Kore, Komplete, Reaktor @ cdm

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Kore, onstage. Jonathan writes: Here is the Interpol Keyboard riser for the festival show in Gdynia Poland.  A midi loom containing 4 cables provides both keys input to the laptop and backups.  I also ran my own power extension to the keys from my line conditioners, in every country.  The keyboard setup includes a brick 9 volt power supply for both controllers.

Interpol, the superstar, New York-based band (not the international anti-crime organization) have been touring the world with an intensive, live rig, powered by Kore. Our friend Jonathan Adams Leonard aka sleen, a technological superstar himself, put together their current digital setup, and sends along copious notes on the hardware and software rig. Jonathan has plenty more to share as far as how to make Kore work for live players, but first let’s have a look at the details of the rig itself.

And yes, prepare yourself for some serious hardware and software pr0n from one of the world’s best live bands. No DJ sets here.

(For our previous chat with Jonathan, see Free, Modular Power Tools for Kore 2: A Guide to the Reaktor Toolpack, covering his must-download Reaktor ensembles for use with Kore.)

Words and photos by Jonathan Adams Leonard:

The Hardware

Rack designed and built by Keyboard and Playback Tech Chad Miller(Lenny Kravitz) with assistance from Guitar Tech and Stage Manager Ally Christie(QOTSA, Mogwai).

It all starts with the controllers.  Here are 2 Maudio Keystation Pro 88′s getting setup for a concert in Belo Horizonte Brazil at Chevron Hall.

Here is the rack for the keyboard system.  It features 2 Macbookpro laptops 1 primary and 1 as secondary backup.  Everything else is 2-fold and separated into distinct systems to the power supply.  The items in the rack from the top: Furman Power Supply, Presonus Firepods, Sliding Shelf with Kore 1 controller, Glyph Drives, Motu Microlites, 3 sliding drawers.

This is the back of the keys rack.  Inside are 2 USB hubs and a Radial Pro D8 direct out box for the 4 stereo keyboard outputs.  The hubs accommodate dongles and drives.  There are also numerous power supplies with different configurations.

Here is a shot of Kore 2 from the stage in Gdynia Poland.  To the left is the keyboard tech for Jayz getting ready.  I usually pulled up the performance preset for song ‘scale’ to do line check.  Further downstage is the Interpol Keyboard riser.

Here is the venerable kore1 controller showing the current performance preset, Pioneer, with the cued preset, Narc.  This controller is on a shelf  that locks in place.  Using the wheel you can cue a preset and then hit enter to load.  Its best to hit enter at least three times to ensure correct loading.


Here is a perspective shot of the three racks including the 2 playback systems I also ran and that were built by Chad and Ally.  The keyboard rack is on the left, and then playback 1 and playback 2 racks.  Between the playback racks in the distance you can see Bobby Schayer of Bad Religion holding up a drumstick to demonstrate correct line of site with the drummer, and further to the right Ally working on a guitar.


This is a picture of the keyboard and guitar risers for Interpol backstage at Gdynia Poland.  This is a good example of outdoor summer festival production where setup and especially changeover times are limited.  Your whole band including drums will be moved out on risers at once on one side of the stage, while the last act is emptying out the right.  The keys are covered for protection against sun and dust.

The Software


The starting point: Interpol had a rig put together in Kore 1, as seen here. The challenge: migrate a Kore 2 setup, improving and extending it in the process.

Kore 2 by Native Instruments
Kore 2 Performance Programming and Design by jonathan adams leonard

Click for full-sized versions and juicier details.

This shows the All Off performance preset which the performance loads into.  This is also a convenient starting point for building new presets.  In the Controller area at the top we see knobs for different songs that switch instruments dynamically by changing the channel bypasses. Next down in the matrix you seen source channels for the 4 kontakt output pairs.  Only one instance of kontakt is used on the left, and the remaining represent outputs created by using the command, add additional output.  On the right in the matrix are the kontakt dummy midi source channels for receiving, then processing before all going to the one kontakt instance on the left.  The dummy channels have no audio connections and are midi only for recalling kontakt instrument settings.

Here is the Interpol performance preset ‘Pioneer’.  It shows numerous source channels have become enabled with some still bypassed that will get switched dynamically with a knob.

A closeup of the kontakt dummy midi source channels.  Each contains a midi filter, transformer and program change intergrated effect.  By adding them to each channel, you can store all the effects settings and recall them in a performance preset.  They may represent settings for internal plugins, or external hardware.

This is a view inside the kontakt instance handling all the sample based instruments for the Interpol Live show.  The kontakt multi contains 6 banks each on different midi channels and receiving program changes from the dummy source channels mentioned above.  By placing all the sampled instruments in a single multioutput instance of kontakt, the best memory optimization is used by minimizing samples and DFD buffers loaded.

This is a nested koresound containing all the required instances of Mtron needed by the performance presets.  This sound is in the leftmost channel, in the third slot down.  The next matrix level down shows its contents. Since the plugin could not support dynamic recall of all parameters, it was necessary to pre-load it explicitly for all the sounds needed.  Each performance using a sound here will enable the appropriate slot by changing the bypass.  Note how I am not using the source channel bypasses.  Instead, I created a page of bypasses for each plugin shown above in the controller area on buttons.  Kore by default does not provide or include the plugin bypasses in its recall scheme.  By adding them, I allow them to be recalled in a performance preset.  I use plugin bypasses because they work consistently on recall.  When using source channel bypasses, the recall is inconsistent and causes ‘no output’ issues.  Overall it is better to have only 1 plugin instanced and try to dynamically recall only its settings.  But in situations where you have no choice you can at least keep the redundant instances from cluttering the top matrix by using a nested koresound.

(click for the full rack – it’s big!)

This last one shows the fx busses and direct outputs to hardware.  The gain staging of the performance design was planned by using standard decibel units and increments.  Balancing was done to provide emphasis and power, without any potential overloads.  The direct output pairs were organized in instrument groups:

12; Keys(AP, B4, EP)


56;Synths(VSM,ProphetV, Mtron)

78; FX(Integrated, Guitar Rig).

Ed.: A major thanks to Jonathan for sharing the details of the work he did with us. I imagine this raises some questions, so let us know in comments if anything is confusing or if you have specifics you want to ask about. Stay tuned for a follow-up with Jonathan with more on what the experience was like, and what you can learn for your own Kore rig! -PK

32 Responses

  1. Jason


    Thanks to Jonathan for bringing the info! Thanks to CDM too!

  2. armachian

    Jaisus wept … that is insane!
    I’m still struggling to do the simplest things with Kore and Jonathan’s midi toolpack.

  3. [...] Behind the Scenes with Interpol: Obsessive Details of Hardware, Kore Software Rig [Kore @ CDM, kore.noisepages.com] [...]

  4. Bob

    Man I just totally fingered my butthole!

  5. regend

    I don’t know what’s more impressive…this keyboard rig or the Steel Guitar player they have named Farmer Dave who has a interesting pedal setup and a DIY Melodica in a wood case with car stereo speakers with inverse polarity as mics.

  6. shane king

    I know that this is super geeky but I wonder what kind of USB hubs they are? I have problems using dongles in hubs, plus my Motu midi interface has difficulties as well.

  7. Bob

    If this Interpool’s setup I’d be curious to see NIN’s live rig…MAKE IT HAPPEN PETER!!!!

  8. Kaysha

    Woah, fabulous…
    Very instructive and beautiful

  9. Jonathan F

    I love Interpol and I love the concept of Core.
    However without knowing why they need FOUR computers and tons of rack things (MULTIPLE pre’s etc..)…. it all seems rather excessive.

    I can see two duplicate setups (one backup) but FOUR?
    Is it two mains and two backups for each guy?
    i dont get it

  10. TheCragon

    “Its best to hit enter at least three times to ensure correct loading.”
    Haha! Nice to see this in such a professional setup. Reminds me of my “It’s best to hit play at least three times to get the song starting”-setup.
    Also good to see professionals using the firepod live.

  11. Ok, when you hear the expression Gear Pr0n, you are supposed to take it figuratively, Bob.

    JonathanF- Yeah that would be excessive! These pix and comments from me went up without editing so there is certainly more of a story to connect them. The keyboard portion of the rig is the leftmost rack with the 2 laptops. The second and third racks are playback systems each containing a complete playback system plus a switcher that is always listening for a tone. I did not detail the playback racks because the original focus was the keyboard setup and programming. However I was on the road a dual purpose module responsible for managing and operating both. Sorry if it seemed excessive. I can imagine a slightly more mobile and independent configuration for the laptops, but the kore setup here represents the most parsimonious solution for providing a variety of quality sounds with a minimum of equipment with some redundancy.

    In today’s age of increasing transportation and shipping cost, anything you can do to lighten the load keeping your functions intact goes right to profit. Shipping cost is most certainly influencing tours and dictating what shows are possible and in what form. How many lights? Projection? How many desks? How many workboxes and spare racks? Its not an easy problem and it gets worse every day because the tours are planned by people without university degrees and have no math skills. More than once I wished this article was consulted:
    You don’t get any sleep setting up, breaking down and then immediately travelling to then load in, setup, breakdown – next! But this is the only way to cram all the shows in with huge margins of error to keep things ‘afloat’. Add into this problem the fact that recordings themselves are no longer themselves profitable, the tours are very important to music and culture. Blah…any how from my side its fundamentally digital like everything else in the universe at its lowest level, and should only cost as much information does to move from one place to another.

  12. ew

    Jonathan =)

    Thanks for the walkthrough; very educational.
    Give me a holler one of these days…

  13. [...] live keys rig behind-the-scenes Native Instruments Kore, Komplete, Reaktor @ Create Digital Music

  14. cooptrol

    can’t figure why they need so many gadgets to make that lame rock music! lol
    is it really necessary??

  15. gbsr

    thats some nice kore programming, right there.
    wouldnt really call it the most mobile setup, but whatever floats your boat eh.

    @shane, yeah, im also interested in what type of USB hubs they have.

  16. gbsr – I can imagine some mobility improvements as well, but they won’t help against a forklift. The keyboard rack you see at some point between european and australian tours was pierced by a forklift. The myriad scars scrapes punctures and gouges accumulated over the last 2 years are all fortunately on the outside. The rack never suffered any loss of function despite this. For laptop warriors all that rack must look obscene, despite how much was consolidated by using kore, but you still need to protect your equipment with wood and metal. That keyboard rack survived gusting rain in rio, variable power in every country, dust in spain, some mystery liquid blue stuff in australia, baking sun in Italy which caused one laptop to kernel panic etc…its very hard to replace things and the spares you have must work when called upon. So what you see looks like a dinosaur, but is actually evolution in motion.

    The hubs were Belkin.

  17. [...] – Behind the Scenes with Interpol: Obsessive Details of Hardware … saved by joanelvr2008-08-13 – 7 AUGUST 2008 saved by [...]

  18. Charles

    A great article and example of using Kore in a professional manner. I would love to have more information and how to setup Kontakt with my Kore Controller. NI this is great to help those of us who have such a limited view and perspective of the use of these tools. Thanks, CS.

  19. Tyler

    Ok, I do have one question. What in the world am I looking at in the first screen cap (picture) under the section, “The Software”? Is that the first version of “Kore”? Can I get that view out of “Kore 2″?

  20. Hi Tyler, no you can’t get that view out of kore 2. The two pictures are kore 1 then kore 2 – before and after. The first one could use a caption indicating that.

  21. [...] all kinds of tips and tricks for using Kore and a few other NI products. This week, they ran a long article on the keyboard setup for the band Interpol. I don’t know Interpol, but I’ll definitely [...]

  22. [...] Interpol’s Kore 2 live rig Have a look at this for a set up! Native Instruments Kore, Komplete, Reaktor @ Create Digital Music

  23. Hobbes

    Hmmm, it seems as if I’ve seen that exact rig before… maybe even played with it. Good job Jonathon! Hope your enjoying working with that crew, they are a bit nutty. Chad is enjoying his craziness with Kravitz! ; )

  24. Hubba

    I’m a bit curious about how you do the switch to the backup system, how that is set up.

  25. Tyler

    That is one of the coolest features that has come standard on every Macintosh since the year 2000. Hold down the “T” key on the backup mac while powering it on, connect the 2 macs using a firewire cable. Now the backup macs HD will show up on the other macs desktop as an ejectable HD which you have full access to. Now all you need to do is use something like ccc (Carbon Copy Cloner – free app from Mike Bombich) to clone the HD. When done, eject the HD just like you would do to a USB flash drive, power down, and up again, and your done.

    Now you have an exact clone of your already configured setup.

  26. Joost

    I Think Hubba means the switch between the to systems. I’m also curious how this is done, since Im bulding a new setup witch also needs a back up system running.

    Hope somebody can help me out here

  27. In this rig both systems went to the same Radial DI outputs. Midi switching was manual for both keyboards. In the event the first system went down, all I had to do was cue the right preset on the second system, then switch the cables in the rack.

  28. Hubba

    Thanks, Jonathan. That was the information I was looking for.
    I’m in the process of replacing my hardware sampler with a dual laptop setup, and this was one detail i hadn’t figured out yet.

  29. Joost

    Yes thanks for the info. The midi switching manual is a good sollution. We also work witch several audio inputs in the laptop so I think we just double the outputs to the mixer (oneman band with 10 audio lines to the FOH) and muting them there.

  30. Hubba

    Thought I’d just share my thoughts on this kind of setup, and a little question as well :-)

    Prospective setup:
    Master keyboard with multiple MIDI outs.
    Dual laptops w/ Core SW version (MIDI Program change controls performance change).
    Dual MIDI/Audio interfaces.
    Radial SW8 Auto-Switcher.

    Switch to secondary system:
    - Cue preset on backup system.
    - Switch output on master keyboard.
    - Switch A/B on Radial (Possibly remote though master keyboard)

    Other benefits:
    Fits nicely into a 2U/3U rack flight w/ laptop pocket = Fits nicely in the airplane overhead compartment :-)

    If I set it up to play both systems simultaneously and only do audio switching on the Radial box, does anyone have any experience in what component normally fails? Is it the load on the computer that makes the system fail, is it heat, is it hardware?

    My experience tells me that it is usually software failure or heat that makes it fail.

    In the latter case, I’m probably better off not running simultaneous load on both machines, but switch to a “relaxed” machine when something goes wrong.
    Anyone have any experiences with this?

  31. [...] that includes work for NI), as well as the Reaktor toolpack for Kore. Oh, yes – and he built a live rig for Interpol. Suffice to say, he knows his stuff – and as a man who speaks his mind, I think you could say [...]

  32. What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable know-how about unexpected feelings.

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