I am Mac Quayle, Emmy-winning composer for Mr. Robot, American Horror Story: Cult, & The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. AMA!
I loved my last reddit AMA and I am excited to be back.
Currently, I score the music for hacker suspense-thriller Mr. Robot, created by Sam Esmail and starring Rami Malek, which will return for its 4th season this fall. I also regularly collaborate with Ryan Murphy, on his series like American Crime Story (most recently, on "The Assassination of Gianni Versace"), 9-1-1, and American Horror Story (most recently for "Cult"). I have written music for over 40 films, TV shows and documentaries.
Before working in film & television, I worked as a music and remix producer, working on projects featuring Madonna, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Sting, Jennifer Lopez, and Donna Summers.
I look forward to answering your questions about my love of jumping between the musical worlds of synth and orchestras, what is the key to character themes, and anything else you may be curious to know about me and my work.
Proof: https://twitter.com/macquayle/status/1005147510506229762 https://twitter.com/macquayle/status/1006247815654371328
Ask me anything! I look forward to your questions.
EDIT: Thanks so much for the great questions reddit! I am taking a break for now, but will check back in over the next day or so to try and answer a few more.
In the scoring world we tend to call each piece of music a 'cue'. The time to write each one really varies a lot depending on how long and complex the cue is. I have written one as fast as 5 minutes and on the other end taken a whole week.
Hey Mac it was awesome seeing you perform the music of Mr. Robot live at the Roxy (and getting my V2 vinyl signed!) any chance you saw the Defcon Mr. Robot ARGsociety video that got posted to Twitter?
Thanks! I have not seen it. What is it?
Are you planning to release a 5th Volume of the Mr Robot soundtrack? I’m in love with the previous 4 so it would be great if we could have the new music from season 3!
Volume 5 & 6 are in the works. No release date yet but stay tuned. I am excited for you to hear it!
I love your work, especially on Mr. Robot! What recent shows/movies do you think are scored particularly well?
There is so much out there I hear is great but have not been able to watch yet. In no particular order: Homeland, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Americans, Annihilation, Black Mirror, First Reformed, Blade Runner 2049
Are there any plans on releasing previously unreleased music from Mr. Robot? Stuff from S1 and S2 for example that never made it to the official sound track? Thanks, and keep up the amazing work!
At the moment there are no plans but thanks for the suggestion, we will consider it.
What is the coolest piece of gear you own?
I don’t know which one is the coolest but right now I am really into using my analog synths. Prophet-6, Juno 106, Moog Source & Subsequent 37, Korg Prologue, Waldorf Pulse+
Have you ever felt psychologically attached to a track to the point that it is hard for you to listen to said track?
Oh yes. The timeline goes like this: hmm this might be an idea, I like this idea, wow this is great (listen over and over and over), is this really a good idea?, I can’t listen to this ever again
What do you do to find inspiration/motivation to keep making music?
have you ever felt stuck on a track to the point you feel frustrated?
My inspiration/motivation varies from day to day. Sometimes it just comes from my deep love of creating music and discovering new sounds. Other times it comes from listening to a piece of great music. Then there are those days when the deadline demands I get it finished and that is very motivating! And yes, frustration is part of it too.
have you ever used a moog synthesizer? if so, what model and what did you think of it?
I own a Moog Source and Subsequent 37 and have used a Minimoog They are all fantastic.
Wich of the shows you worked were you most satisfied with the final product as a whole?
I have really satisfied with all of the shows I have worked on. If I had to pick favorites I would say that I am just slightly more proud of Mr Robot and Feud: Bette and Joan
What was the first television score you remember being aware of?
The original Hawaii Five-O
Any chance you could include some film noir-esque cues in Mr. Robot?
Great idea. I will bring that up when we start on Season 4.
Hi Mac! Super excited to see you here. I'd love to learn a little bit about how you approach writing your cues.
Do you tend to map things out first and proceed more methodically though a new cue, or does it start primarily with improv and trying to nail the feeling of a cue before working out the details?
I use both methods depending on the cue. If I have a good idea of how the map should be shaped I will start with that. Otherwise I might just improvise to picture and then go back and edit the bits that I like into a map.
If you could collab with any other artist, which one would it be?
Here’s a few: Thom Yorke (anyone in Radiohead), Peter Gabriel, Bjork and Brian Eno
is there any instrument you always wanted to play but could never learn to?
I love the cello
Hello Mac Quayle! I love the work you do on Mr. Robot. What is your favorite piece of music that you composed on Mr. Robot and which one took the most time/effort?
I have so many favorites it’s hard to pick just one. And many have been super challenging to write. But one sticks out from Se3 Ep6 called A Little Push. I’m very fond of it AND it was really hard to finish https://youtu.be/F85aHwez4N4
I first want to say your score really sets the tone and love the score you contribute to the show. I missed the last time you played the Mr. Robot score at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Any chance you plan on doing that again? And will you sign my fsociety mask?
I really enjoyed the show at The Roxy and am definitely planning on doing more. Bring the mask to the next one and I’ll sign it!
Also, unrelated to my prior question -
Mr. Robot "1.4_2-impenetrable sd2" - at about :38" in, you have a really cool bass sequence. Is that programmed in an outboard synth's step sequencer?
That bass sequence was created using the Rob Papen Blue II virtual synth. It has a great arpeggiator on it.
Awesome! I've been mostly using LPX's built-in arpeggiator, but I'll check that one out!
The Logic arp is great too.
Mr. Robot has many visual references to Stanley Kubrik's films but in the score there seem to be also some oblique references specialy to scores produced by Wendy Carlos in particular. Am I right about this?
One of the first synthesizer records I listened to was Switched On Bach by (then) Walter Carlos and have been a huge fan ever since. Definitely an influence.
Ill ask what were all hoping youll answer- But probably cant...
When should we expect season 4 to be out? Spring '19?
Even if I knew I couldn't tell. But I don't know I promise.
How much are you in the loop of Mr. Robot's plots/reveals? Do you get a chance to read the scripts as they're written?
The scoring is so perfect, it seems like you'd have to be more informed than most of the actors.
My preference is not to read the scripts so I am surprised when I first see each episode. Then I get to talk with Sam about the finer notes of the plot even though he won't reveal the big plot reveals that are coming in the future.
First off, i'm a big fan, so thanks for doing this!
I am also a composer and a producer, currently I am writing a lot of hip-hop and dance cues (with some tension scoring mixed in) that gets placed on various hit reality tv shows via publishers/libraries that I work with. Recently, I have been trying to move on to more orchestral scoring style gigs for TV and film (similar to what you do). Any advice on how to get started in that area?
Thanks! My path was to work as an additional composer for other established composers until I gained enough experience and earned enough credits to break out on my own.
Are you ever able to incorporate sound design in your scores or is that done by someone else?
The sound design is mostly done by the sound designer but occasionally they will give me some sounds to incorporate in my score in a musical way. This has happened on Mr Robot a couple of times.
What do you do when you have a writer’s cramp?
Also, are you an inspirational quote kinda guy?
I walk the dog or have lunch. Yes I do like quotes: "It's not what you can do in this business, it's how fast you can do it"
if you could bring one artist back to life, which one would it be?
Can I pick two? Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie
What would have to be your favorite genre to compose?
Thriller and Sci-fi
What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
I prefer smoothies. Frozen blueberries, almond butter, protein powder, ice, almond milk. Yum!
What's your process for coming up with an arrangement? Any tips for avoiding "writer's block" ? Thank you for great music :) looking forward for new songs.
The process can really vary from cue to cue. One common approach is to sketch out my basic idea using one simple sound and then start to fill in sections with other instruments. I know it is finished when it sounds right to me or I have run out of time :) Writers block is often avoided by stepping away form the studio and doing something else completely unrelated to music. Walking the dog is good.
How long does it take for you to write an average song?
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