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Evan Henzi answers, Armada interview questions: The story behind 'Call To Arms'

August 31, 2018

‘Call To Arms’ is about your personal life. What can you tell us about the story behind it?
I was sexually abused by my former music manager, starting at the age of 11. I found myself in a situation where my entire teenage years became a battle to survive rather than a healthy, successful music career. I told no one about the abuse. I was told to tell no one. I eventually had such a deep existential crisis, and honestly, I still feel like I am in one. I am struggling every day, questioning why I exist. What life really all means. But I realize now that these are beautiful questions that at least led me to tell my parents and the police in 2011, at 18 years old, about what happened. This was before any #metoo movement. And I felt really alone. But I came forward and he was arrested. No matter what, I had to liberate myself from this secretive, damaging situation. Never do I want to be a face of a cause, but I told myself that I deserve to tell my story, for me, and confront my truth. And now, in 2018, a lot of us are doing that together, and it is amazing to see. And I guess all this led to this song now. ‘Call To Arms’ is not just about rising above our struggles, but our WORST struggles. It’s about rising above any industry, actually. And it isn't about being perfect. I am not perfect! But it is the beginning of worshipping truth over idols, and about all of us coming together, ultimately. And the way I look at it is that forgiveness and accountability lead to a better understanding of that truth we are seeking.

What would you advise to someone who is going through a similar situation?
I would say it is not your fault. Coming forward about sexual assault is difficult. But as a survivor, I feel it is my right. And please never forget, there is support out there and people who are going to support you, even if you don't know them yet. I've met and talked to survivors who feel alone. Who don't know how to tell anyone. And I just want you to know, you are not alone! I love and support you, and if my story can give you the courage to speak up one day, and/or actively find healing, I would only be so happy as then all of this has been truly worth it. And I have seen people make that leap. And from what they tell me, it has been worth it.

What does music mean to you?
Music isn't tangible. Where does it come from? How does something so mysterious guide me to confronting difficult things within myself that I originally would not want to? I get chills. I replay tracks and spend hours thinking about them. And that's a good thing, as it leads to taking chances and risks based on deep truths, even if they are hard.

What motivates you each day?
There are many things that motivate me. Music. Money. Fame. Boys. Girls. Whatever lol. But if I died tonight, and looked back at my life, it is only the people and animals and loving experiences around me that I would miss, and want to so desperately revisit. I would rather spend my days hiking in the mountains under the stars with friends, truly taking time to cherish my family, and helping people confront difficult truths rather than ever becoming a "major music star" without the time to do those things that I would miss most.

What is your favorite track of the moment?
It’s always about more than one track for me. My favorite track is ‘See You Again’ by ATB. It is timeless. But as of latest releases, favorite tracks anywhere, I’m really enjoying ‘Heart of Mine’ by Charlotte de Witte, ‘YEAH!’ by Cosmic Gate, and my summer guilty pleasure is ‘Mob Ties’ by Drake.

How did the collaboration with Gareth Emery come about?
Gareth originally heard the acoustic beginnings of the song I wrote with Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid from the band Snow Patrol. When we found out that Gareth was inspired to turn it into a Trance track, we were ecstatic! What a perfect place to tell this story!

What was it like working with Gareth Emery and can you explain how the process worked?
Gareth helped me understand right away that Trance is about the music over the image. I grew up in this industry thinking that image was everything. And during the several months before release, Gareth would send me the track as he progressed, and I didn't really know it at the time, but looking back, that process healed a horrible wound within me where I used to doubt whether making music on a larger scale was even possible for me. Gareth really turned ‘Call To Arms’ into a track of a higher calling.

‘Call To Arms’ was co-written with members of the legendary band Snow Patrol as you just stated. How did that collaboration come about?
I met Gary and Johnny through a lovely mutual friend. We wrote ‘A Call To Arms’ (the acoustic version of ‘Call To Arms’) together and it was used in the documentary called ‘An Open Secret’, exposing sexual assault in the industry. I no longer support the documentary – this is mainly due to the myriad of controversial issues in the making and editing of the film (including much threatened litigation against the film over inaccuracies) and also because its producer uses textbook McCarthyism-like tactics to exploit this #metoo movement and their film – but I always knew ‘Call To Arms’ was about a message of truth beyond anything else for those of us who embrace it.

You recently performed live on stage with Gareth in San Francisco at a sold-out Bill Graham Auditorium in front of over 8500 people for the Laserface concert. Tell us about that!
Performing in San Francisco was incredible to begin with. It is such a liberating city. With the history of the LGBT+ movement in San Francisco on my mind, performing in front of such a huge crowd for the first time only made it that much more special. And let's not even get started about Laserface! It was the most incredible way to perform. Amidst the most stunning lasers I've ever seen by Anthony Garcia at Nice Lasers, I felt like I was being abducted by the love of the crowd. And as a vocalist, I felt like there was not a second where I was not as connected to them as they were to me.

Why do you think your willingness to be open about your personal struggles has resonated so deeply with fans around the world?
Well, I am really feeling the power of dance music. The fact that everyone has been so open to my difficult story has helped me in ways you can't even imagine. THANK YOU. You have no idea how much I will always cherish this.

If ‘Call To Arms’ signifies the arrival of Evan Henzi as a new voice on the landscape with a powerful message, what will be the next step in terms of collaborations?
In terms of future collaborations, I would like to come together with a producer who wants to write a track about questioning our existence. Not in a negative way and not with a religious or even any spiritual agenda, but to really ask the fundamental question: why are we here? I am currently a college student at UCLA and am developing more of an interest in astronomy. I do not know if I will pursue that further as a career yet, but the point I'm trying to make is that I am asking most authentically: what is all this? I actually think that, lyrically speaking, ‘Call To Arms’ takes me there. Ultimately, I wish for a world where an authentic search for why we exist does not destroy religion, but also where religion does not destroy an authentic search for why we exist. This is the future I see in music. Where we confront our most difficult questions. Perhaps, electronic music is already doing that. And perhaps, it can be the place for me to explore that further.

What would you like to say to your fans?
First of all, I think I'm wrapping my head around the fact that people are even listening to a song of mine. That's wild. I am just excited that ya’ll are excited about the track. To you, I say thank you. It may not always be easy. In fact, the ride is bound to get bumpy, but I am ready to embrace this call to arms, so to speak. ;)

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