Interview with ‘Tom Frelek’ of Progressive Rock/Metal Project ‘Waken Eyes’


Waken_Eyes_-_Exodus_2015_a46Waken Eyes is a new all-star progressive metal band. The band started early 2013 by Tom Frelek after his old band had gone on hiatus. Tom was still playing in his own instrumental band but wanted to create a prog album that was heavy, melodic, cinematic and with vocals. In the interview below, Tom talks about his new band Waken Eyes, his biggest fear, touring plans, his favorite concert, the upcoming debut album “Exodus” and much more.

TMR: Hello Tom this is ‘The Metal Resource’ from Holland, how are things going there in Mississauga ?

Hey there! Things are good! It’s getting colder but that is typical Canadian nature!

TMR: Will you Introduce yourself and the band please ! [name and instrument]

Sure. I’m Tom Frelek, guitar player of Waken Eyes. We have the monstrous Marco Minnemann playing drums! The metal groovin Mike Lepond on Bass. And the soaring vocals of Henrik Bath! lol

TMR: Tell us the brief history of ‘Waken Eyes’.

Waken eyes started around two years ago. I was already playing in another progressive metal band at the time and doing my solo album instrumental shows as well.  After the band went on hiatus I decided to continue writing music for this new project I had in mind. I still love instrumental music but I really enjoy vocals as well. It was a conscious decision because I felt stuck and not really “progressing” in music scene. So I started to write all these riffs, melodies, string arrangements for what is now Exodus. I wanted to get top notch players to accompany me on a cinematic melodic progressive album. After getting superb players like Marco, Mike, and Henrik the album couldn’t of turned out better. It’s has been a long road for the completion of the record but it was all for the best!

11794453_828227813957930_4776897979364430507_o_ec5TMR: Why the name ‘Waken Eyes’ ? Is there a story behind it ?

I was looking for something original and something that was meaningful. This took a while lol. I even turned to my favourite video game Final Fantasy for some interesting names lol. Eventually Waken Eyes was it. Basically I think the name tells the story of how this is a new project, new sound and fresh direction. It’s like saying the beast was a sleep for thousands of years and has awakened and ready to rock lol.

TMR: How did you get into metal?

I got into metal when I was around 11 years old. I started listening to all the grunge bands in the 90s since that was my youth. But when I came across a song called Master of Puppets, it kind of blew me away. I still remember the first time I heard it, it literally gave me chills. The speed, the heaviness, the solos, it all excited me and pretty uch got me into metal. From that day, forth, I would discover Maiden, Sabbath, Dio, Queen. All these great bands that would influence me.

TMR: Tom, what is your musical background ?

I started playing guitar at age 10. I took classical lessons for around 3 months. From there I took it upon myself to learn the instrument. In high school I took every music guitar course I can find, which helped me learn theory, ear training. In the middle of all this I would practice a lot on my own. Maybe 7 hours a day(sometimes forgetting to eat lol). I think the early teachings of classical music is still with me today, as I can hear some riffs and melodies in my music, so that has definitely stayed with me throughout my musical journey.

TMR: Who writes the music/lyrics in ‘Waken Eyes’ ? … how do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands/situations have influences you for writing music and lyrics ?

For this first album, I wrote the music and lyrics for the songs. I had my cousin that helped out with some keyboard parts on a few songs and an old friend of mine who contributed to some lyrical ideas as well. The mood for writing music happens randomly and anywhere I think. Sometimes you can be noodling or playing to one of your favourite songs and then inspiration hits you.  I think when I feel inspired is when I write at my best. Or sometimes when I hear a really cool chord and can instantly relate to it, the nerd comes out of be and I try to work around that particular chord. I really get inspired from listening to guys like James Newton Howard, Nobuo Uematsu, Danny Elfman. For a song like ‘Palisades’, the inspiration also came from Ronnie James Dio. I’m a huge fan of Dio and this one was kind of in spirit of him.

TMR: What are some key principles or philosophies that you hold onto as foundational stones as who you are as a person?

Wow, nice question. I think being honest with yourself, work hard, know your worth, and be fearless. Treat others like you would like to be treated. You know, overall being a genuinely nice person. This can be tough at times since we are constantly distracted with everything that goes on in the world and sometimes manipulated to think other wise. Help out those when they ask of you, kind of be selfless without losing yourself if you that makes sense.

Tom_Frelek_WE__1__04aTMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of  ‘Waken Eyes’ ?

Yes. I think hearing the tracks back from all the guys was a big moment. Hearing this project come together was huge. I remember hearing the first track back from Marco for the song ‘Cognition’. It was so well done that I think I had some tears of joy lol. Same with Mike and Henrik. When I heard their playing/singing for the first time it was a great moment. They brought this new life in to the song which made it better and unique.

TMR: And the worst thing were ? (if there is one)

There weren’t any that bad, but there was scheduling conflicts with mixing and mastering that got me worried a little bit and delayed things a few months.  I became a little inpatient but all turned out well.

TMR: So what makes you laugh?

Jim Carrey and Dave Chappelle. Still make me laugh to this day!

TMR: What is your biggest fear ?

My biggest fear is fear itself

TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?

I’m a big sports fan, I like to play hockey, baseball, volleyball. On the weekends I volunteer at a dog shelter and train stray dogs find a home, which is pretty cool.

TMR: How do you promote your band and shows ?

Our label Ulterium Records does a fantastic job of promoting the band and setting up interviews like this one.

TMR: Tell us about the hardrock/metal scene in your area please?

I wouldn’t call Toronto a big local metal city for local acts. I have some friends who are in some awesome bands here but  It is more popular in the indie music scene I would say. That being said, a lot of bands stop by to tour here which is always nice ! There are quite a few nice places to watch some talented jazz and blues bands.

TMR: How do you prepare for a show?

I pretty much just do a warm up exercise that I’m used to. Go over some of the parts of the songs and make sure I am comfortable. I’m usually pretty relaxed until I hit the stage, then the adrenalin hits.

TMR:  Speaking of recording, your upcoming album “Exodus” will be released on Oct. 30th. what can you tell us about the album [such as the recording process, the songs, album-title etc.]

The recording process was a back fourth effort between all of us. I wrote all the base songs and sent them to each of the guys to record in their respective studios. Marco and Mike would finish their parts in less than a week after I had a basic song guide for them. Henrik and I worked together for a couple months to get the vocals just right. I’d send back notes to him and he’d send me notes on what we needed to change or add. In terms of the songs. I know it was very natural for me. I already had riffs and ideas of how I wanted it to sound. I knew I wanted the middle section to have that montage of quotes mixed with an orchestration of classical instruments. I wanted heavy parts for certain sections and groovy but slow parts for others. Again It t was a matter of deciding  what the reason was for for this section to be at this place and time. Should this be heavy or soft? All these decisions take into play to this song. The funny thing about writing long songs for me. They come easier because I have so much to say and ideas build of previous ideas and the song just builds itself in way until you truthfully know it has to end. Shorter songs are a challenge because you have limited amount of time to say a mouth full! The album title ‘Exodus’ means to the depart from. So again the theme of the album is to be fearless. So Exodus as in to to depart from fear, to depart from what is normal.

Waken_Eyes_-_Exodus_2015_a46TMR: The album will be released through Ulterium Records, how did you get signed by them ?

Henrik brought me to the attention of Ulterium Records. I was shopping labels and they seemed to be the best fit. Very nice and responsive and honestly care about the music side and it’s audience.

TMR: About the cover artwork. Do you think it is as important as your music? Does it visualize the lyrics of your songs or what’s the actual story behind its concept?

Yes definitely. It represents what the music is about. The first thing someone looks at a store or online is the cover artwork. We originally had a completely different concept that looked more like a an intense comic book cover. Kind of a like the  ‘Spawn’ comic. But it was really intense and we decided to go with more of a cinematic landscape cover which I think works well. Basically the tree of like is in the middle of the image, with dark clouds above shaped like eyes watching over you.  that classic battle between good and evil and that evil is always watching around the corner. Kind of similar to the quote, “Even though I walk in the valley of shadow and death, I fear no evil”

TMR: What would be the ultimate cover tune for ‘Waken Eyes’?

Tough question because all the guys have different influences. But I think Kansas – Icarus Borne On The Wings Of Steel would be an awesome cover. Such a cool song, and has so many great elements.

TMR: What is your favorite concert that you saw and what made it so good?

I saw Iron Maiden here in Toronto countless times. But one time a few years ago was amazing. Everyone hd amazing energy from the band. Pagan’s Mind also came to Toronto once with Stratovarious. I don’t think many knew of them but I am a huge fan and loved their performance. Composer Nobuo Uematsu’s Distant Worlds show was really amazing for me too. I am a huge fan of his work in the Final Fantasy series. I think because it brought me back to my childhood. Simply amazing!

TMR: What is the most embarrassing music on your phone or in your collection and how do you justify it to others?

I don’t think I have any music I am embarrassed of really lol. I have Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on there which is awesome swing music. Got some oldschool Silverchair on here too.

TMR: If you could pick a band to tour with, who would it be? And where would the tour go?

Iron Maiden would be awesome to tour with! If we were on tour with then I’d love to tour everywhere. Japan would be nice too. I’d love to tour with Alter Bridge. Really love what these guys are doing.

TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?

Can’t recall any dumb questions just dumb people lol.

TMR: What are the biggest obstacles for bands ?

I think making a living off your band is the toughest obstacle. The industry has changed so much over the years that bands have to create new and inventive ways to make a living off their music.

TMR: As a band today, what do you think is the biggest challenge you face?

Again, I think surviving on the road and in general. It’s not cheap touring nowadays. Seems like the value of music has gone down a lot these days as well. A band can spend months touring, promoting, recording, writing, loading gear, unloading gear for next to no money.

TMR: Any (tour) plans for the near future ? European tour maybe ?

I think we will have to see the response from the record and see if there is a demand for touring. I think it is definitely a possibility. So if timing is right and people really want to see us live then it can definitely happen I think. Who knows what can happen! We’ll have to keep our eyes open! But European tour would absolutely be on the list if not first.

TMR: Tom thanks for your time and the interview. We wish ‘Waken Eyes’ all the best … Is there anything you wanna say at last ? [any final statement ?]

My pleasure. Thanks for the great questions!…………Life becomes limitless when you learn to control your fears!. Know your worth! Believe in yourself, work hard and don’t be afraid, be fearless. Keep on shredding!

Band members:
Henrik Båth [ex Harmony, Darkwater] – Vocals
Mike Lepond [Symphony X] – Bass
Tom Frelek – Guitars/Keyboards/Orchestration
Marco Minnemann [The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani] – Drums

Weblinks: Facebook

“Exodus” can be pre-ordered at the Ulterium Records Store: 

Video below: ‘Palisades’

Lyric video: ‘Back To Life’

Video below: “Exodus” (Album Teaser)


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