Radiohead's live technician has been discussing the band's secret performance weapon during their current world tour – a MacBook Pro running Native Instruments Kontakt 3.
Russ Russell is the man tasked with attending to the laptop during the band's shows – this is hooked up to a rack of daisy-chained audio interfaces and receives MIDI from two on-stage keyboard stations that are played by Jonny and Colin Greenwood.
As Russ explains, Kontakt is loaded up with all the sample-based sounds that Radiohead require. "It has allowed us to get completely away from all the frustration of hardware samplers," he says. "Editing and importing becomes quicker and easier, which allows the band to make changes or try new ideas without delay or fuss."
A rainbow of sound
As you'd expect, much of Radiohead's current live set is taken from In Rainbows, their latest album, and Russell reports that the sounds for these songs came from both the original studio productions and adapted parts of the Kontakt library. However, for the band's older material, a different approach was required.
"I basically went through the entire Radiohead catalogue and converted all the old sample material for Kontakt," reveals Russ. "I sampled a few hardware instruments and created multisamples. It's just made the organisation of all the keyboard sounds so much easier."
When it comes to triggering the sounds, Colin Greenwood uses both keyboard and floorboard devices, while brother Jonny also works with a selection of analogue devices and his own laptop. All songs are played live, though on more 'electronic' numbers such as 15 Step, the Greenwood brothers are known to trigger percussive loops in real time.
Click on the second image in the gallery above for a look at Jonny Greenwood's on-stage laptop/controller setup.