Mogwai’s Barry Burns On Using Komplete

Keyboard player discusses the need for Komplete control


(Photo used under Creative Commons –

Mogwai, the Scottish instrumentalists, seem to have been around forever. The veteran band has put out eight standard albums, three compilations, 12 extended players, two remix albums and three film scores in 23 productive years together. Each charts the sonic journey of a band becoming ever more confident with its niche; from the quiet/loud dynamics of their early work to the electronic dabblings and open-minded sound selection of later releases, the Glasgow five-piece has a wide, far-reaching tonal palette which evolves with each subsequent release.

It is a band of extremes too; that leap from whisper-quiet to face-melting loud in Like Herod (off 1997’s Young Team album) still has the power to make you jump out of your seat, yet Tracy (from the same album) is so gentle and soothing that it could be used to calm a raging Godzilla.

In order to create the kind of music they do, Mogwai has assembled an arsenal of lust-worthy gear however, as a band which is recognised as much for its touring and live work as much as its recorded output, it understands sometimes concessions have to be made. Realistically, transporting every bit of kit used on an album halfway around the world for a show isn’t easy, cost effective or particularly wise.

“Taking a bunch of heavy, old Hammonds, Farfisas and Voxes on tour isn’t really an option,” said Barry Burns, keyboard/piano/synth player for the band; “So we needed to find alternatives which have the sound quality of those old instruments, but in a more manageable form.”

To meet this demand, Barry turned to Native Instrument’s all-encompassing Komplete package, which features plug-in versions of Native Instrument’s famous plug-ins, instruments and effects. The Komplete range, which in itself has been around for 11 years, has built itself a solid reputation as one of the most powerful, professional-grade music software compilations on the market.

“I’ve been using it since version one,” said Barry; “Prior to that I had been using the various component parts, so having a collection of quality, useable plugins and instruments all in one handy package which I can carry around on a small hard drive was the perfect solution. It’s been on all the Mogwai albums since it was available and is used live extensively via a Muse Receptor, which suits Komplete perfectly. The sampled mallet orchestral stuff features on a lot of our records and I also make good use of Guitar Rig, which is amazing as an effects processor when used in conjunction with external hardware gear.”

Komplete 10 is due to start hitting studios and venues soon, the first edition which will be able to benefit from Native Instrument’s new Kontrol S series MIDI controllers, which have been designed specifically with the accompanying software in mind.

The relationship between hardware and software is always a bone of contention. Will software ever fully take over from hardware as the equipment of choice for the working musician?

“I don’t think so,” said Barry; “After using modular synths and other gear for years I can say that I wouldn’t want to lose that choice, but I think they serve different purposes and I’m sure Native Instruments are fine with that.

“Besides, I trust Native Instruments to keep on coming up with interesting stuff – they always have done up to now so no reason why that would change.”