Telergy, a project founded by multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung released earlier this year their third studio album. As it was case with the previous two records, an amazing line-up of guest musicians contributed to Hypatia, and about this all and more, Robert talked with us.
Hypatia is out for some time now and I have to say that this album has gathered up pretty good coverage, what really intrigued me. Are you satisfied how this turned out? Please tell us more about creative, as well as recording process of Hypatia.
I’m very satisfied. It definitely feels like I’ve reached a new high in my abilities as a writer and producer. And to have the respect and admiration of my peers and influences who now work with me in Telergy is very exiting.
Each album starts with the story. I spend months reading and doing research on the subject. Then I begin to form ideas on how the music will best portray the different aspects of the story.
The recording process for Telergy albums is very long and cumbersome. It’s not like I can get forty musicians in a studio at the same time and just let them rip. I spend over a year just writing and arranging all the basic tracks before I start sending sheet music and audio files out to all the players. From there local musicians will come to my home studio to record their parts. People who live abroad will record their parts in their own studios, or studios near them, and send audio files back to me. Then it’s my job to assemble everything and make it cohesive. It’s a giant puzzle, or as one person described it, musical Lego blocks.
I have an opinion that Hypatia is heavier than anything you’ve put out to date. Much more experimentation, this album brings out probably the most symphonic sound you could pull out yourselves. Do you agree?
Yes, definitely. I tried to make the best of all the amazing people I have available to me. Making sure that the orchestral instruments were highlighted just as much as the rock instruments. I wanted more dynamics. The rock riffs heavier, the orchestral sections more spacious and lush, and each intertwined in a smooth way. There was also the opportunity to play with bits of jazz and electronica. that’s was fun. Always cool to try new things.
If you compare the new album and previous two, where do these recordings stand in your opinion?
I love all the albums, they are like my children. I am proud of every one. Each has it’s own unique color and feel. Certainly there is development over time, as with any artist. The first Pink Floyd albums sound drastically different from where they ended up later on in their careers. Same with Led Zeppelin or Yes. As an artist you grow and feel the need to experiment with new things over time. Never changing would be boring.
I think the production quality from the first to the second album jumped up significantly, as I learned the craft better and honed in on the sounds I was shooting for. I think the new album has the best mix of dynamics, and the one before had some cool vocal sections. Each different, but enjoyable in it’s own way.
Basically, the music you play is described simple as symphonic prog. This looks kinda “multicolored” and I’m interested to know about your influences.
I grew up on the classic rock of the 70’s. The more progressive artists of that era were the ones that seam to capture my attention the most. Pink Floyd, Yes, Kansas, Rush, etc. As a teenager in the late 80’s, early 90’s I was drawn into the heavy metal scene. And yet again it was the more progressive artist within the genre that sparked my interest. Queensryche, Dream theater, Savatage, Magellan, etc.
I’m also very inspired by Broadway musicals. I love Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gilbert and Sullivan. I spent many years playing in theater pit orchestras. It was great training as a developing composer. Clearly the spoken word acting portions of Telergy come from this influence. Over the years some critics have bashed these segments as being “pompously theatrical” and “Disney-esque”. I actually take those critiques as a compliment, because that’s exactly what what I was shooting for. If someone can’t look beyond the stereotypical boundaries of how normal rock music is presented, that’s their problem, not mine. I’m not going to sacrifice my artistic vision just because some critic is too closed minded to accept a new way of presenting something.
I’ve mentioned above that Hypatia feels multicolored. Do you think that it could be said that the record is also “multicultural,” considering the story and the elements it’s built of?
Sure. There are people from all over the world on the album. Allot of different musical and cultural backgrounds being mixed together. The story is based in Egypt, but it was at the time of Roman occupation. And it was the cultural clashes of different religious groups that lead to Hypatia’s demise. So yes, I do hope that tension comes through in the music.
You impart into your music a variety of instruments that give you a very eclectic feeling. Is it hard to arrange and structure all the instruments in a song? Describe the creation process of a Telergy song.
Yes, sometimes it is hard. Getting so many sounds to blend smoothly is a delicate balancing act. I start each piece thinking about the feelings or emotions of the scene I’m trying to portray. I then pick what instruments I feel would best represent that feeling. Once a rhythm or melody has been established I just start to break out from that point and bring in other instruments I feel push the story along and allow the listener to visualize the events that are being portrayed, through the notes themselves.
What is it like to make an album for Telergy? How much time do you set aside for the music and how long does it take to build a concept and make a story out of it? Are these two separate parts of one big process?
Each album takes about two years from start to finish. I have a full time job as a music teacher, so I must find the time for Telergy around that. Mostly nights, weekends and school vacations. I always have the basic story outline in place before I start the music. Which takes a couple months. Once that is done I know how many musical pieces there will be and what they need to represent.
Telergy is a project, and that means that due to many obvious reasons you don’t perform live. Have you ever thought of gathering a line-up and performing live?
I get asked that question very often. I would love to find a way to have Telergy performed live. But to do so would require dozens of musicians, weeks of rehearsals, a very large hall and massive amounts of production. All of which would cost a fortune. As much as I might like to see it happen I just don’t have the budget to take it to that level. Telergy is very grandiose and it’s just not the kind of thing that’s going to work in a small club with a handful of people. So until a financial backer comes along who wants to sink some money into the operation, the odds of it happening are highly unlikely.
Before forming Telergy, have you been involved with any other projects or bands?
Yes, many. I have toured and recorded with a very long list of people and recorded many albums with them and as a solo artist. You can see the full list on my personal website (robertmcclung.net). The one that some people might recognize is I had a short stint as the fill-in touring guitarist for the Irish soul band The Commitments. It was great honor, and the handful of shows I played with them certainly exposed me to the larger world of the music industry outside my local scene.
What comes next? Should we expect something new from Telergy in the near future?
There will definitely be something at some point, but I can’t speculate as to when right now. I’m just starting to research a few different story ideas. Once I have pinpointed what the story is it’s usually a two year process to pull it together. But I’m not going to rush it. It will be done whenever it is ready. I want whatever it is to be the best it can be.