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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Robert McClung of Telergy from 2014
MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

I started my musical journey when I was ten years old. My Grandfather was a country singer/guitarist who played with a lot of big names in the 1950s. He gave me my first guitar. I spent my teens playing in theater pit orchestras, which was a great learning ground. It forced me to read music, be quick on my feet and understand complex arrangements. 

I spent my twenties touring and recording with many different bands, playing just about every type of music imaginable. Eventually I settled down and became a middle school music teacher. But the need to create was still there, which sent me down the path of building my own studio and starting Telergy. 

Telergy released its first album The Exodus in 2011. It got some great attention and good reviews which lead to several well known people in the prog world getting involved with the second album The Legend of Goody Cole which was released in last year. It got tremendous reviews and lots of airplay on progressive rock stations all over the world. It has been a great thrill.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I would probably be a history teacher. I love history, and I love to teach.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
The word “Telergy” is defined as "The influence one brain is thought to exercise over another, from a distance, by means of some hypothetical mental energy,”  or (in more layman's terms) the ability to communicate without words. I originally intended for Telergy to be an exclusively instrumental project. Although, some bits of vocals seem to have seeped in at this point, the thought of communicating a story without words seamed to fit the definition of the word…implying that music is a powerful form of communicating without words as well.

I should also make the point that Telergy is less defined as a "group,” but more as a "project.” I am the sole composer, arranger and producer. And I play most of the instruments myself. There are, indeed, many other people involved, but they are brought in individually for specific parts when needed. They are all incredible artists, and it is an honor to work with them, but it is not a group collaborative. It's my own twisted vision.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Almost too many to mention: Pink Floyd, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Kamelot, Nightwish, Rhapsody of Fire, Kansas, Savatage, Queensryche, Rush, Genesis, Queen, Deep Purple, King's X, Led Zeppelin, Magellan, Dream Theater, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach...etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I could go on and on. A comprehensive list would take me all day. (laughter)
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
The third Telergy album is currently in production. It's a wonderful story, and many incredible musicians are taking part, but I don't want to give away too many details yet. I'm hoping for a release mid 2015
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
"Orchestral progressive rock/metal" is the way I describe it to people who have never heard it. There are so many different things in the mix it's pretty much impossible to give it an accurate description. It's truly something unique unto itself. You just need to hear it to understand it.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Getting the chance to work with David Gilmour from Pink Floyd would be a dream come true! I would probably explode with excitement if that happened. It would also be an incredible thrill to work with Geddy Lee (Rush), Jordan Rudess (Dream theater), Robby Steinhardt, Richard Williams, David Ragsdale (Kansas), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Keith Emerson (ELP), Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell…etcetera, etcetera. Again, we would be talking about a long list.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
I truly can't see how it has been a positive on any level. It has hurt musicians and music fans alike. Billions of dollars in revenue has been ripped out of the hands of hard working musicians. I can understand the thrill of getting something for nothing. But it has created a situation where recorded music has no monetary value anymore. 

Many artists have raised their concert ticket prices dramatically over the last decade or so, because they no longer get hardly any revenue from their recorded work, which hurts the fans paying out the money for the tickets. Some artists have been forced to come out of retirement and start playing again, not because they really want to, but just because they need to pay the bills! And sadly, many great artists have chosen not to write or record new material at all, because they know no one will actually buy it. How is all this good for anyone?

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I think that's a decision that needs to be made by the artists themselves. If they don't want to be recorded, they should have the right to ask that it not be done. And an audience member should be respectful and honor the artist's wishes. But if an artist doesn't have a problem with it and doesn't mind being recorded, what's the harm? Record away.

My problem is. If you're standing there with a camera recording all the time, are you really enjoying the music? Are you really sharing in the live experience? Doesn't seem so to me.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Probably someone from a punk band. I won't mention any specific names, but the whole punk ethic that musicians don't have to have real technical skill or music knowledge is just something that boggles my mind. I've never understood it. I once saw an interview with a punk musician who said "Hey man, it's only rock and roll. It's not supposed to be good!"  I wanted to throw a brick through the TV when I saw that. I've spent my whole life dedicated to being a proficient player, understanding theory and being a diverse and well rounded musician. Then some guy who can barely play three chords stands there and tells me it's all a waste of time? Really gets my feathers ruffled. 

But just to be fair, I think punk, rap, screamo, edm, whatever type of music, are all perfectly legitimate forms of artistic expression and all have their place within our world and society. They have the right to their expression in any way they choose, whether I enjoy hearing it or not.

MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Hmmmm......go back to that list of influences I rattled off earlier, mix up the members of those groups in any order you choose. All would work.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Again, refer to previous influence list. That would do.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The latest Spock's Beard album Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep. Phenomenal! Best album they have done in years. The new singer (Ted Leonard) is incredible. It was an honor to work with keyboardist Ryo Okumoto on the last Telergy album - a great guy and an astounding musician.

Besides prog, I generally listen to classical music on the radio these days.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I recently read Sammy Hagar's autobiography (Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock). Pretty cool reading about all the dangers and excesses that come with rock and roll success. He's lead a very interesting life. 

I also recently re-read George Orwell's 1984. I read it back in school, but I don't think I was really mentally developed enough to truly comprehend all the concepts at the time. Now that I'm older, it seams to have far more impact.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
I just went to see Blackmore's Night last weekend - Ritchie Blackmore's medieval project lead by his vocalist wife, Candice Night. They were incredible. I've seen them many times. I think Ritchie plays better now than he did when he was with Deep Purple. It was all acoustic, virtuosic and beautiful! I hope I can see them again soon.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Earth Wind and Fire! Phenomenal band, but definitely not what most people would associate with me.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
While jumping up and down I actually fell through the stage one night. I'm a big guy, and the floor under me just opened up, and I went through. All of a sudden I just disappeared. The band and the audience didn't know what the hell happened. It was so embarrassing.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
1: Jesus Christ. I'm not a Christian. But I do believe he existed, and I believe in the basic premises of the messages he taught. He was a great man. The problem is, so much about him and his teachings have been warped, ripped apart, shredded and reassembled by many other people over many years - people who have been far more concerned with power, control and greed more than the true messages of love, tolerance and forgiveness that Jesus taught. I would love to meet him and get to the truth that has been lost in time. 

2: Edgar Cayce: He was an incredible psychic who allegedly possessed the ability to give medical advice (without having any training or knowledge), make predictions (many of which appear to have come true) and make contact with spirit realms. His work seems to run inline with some of my own personal beliefs about the universe. It would be a fascinating conversation.

3: My Father: he passed away three years ago. I barely knew him. And for the short time I did know him he was clouded by alcohol abuse and heath issues. But some people have told me he was actually quite brilliant when he was younger. I would love to spend some time with the younger version of him and find out what kind of person he really was. I believe the man I knew for a short time before his death was not really him, but just an empty shell of the man.

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Steak and sushi!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Love and be well to each other. We are here for such a short time. Lets all enjoy it while we can.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at
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