Name: Collisions
Members: Ciaran Morahan, Tom Hodge, Ollie Howell
Occupation: Composers (Morahan, Hodge), drummer, composer (Ollie Howell)
Nationality: British
Recent release: Collisions' first, eponymous album is out 9th September via Naïve/Believe. Check out their latest single "Fourth Motion" here.
Recommendations: John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, Wolfgang Muthspiel / Brian Blade - Friendly Travellers: Live

[Read our Tom Hodge Interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Collisions and would like to find out more about the band, visit the online spaces of the respective members: Ciaran Morahan; Tom Hodge; Ollie Howell. Collisions are also on Facebook, and twitter.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

We had an old piano in the house I grew up in, and at about 7 years old I used to sit there and try and work out things I’d heard on the radio or tv on it. I ended up having about a year of piano lessons after that from a guy who happened to be a jazz pianist, and he heard I had a musical ear so started teaching me simple jazz pieces, all by ear.

I then started playing the drums at about 11, and it was only then that I learned I’d been listening to this genre called Jazz for years without knowing what it was. From there I was hooked on it - Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, I couldn’t get enough.

But I also played in punk and ska bands too, that was a big part of my musical life - I loved any music that felt alive and had this energy I couldn’t explain.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

I’m always trying to search for ways to create that indescribable feeling you get when music hits you in just the right way. It can trigger pretty much any emotion across the whole spectrum when done right. So I’m constantly striving to find new ways to get to that place, whatever it may be.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I kind of feel like since discovering my love for film scoring, I’ve really grown as an artist, even translating back to when I’m playing the drums - I’m always thinking about storytelling and different ways of musical communication.

I still love to play the drums and jazz, but I’ve also always been inspired by the unknown and really challenging myself to live outside my comfort zone, so I’m trying to learn more and create more everyday to keep pushing that.

Finding new and unique sonic textures is a huge creative passion for me, both in film scoring and in album work.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I’ve always felt like my musical identity is more of a moving and evolving thing, rather than being set and defined.

I hope to always be changing and growing as an artist, and being inspired by new music the whole time, so part of me feels like if I’ve ever “found my sound” and I’m set with that, then I’m probably failing at evolving and becoming stagnant.

Newness is the most inspiring thing for me.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

I think storytelling, being truthful in your music and having fun are the most important things for me. Whether that’s performing or composing.

I’ve always loved collaboration too, especially when it’s with people that share those ideals, like Tom and Ciaran. Coming from a jazz background, I’ve grown up creating and reacting to things on the spot, so I love trying to inject that element of freedom into the process.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

For me they’re the same thing - I think originality / innovation is exactly what makes something perfect and timeless. And something can be perfectly imperfect, which is what makes it innovative.

It’s impossible to create new music without being, at least subconsciously, influenced by what you’ve heard before. The worst thing an artist can do is create something they think other people are expecting or want to hear.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

I work with microphones and plugins and DAWs every day now for film scoring, but for me there’s something about acoustic sounds that I’ve always been drawn to when it comes to feeling inspired. The drums especially are such a primal instrument, and I’ve always been trying to get as many different sounds out of them as I can.

Even one cymbal, when played right and with an open mind, can make hundreds or different sounds.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

It totally depends what I’m working on, but I would say most days start with coffee and doing something that’s not music, whether that’s a quick walk or watching some mindless tv for 10 minutes. Then if I’m film scoring, I’ll open up the scene and get to work, usually spending a lot of the day creating unique sounds and textures if I can. If I’m working on an album project, I tend to take a lot more breaks during the day to give my head room to come up with new ideas, without the pressure of having to churn stuff out like you do when working in film sometimes.

I’m way better now at stopping work at a sensible time and having weekends off if I can and having proper downtime, which has definitely led to me being more creative during the week, and just enjoying it more too.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that’s particularly dear to you, please?

When writing with Collisions, there’s a lot of back and forth with ideas. We share the Logic sessions in a Dropbox folder and then we’re all going in to them and throwing ideas into the mix. It’s a really fun and freeing creative relationship, no one is too precious with an idea and there are no egos in the way.

When writing all together in a physical space, like we’ve been doing on some new material, we’re trying to capture that live / jammed approach to composition, for those initial ideas at least.

And then the next stage is filtering the really great stuff from that and starting to formulate a structure.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I always struggle to listen to music “passively” like in a car when people are also trying to talk to me or in the background somewhere at a social thing. I end up focussing on the music whatever is happening anyway, and analysing it whilst I’m listening.

But when I’m writing music, or playing it, I always prefer to have other people around, because that element of it for me has always been a social and collaborative thing as well as a creative thing.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I see music, especially an album, as like a photo in time of how I was feeling, or what I was trying to say in that moment.

I’ve never really thought about its role outside of that in wider society. I love that music can say multiple different things to different people though.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

My first record, and actually my first step into composition, was all music that I’d written from my hospital bed whilst having multiple brain surgeries, spanning across a couple of years in my twenties. I’d only started writing them as I needed something creative to do there to take my mind off things, but in the end I ended up with all these pieces that happen to tell the story of this life changing period of my life.

If I listened back to it now I’m sure I’d be transported right back to those emotions and memories.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?

In both of those worlds I feel like they’re both trying to process the past and simultaneously search into the unknown. I became fascinated by the brain and neuroscience and it’s amazing to see what happens to you when listening to music, and even more so when improvising.

There’s so much we don’t know and room to discover in both music and with the brain in particular.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

I don’t think it’s as much that music or creativity is more expressive or important than other tasks, it’s just all about someone being passionate about something. A chef is able to communicate emotions and storytelling through their food just as well as a musician does through music for example.

Music definitely personally lets me express emotions or ideas I struggle to do with other things, but I don’t think making music is any more important than anyone else putting passion into something different.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

No I don’t, and to be honest that’s one of the things I love about art. We don’t fully understand what’s it’s doing to us, and that’s what’s always been so unique and special about it.