Lee dos Santos was a highlight. Also the fact that I had the privilege to co-write it with my son, Richard Phillip Wolff, was a real pleasure. I also was appointed as re-recording mixer for the project, that made it even more special. I really enjoyed composing for the feature film “Inescapable” with Director Ruba Nadda featuring Marissa Tomei and Alexander Siddig and Joshua Jackson. I had a lot of creative freedom, and the score required an ancient Persian sound – which was a lot of fun to create. The other film that I really enjoyed was a suite of orchestral tango pieces for the feature film “The Last Tango” by Deon Meyer. I also really enjoyed scoring “Shooting Star” a feature film about the life of a young piano protégé by Stefan Enslin.
You’ll be managing the school on a day to day basis at Abbey Road institute Johannesburg. What are you most looking forward to in that role?
I really love mentoring passionate musicians and sound engineers, and see them make a success of their careers. Many of my former students became colleagues on some of my later film projects. My great passion is to see people grow in their person, self-confidence and craft. It is amazing how talented people can be and for me it is a real honor to assist them in unearthing and developing the treasure of their talent hidden inside. I love stretching people to think outside the box, and challenge them to go beyond their capabilities and perceived limitations.
What advice would you give to aspiring composers and those wanting to break into the music industry?
Passion and love for the craft is paramount. It is the fuel that keeps the engine running if the going gets tough and giving up seems like a very real option. Building effective relationships with friends and strangers alike are instrumental in being recognized and given a chance in the industry. People would rather work with team members where there are a good relationship and attitude than with super talented snobs and prima donnas.
What does Abbey Road mean to you?
The ultimate name and brand in music production and recording. An icon that represents the collective of decades of talented and amazing artists that recorded and called Abbey Road their home. The launchpad to stardom and greatness for many household names in the industry.