They are those magnificent men in their Flying Machines

Flying Machines, with Alex Munk, first left. Photo by Steve Pringle
Flying Machines, with Alex Munk, first left. Photo by Steve Pringle
Black Star Riders: from left, Scott Gorham, Chad Szeliga, Ricky Warwick,  Robbie Crane and Damon Johnson.  Picture by Richard Stow

Black Star Riders come under Heavy Fire on their latest tour

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Drawing upon influences as diverse as jazz, pop, progressive rock and metal to create an utterly unique and modern sound, Flying Machines are doing their best to defy musical boundaries.

Led by guitarist Alex Munk, with Matt Robinson on keys, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Dave Hamblett on drums, the quartet released their self-titled debut album last year. And they are about to embark on a 23-date UK tour, backed by the Arts Council.

A talented young guitar player, it wasn’t until Alex started taking lessons with Chris Montague, who is in jazz-rock trio Troyka, that everything suddenly made sense to him.

‘He’s like a jazz guitarist who had come out of Jimi Hendrix and rock’n’roll, and he hadn’t lost any of that in his playing – there was this great fusion of the styles that really flipped my head around and got me to start thinking about jazz, because up until that point it had seemed a little bit stuffy and kind of...’ he pauses, ‘I liked it, but it hadn’t really grabbed me. It took someone who had a very modern approach to jazz to get me excited about it.’

And Alex laments that jazz isn’t marketed more to younger people.

‘I think it’s a shame – there’s a lot of really innovative younger bands out there doing incredible things that would blow people’s minds if they got to hear it.

People think of jazz as something that’s dull and not relevant and belongs in the past, and that’s not the case at all

Alex Munk

‘People think of jazz as something that’s dull and not relevant and belongs in the past, and that’s not the case at all.’

He studied at the Leeds College of Music, and after completing a masters played as a sideman with a wide variety of acts, including the Stan Sulzmann Big Band Gwilym Simcock, James Taylor and many more.

‘There were some great things I got to do, which was lovely, and they did all tend to be on the jazzier end of things, but there’s always been a side of me that wanted to play louder, more rock-influenced music while keeping a bit of that jazz and improvisatory spirit.

‘It got to the point where I started to write some music again and put my own flag in the ground.’

The album was funded through crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

‘That was a real experience,’ says Alex. ‘It was brilliant and I got so much from it, but it was also one of the most emotionally brutal things I’ve gone through. I was determined to get out of the box of my own social media circles and I know what we’re doing is fairly niche, but I also thought I had a certain accessibility which could translate to people who weren’t just diehard jazz fans, and I wanted to test that theory a bit.

‘It seemed a good way to generate a bit of a buzz and to force yourself to promote your music, to shout out from the rooftops about it, which is quite an uncomfortable feeling, but also a good thing to make myself do, or otherwise I would have probably paid for it myself, put the album out and then it would have disappeared.’

Southampton Modern Jazz Club

Sunday, February 12

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