Emmy-nominated composer Mac Quayle embraces the dark side of human nature for Emmy glory
Not every job affords the “bring your child to work” opportunity. Composer Mac Quayle, a 2016 Emmy nominee for his brilliant Mr. Robot score, has to pick and choose those moments. Take a look at his 2015/2016 musical output, and you’ll understand why. Scream Queens. American Horror Story: Hotel. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Mr. Robot. These series contain dark, hard-hitting moments not suitable for young eyes or ears. Critics, audiences, and the Television Academy, however, are an entirely different story.
“My daughter and now my son, they can’t come into the studio when I’m working on it basically,” Mac Quayle laughs. “Some of the images that are on the screen are certainly not appropriate.”
Quayle definitely tends to trend toward the darker aspects of life in his work, but don’t ask him why. He’s not an avid watcher of horror in the vein of American Horror Story. Although, he embraces the challenges presented by Ryan Murphy’s wildly ambitious anthology series. Quayle made the Ryan Murphy introduction through fellow composer Cliff Martinez (Drive) on Murphy’s 2014 HBO film The Normal Heart. The partnership led to Quayle’s first Emmy nomination for last year’s American Horror Story: Freak Show and continues into Hotel where his reinvention of Charlie Clouser and Cesar Davila-Irizarry’s famed opening theme turned heads.
“In the initial discussions with Ryan and his team, the idea for the sound of that season emerged as very electronic,” Quayle said. “There was this main, sort of melodic, sound… some sort of a strange violin that was recorded off of an old LP. The main theme of the season used that sound for the melody, and that was liked so much by Ryan that he wanted to bring that into the opening sequence credits.”
Unfortunately for fans (myself included), the Powers That Be have yet to issue any compilations of the American Horror Story scores, despite Quayle’s persistent pleas. Twitter, use your power for good instead of evil and get this done.
Away from the horror of Hotel and Scream Queens, Quayle does gravitate toward the psychological thriller aspects of shows like USA Network’s Mr. Robot. This gorgeous electronic work, full of driving and persistent paranoia, is available online and garnered Quayle his second Emmy nomination. This score helped provide an entry point into the tortured mind and psyche of Mr. Robot‘s lead character Elliot, played by Rami Malek.
“One of the first pieces I wrote was in the pilot, the first scene when we’re introduced to Elliot when he’s in the coffee shop and about to bring down the owner of the shop who runs an illicit website,” Quayle said. “That piece of music was where I first wrote Elliot’s theme… that’s how the whole journey began.”
The Emmy nomination for Mr. Robot is one of six received by the freshman drama. Given the vast quality of displayed in both above and below-the-line categories, Mac Quayle stands tall among a bevy of heavy-hitting contenders such as A&E’s Bates Motel and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. His return to the Emmy race is still as exciting an event as last year’s first nomination on American Horror Story: Freak Show.
“Last year, it was completely surreal,” Quayle said. “I just couldn’t imagine that I would ever get nominated for an Emmy. This year, it’s still feels similar. I’m really grateful and honored and just super excited that the music is getting recognized and the people are enjoying it.”