Save Up to 40% for Memorial Day! Use Code MEMORIAL10 For 10% off Non-Sale Items. Shop Now Save Up to 40% for Memorial Day! Use Code MEMORIAL10 For 10% off Non-Sale Items. Shop Now Save Up to 40% for Memorial Day! Use Code MEMORIAL10 For 10% off Non-Sale Items. Shop Now Save Up to 40% for Memorial Day! Use Code MEMORIAL10 For 10% off Non-Sale Items. Shop Now

Black Hole: an Interview with Collision Devices

Talking with the Team Behind the Otherworldly Pedals

Kallie Marie · 05/10/24

Collision Devices are a small team based near Angers, in West of France who hand make some of the world’s most innovative and unique pedals. The company was formed out of friendship, imagination, and passion—shared by two friends. The team has grown since its inception, and their universe of ingenious bespoke pedals continues to expand.

I wanted to learn more about the people behind these incredible pedals, what inspires them when they create and innovate, and what they are planning on creating next. I was lucky enough to get the whole team together for a little chat so that everyone could weigh in on some burning questions.

The Collision Devices team is comprised of: Baptiste (product design, materials, and aesthetics), Denis (product development, effect design, sound, & whimsy), Nicolas (assembly, soldering wizardry, and “guts”), Aubin (development for a new secret project!)—and Bernie & Pol (naps, general inspiration, and team morale).

[Ed: speaker name abbreviations are as follows: K: Kallie Marie; Ob1: Aubin; Bapt: Baptiste; Nic: Nicolas; Den: Denis.]

An Interview with Collision Devices

Kallie Marie: So I see that your company had it’s start between 2016–2017. How did Baptiste and Denis meet?

Den: We met because we didn't live far from each other in the french countryside and we used to play music together. It’s still the case by the way. We created a band together. A teenage band inspired by Post-rock & Post-hardcore bands.

Then we never stopped playing music and we had another band. A more noisy one. That’s how we fell into effect pedals. To create long ambiences and violent textures. Then we decided to create our own machines to play music and we had deep deep conversations about space at night. Drinking coffee at 3 a.m. on Baptiste’s terrace. Here came the idea of the Black Hole Symmetry and the whole concept we’ll talk about later.

Bapt: As Denis said, we were not so far from each other. And I remember the school time when we were teenagers, we were not in the same school and both of us had a little music band. And I was like, “Who’s this band? I’m sure these boys and girls are just here to be famous, I’m sure they are shit." (You know…teenager times…)

And after few months I met Denis and I was like “Shit, this guy is fucking cool. I was wrong, let’s do some music together now." And here we are.

K: What was the first product, and when did you know it was a success?

Bapt: The Black Hole Symmetry. I think the best thing to know when your product is a success or not it’s when you buy and drive a Lamborghini just after the release. There is no other way to know. (Joking!)

The best thing is when people send messages to say “I reorganized my board around your pedal, this box really helped me to find a new way of creating music. This inspires me.” It’s just a little message, but it really means a lot to us.

Den: We created the Black Hole Symmetry as a pedal with a concept around it. We never stopped doing this for the other releases. All of our pedals are linked through a story talking about Space travel, meaning of life, loneliness. When people fell into this concept and told us they spent hours with the pedal being hypnotized by their music, it sounds like a success to me.

K: Can everyone on the team say hi, and tell us what inspires them about being part of the team and or their favorite part of their job/day?

Den: What I love is working on creative stuff in a team of friends. Not on your next overdrive. And one of the best parts of this job for me is to be involved in the musical creation process. We listen to music all day long, see a lot of concerts and meet local and international musicians sometimes.

To speak about my work here, it is very stimulating to work on a product from the beginning to the end. On the analog circuit, DSP programming, check with the rest of the team to make everything fit together. Having the possibility to directly put our ideas into concrete products is what I was looking for by studying Electronic Engineering. Of course when we release a pedal we all do assembly and shipping stuff.

Bapt: Working with friends in a chill place. This is what I like the most. We aren’t chilling out every day for sure, but this place is a concentration of good ideas, good jokes and so good times with all the team!

I love a lot of things in my job, the research and development part is, I think the most exciting thing in my job but…obviously when the pedal is released and I see people reacting about the design...there is like some “adrenaline” in your body. This is really addictive! [laughs] Even when the message says: “This is shit. 400 bucks for this thing? You guys suck." (It’s my Kink.)

Nic: Hi! I met my two big bosses during my young age. I have always been surrounded by artists, whether in music or otherwise, and I have always enjoyed participating in their projects by helping them. I saw Collision born and I was amazed to follow the evolution of the company over the years, being the first employee and the best employee every year since Aubin's arrival... ;-)

I am in charge of the physical production of the pedals, from soldering electronic components and preparing many parts to enclosures and packaging.

Ob1: I’m kinda the last child of the team, we met with Denis at engineering school and soon after I met Baptiste and Nicolas. We spoke a lot about creative guitar pedals before I joined them and when Collision grew enough they asked me to be a part of it. Which I accepted with great love. I mostly do programming on microcontrollers but sometimes give a hand to Denis for analog development and to Nicolas and Baptiste for building and shipping pedals when we’re in a rush.

K: What is everyone’s favorite Collision Device?

Den: It’s the WH. But it won’t be released for several years so let’s keep it a secret. In our current lineup, it’s the Black Hole Symmetry. The very first one. We had as much time as we wanted to develop it as nobody knew we existed. It was a lot of fun to develop.

Bapt: I love all of them. Every new device needs a lot of time to build and I love to spend hours, only with my head, trying to draw the next device. But some devices need more time and some are special due to some circumstances. We try to explore new types of development for the body of the pedals. Like try the aluminum or the wood for the ranch etc…but, The Black Hole Symmetry is for sure special to me because it’s our first one. And we dropped it in the market like young kids who absolutely didn’t know what they were doing.

Den: That’s what we were.

Nic: The Black Hole Symmetry is for me what represents Collision the most. The black hole, the thing that attracts you and takes you to an unknown but very exciting universe and future.

Ob1: For me, it's the new pedal, coming end of May—the most creative Collision Devices pedal. Yet.

K: As everything is handmade by your small team, about how long does assembly take?

Nic: It depends on the product but you have to count the soldering of the potentiometers, the power supply connectors, the jacks, the programming, the LEDs, assembly in the enclosure, the switches, the knobs, the cleaning, the goodies, the folding of the cardboard box, putting it into stock…in just a few seconds, if you work well.

Bapt: I work with Nic for the shipping part and I have to say that is sooo long sometimes! [laughs] But we love that too. It’s the final part and we know that each pedal we prepare is going to find a new home and create new this is pretty satisfying, and it really helps us to not fall down. [laughs]

Den: The fact is that when we first started, we spent all of our work time building pedals. We didn’t have any time to develop anything new. So now, we outsource many things to local suppliers and companies. Our enclosures are locally made, folded, drilled, powder coated, silkscreened. Everything is done locally. Plus knobs and fader caps on TARS are 100% custom made and locally built in bare aluminum. Electronic SMD assembly is done in a factory a few kilometers from our workshop.

So when we say “made in France,” it isn’t just a sticker on the box to say we close the packaging in France. It’s really made in France, by people who have better working conditions. That’s something we’re really proud about. We still all have to make efforts to make this world better but knowing our products have a limited impact is a thing that matters. And we’ll improve that as much as we can.

K: How long does development generally take?

Den: Ideally, one year from the idea to the final product. I mean for a “classical” pedal. We work on several products at a time. Sometimes it goes faster because we want a project to pop earlier due to “company” timing. So we focus all of our strengths on the same pedal and it can last less time.

Bapt: I think approximately one year…but sometimes big projects need more. We don’t want to drop something that is already in the market because lots of companies are doing very good things…and we would love to have a LOT of time to develop things but…it’s impossible because we need money to eat, because capitalism, because…fuck.

Ob1: It depends of the complexity of the pedal and how much we need to learn new things to make it happen.

K: What’s a crazy adventure or time that the team has had?

Nic: When Denis finished the V35.8 of the Nocturnal! No, for real, that was the NAMM show. We were like crazy children in this giant LA map. The welcoming of the artists playing or discovering our products was amazing!

Ob1: Every time we get a new pedal idea and get excited about it. Always the greatest times. More to come.

Den: NAMM show '22. First time in the USA. We’ve been there with two other friends of ours. Going to the other side of the world to showcase our products and meet customers and artists is a truly motivating thing.

Bapt: At the beginning of this adventure, we traveled to Paris with Denis and our Black Hole Symmetry in the bag. And we were going to a GILLA BAND (you absolutely have to check this band) show at La Maroquinerie to show them our baby the BHS. And we were here with Alan (the guitarist) like kids behind their favorite band. And Alan tried the BHS and seems to like it…

And I remember that I was saying in my head “it’s not possible, it’s not happening, it’s not real life”. Crazy moment for us.

Limited edition pink Black Hole Symmetry Limited edition pink Black Hole Symmetry

K: How does the team decide when a special issue of a pedal is going to happen?

Bapt: We don’t have “planning” for this. I try to draw something cool during the year and when all the team is ok about the new design, we say “let’s go!" [laughs]

We try to not do a lot of special running because for us, it’s not a special one if this is done every month. But special editions really help us push the company and sometimes I'm really surprised about how people love the new designs. So it’s always a surprise and this is exciting.

K: What’s the hardest part about each of your roles on the team? How do you support each other?

Den: Doing the sales. I’m not a born salesman and what I like is the technical part of products. But we learn a lot on the ground and often talk about our difficulties with the team. Everyone can suggest his ideas to the others to try improving the products or process even if we aren’t specialists.

Bapt: Trying to find the time to make music with pedals.

Nic: There are some difficulties in this world of effects pedals, but like a group of best friends we support each other. The good times are so much more present and re-boost us every moment. Above all, it’s a job of passion.

Ob1: The learning curve of ST’s microcontrollers, switching from playing music to going back to engineering. The guys are always so supportive about my part time activities, can’t thank them enough for it.

K: Is everyone on the team a musician? If so what does everyone play?

Den: I play the guitar. I’m divided into 2 different parts. An acoustic guitar enthusiast, and a noisy textures lover. I’m not a really good player and I rather focus on the sound than on my playing.

Bapt: I play drums. Yeah…sorry for that.

Nic: I'm not a musician but I really like live concerts with friends and tasty craft beers.

Ob1: I play guitar, bass and synth.

K: Can you talk about the new modular device? What is it, and how did it come about?

Bapt: First it was for the Birmingham (England) show. I tried to imagine a thing that will help us to show our whole range in a box but with a new style and new way of using. A thing that people will see from afar and tell their friends “OMG…let’s try that!” We’re fucking synth lovers, so, obviously…a sort of “Modular thing” was a good idea for us. So I said to Nicolas: “We need to do that."

He said : “Birmingham is in one week.” And I said: “We need to do that.”

So we built it quickly. And we were happy about the result and how people received it! It was just a prototype, but we’re absolutely in love with it. So now…it’s time to build a real one. But, be patient and keep an eye on Instagram…

K: Are there any hints you can share about what’s next, what the team is most looking forward to, and where the team might be spotted next?

Den: We tend to develop more creative pedals. More complex and complete I think. We now use more digital components, so we are working hard to find a creative way of setting up the controls, implementing MIDI, stereo…it could take us months to do this, but I’m pretty confident we’ll succeed.

We are not in the quest of finding the perfect tone, nor emulating an analog sound we love. Rather, [we want to find] the settings and effects combined together that will lead the user in another way to use his/her gear. The next pedal is a perfect representation of that. It inspired us and led our playing to sounds we would have never tried before.

Bapt: Like Denis said, we aren’t trying to find the perfect thing. We’re here to explore sounds, materials, textures. So, I can’t really tell you what’s going next because for my part of the job, I'm interested in a lot of things—and sometimes I wake up with the desire to build things with concrete, and the next day, my desire is to build things with copper materials…so, I think we’re looking forward to exploring, and if we’re satisfied with what we’ve done…it’s fine for us.

If you think our pedals are going to be noisier, it will be the case.

[Ed.: Bernie & Pol have declined comment for this interview. They had a lot of sleep to catch up on after overseeing the team.]