Interview: Escaper Guitarist Will Hanza Talks Quarantine, Producing “Apotheosis,” And Future of The Band

Escaper guitarist Will Hanza’s spirits are high as he and his fellow bandmates prepare for the highly anticipated release of their new album Apotheosis this Friday (June 19th Ropeadope Records). Hanza spoke to NYS Music about the inspiration and process involved in creating Apotheosis as well as the future plans of Escaper with quarantine in mind.  

Thomas Lent: The album art for Apotheosis by Matthew Chase is striking – what input and guidance, if any, did you and the band members have on the design?

Will Hanza: Oh the art is all Matt’s and he’s done a lot of work for us in the past but as far as our contribution goes he gets an advanced copy of the album, listens to it, and the we discuss what the album is about, what the meaning is, and then he creates the art. Apotheosis definitely feels like a breakthrough in his own art.

Escaper - cover art - Apotheosis Will Hanza

Tl: What was the songwriting process like for Apotheosis?

WH: It sort of depends on the individual track, the first few albums were instrumental but then we had some vocals. “Apotheosis” was one of our first tracks with vocals. A lot of our writing process comes from jams at first, and then we refine It from there. Open sky for example started as a solo acoustic. I brought it to the band and then fleshed it out more. For “No Strings” I remember Phil saying he wanted an “Ah Ah Ah!” feel, then we dug into that and then we started refining it into what “No Strings” finally became. The first track, “Vista,” was born out of us jamming after a song during a concert and a new sort of ‘danceable’ track came up and we decided to make it into another own song. We called it “Vista” because we felt the song elicits the feeling of climbing a mountain and reaching a new vista point.

TL: For the listener, what would you like the main takeaway to be from Apotheosis?

WH: We want this album to be a journey, start at “Vista,” goes to Open Sky – “Eye in the Open Sky”- then you realize that you are it, that we all can have that ‘Third Eye’ realization. I mean, the third track “Superhead” is all about your higher sense of self. Then when you make it to “No Strings,” it’s a fun song, once you find your sense of self, you can go onto the dance floor so to speak.

TL: Your “Escaper at Home” Youtube video series is a real treat to see. How was much of Apotheosis created in this virtual way during quarantine? 

WH: Oh well ya that series was partly a treat for the fans but the album was created by us when we were together last year. It largely came out of our new drummer (Ricky Petraglia) and playing smaller shows and harvesting new material from the quartet and writing with each other late last year and refining it. Near the end of that year, we got to work with John Davis again and recorded and mixed the whole album in 6 days. Much of it was actually recorded live as well. “Res Magna” for instance had a lot of improv involved in its creation.

TL: Quarantine has made life harder for just about everyone, how do you see artists making it in this new lockdown environment?

WH: There’s a lot of hurt, it’s hard to complain about anything in my life, I don’t want to take away from other peoples struggles now with all of the new movements and causes but we scheduled this release 6 months out and had to cancel our tour we had planned with it so it’s hard. To compensate we’ve done these online things but were itching to play. We’ve looked at private parties, beaches, small events outdoors that can have a certain capacity. I know it’s somewhat controversial but music is good for people’s souls, and I believe people need that. Hopefully, by fall or next summer, we can be back on the road.

TL: What is one more thing you would like to impart upon the listener for Apotheosis?

WH: I’m hoping everyone will get it into their ears, now there’s vocals, songs with messages and important feelings that make a positive album. We’ve also tried to include the danceable part of it to have the experience and the grove as well since we’ve missed dancing with people at shows. Overall we’re very proud of the album, we hope it can help people “Escaper” a little bit.

Escaper will release Apotheosis on June 19th 2020, on Ropeadope Records.

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