The Brilliant Composer Behind 'Mr. Robot'- Mac Quayle


A new soundtrack for 'Mr. Robot' entitled Mr. Robot V3, has been announced, and plans to be released later this summer. The soundtrack features composer Mac Quayle's score for the shows second season. In the below interview, Mr. Quayle and I talk about his art, craft, and his use of innovative, game-changing virtual instruments.

What is your background with music?

Music started for me at age 6 in a church choir in Virginia, then progressed through piano lessons, high school band and orchestra and several rock bands. Next, a music program at New York University led me to an internship at D&D Recording in Manhattan. Not long after that I started working as a keyboard player/programmer making dance music with a number of different producers and DJ’s. That led to producing and remixing which treated me well up until the early 2000’s when the music industry started to shows signs of decline. At that point it felt like time to leave NYC and I came to Los Angeles with a vague idea of getting into composing for film and Television. A couple of years later I got my first job working as an additional composer on the TV show Cold Case.

How did you get involved with Feud: Bette and Joan? What led you to want to compose for this series?

Feud was created by Ryan Murphy and I had already worked with him on American Horror Story, The People Vs OJ Simpson and Scream Queens. When he asked me to work on Feud I said yes!

How did this storyline, the feud between Bette and Joan, inspire your score for the show? What did you channel from the storyline to create your compositions?

The idea from the beginning was to create an orchestral sound that would evoke 1960’s Hollywood. With that as the palette, the mission was to write music that would help describe the tension between Bette and Joan and also the incredible sadness of how they were treated as women in Hollywood.

This score was a break from your normal electronic pieces. Do you think you will continue to broaden your type of compositions to other forms of music for upcoming series?

It was quite challenging to write this type of orchestral score but ultimately really satisfying as well. I’m ready for more!

What is the role of composer in the process of filming? Do you write the score and the filming follows, or do you write the score based on the film?

The majority of the time I start writing music once the filming is underway and they have edited together at least a few scenes for me to see and work with.

How much creative freedom do you have while composing your scores? How specific is the director with what the music should sound like?

I view myself as a collaborator. There is always a conversation at the beginning of a project where I learn what it is the producers or director are looking for and I use that information to define the parameters of the musical universe. Within that universe there is a lot of freedom to be creative.

How is composing for a film different than a TV series? Which do you prefer?

In many ways the process is the same, creating a musical universe, writing themes and helping to tell a story are part of both films and TV composing. Films tend to be a bit more condensed as far as time and schedule with one big deadline near the end while TV stretches out over a longer period and there can be a big deadline every week or two for each episode. I think composing for TV has more pressure involved because of all the deadlines with a relatively short time to turn the music around. That said, they each have there charms and I am quite fond of both.

What is your favorite part of creating scores for films or TV series? The creative aspect? The merging of music with film? The finalized, polished final product?

All of the above, but I particularly enjoy the moment just after I have started a project and turned a blank page into the first pieces of music. The ‘birth’ of the musical universe is quite satisfying. The very end is also really enjoyable, watching the show or film in it’s completed state with final music, color, etc.

You’ve been involved with Emmy winning TV series and won an Emmy yourself for your score in “Mr. Robot”. How does your success influence how you move forward with your career in composing?

I think the biggest influence of winning an Emmy is that it’s given me a little more confidence in my abilities, reinforcing the idea that I might be doing something right and people might be enjoying my contribution to this form of storytelling.

What is your current goal for your compositions? Where do you want to go with your work in the coming years?

I have been very fortunate to work on what I consider to be very high quality TV series and that is the type of content I would like to stay involved with. Also, the last few years have been all about TV for me and I would like to work on more films as well. I may have one to talk about soon...