Meet The Band: Flying Machines

In support of their eponymous titled debut album, Flying Machines will play The Old Market Tavern, Cardiff on February 22. Playing emotive and dramatic music while drawing upon influences as diverse as jazz, pop, progressive rock and metal, Flying Machines consist of guitarist Alex Munk, Matt Robinson on piano/keyboards, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Dave Hamblett on drums. Andy Howells recently put questions to Alex Munk of the band.

How did you first start out in music?
My parents were always playing a lot of music in the house, which must have been my first exposure to music generally. They were into all sorts of things, James Taylor, Dire Straits, Whitney Houston, Genesis, Michael Jackson, Beach Boys, The Eagles, Chet Atkins.

My Dad was a big fan of guitar generally which probably influenced my decision to start playing classical guitar, I must have been about nine or ten years old. I think guitar always has a certain appeal to kids of that age too although I didn’t have the courage to ask my parents for an electric guitar outright. I still see this with my young students today, there’s a big misconception that you have to start with classical guitar, which doesn’t take into account that it’s a completely different instrument with its own unique history, technique and repertoire.

I was another one of those kids, going along with the misconception. I was about 13 or 14 when my parents finally got me an electric guitar which changed everything.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
Very hard to boil down to one event or person! My music teacher at secondary school was a very important influence. He was a really inspiring teacher and fabulous musician who had an incredible aural perception and knowledge of harmony, one of those musicians who could hear anything and then reel it off effortlessly.

My brother was also a big influence. He was studying classical piano but deep down preferred to play along with the adverts on the TV or have people give him requests of pop tunes to play. He got increasingly into music and it really rubbed off on me. Round about this time I also heard the guitarist Joe Satriani and that was a real light bulb moment for me. Instrumental, rock guitar led music that didn’t have any singing, just one long guitar solo! I hadn’t heard anything like it before but I really loved it at the time.

I would also have to mention Chris Montague, a phenomenal guitarist who first got me into playing jazz, which came much later, during my sixth form at secondary school. I hadn’t heard much jazz that really grabbed me up to that point. Chris is a brilliant jazz guitarist but his playing is steeped in rock and blues influences like Jimi Hendrix and it took that fusion of styles for me to finally relate to jazz improvisation. He was very encouraging too which helped a lot in those early days when I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. After that came music college and studying jazz guitar, where I got into the likes of musicians such as Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau.

How Did You all Come Together As A Band?
I met the other musicians in Flying Machines in 2009 when I went to study at The Royal Academy of Music on the jazz course. We got to know each other’s playing really well going through college together and developed a lot of rapport. We had lots of shared musical influences too. I started the band (Matt Robinson on piano/keyboards, Conor Chaplin on bass, Dave Hamblett on drums and myself on guitar) in 2014 having played around London lots as a guitarist in other people’s bands and I was really itching to start playing my own music.

I had always composed a lot and knew that I wanted to play material that felt a bit more representative of my own influences, particularly with the rockier side of things that I’m into.
Having done lots of rehearsing and gigging over those couple of years, we went on to record the album over 3 days in August 2016. Since then we managed to raise over £3,500 on Kickstarter to finish off the production process and fund a PR campaign.

Where Did The Band Name Come From?
The name Flying Machines is a tribute to my father, Roger Munk, and the Airships (now more commonly referred to as Hybrid Air Vehicles) that he dedicated his working life to. He was a renowned expert and world leader in the field of lighter than air technology and he was integral in creating and developing every aspect of these astounding vehicles. The company that he founded in 2007, HAV, are now flight testing the world’s largest air vehicle.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Absolutely! It has taken so much time to get it all together that actually getting on the road and playing with the rest of the guys is going to feel like such a release. I’ve done lots of tours before but nothing as full on as this one.

I’m really looking forward to the fact that a lot of the time we’re going to be playing night after night and it’s going to be fascinating to see how the music develops and changes. A lot of the music is based around improvisation and interaction, we don’t want any two performances of the same tune to be the same. I’m really looking forward to finding some new audiences too and getting all over the UK to places where we’ve not played at before.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
Accessible, melodic, contemporary jazz with lots of rock influences. We play loud! But not all the time….It’s all original too. The music is influenced by the likes of Tigran Hamasyan, an incredible pianist from Armenia whose music combines really strong melodies with riffs, grooves and hooks, it’s beautifully executed and sophisticated but visceral and dramatic. From a guitar perspective I would say there’s a lot of Wayne Krantz and Pat Metheny in there. There are plenty of ballads as well, it definitely isn’t all testosterone. I truly believe that there is something in our set for all kinds of music lovers!

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
I love listening to singer songwriters as well as all the jazz artists I’ve already mentioned. Lately I’ve been listening to lots of James Taylor, John Mayer and Joni Mitchell. I definitely want the melodic content of my tunes to have that kind of direct and singable quality. There’s an incredible band in London called ‘Strobes’ that I’ve discovered quite recently, they have to be seen live to be believed.

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
To be honest, it’s hard to see past the tour right now! I’m looking forward to a period of reflection after that but I imagine I’ll be getting back into composing some new music for our next release and thinking how we can do it bigger and better. I definitely want to push on with this project and see how we can build our fanbase. Unfortunately because it’s a bit of a grind trying to make a project like this viable I see a lot of people throwing in the towel after a release or moving onto a new project. Plugging away is key!

Keep up with Flying Machines online:

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