7urn.up.th3.t3n5i0n: An Interview with ‘Mr. Robot’ Composer Mac Quayle

"I think if you compare the volume of the music on Mr. Robot with some other shows it is just way louder, which is kind of a composers dream."
Mac Quayle
Mr. Robot: Volume 1 (Original Television Series Soundtrack)

“Hello Friend”, both the title of the opening episode of USA’s Mr. Robot and one of the first lines uttered by the show’s hero, introduces to the techno thriller that would become the breakout of last year’s summer television landscape. In the first scene alone we see Elliot (Remi Malek), a bug-eyed, nervous young man whose mind is clearly bubbling with energy, as he accosts a man whom he has hacked in a coffee shop.

Elliot’s nervous demeanor is made even more palpable when, as the scene progresses, it is accompanied by a slowly building score of pulsating synthesizers. As he reveals to the seemingly average man that he knows about his illegal trafficking of child porn, the intensity is matched by the speed of the score, rising in step with Elliot’s escalating energy. This crescendo finally explodes just as Elliot exits the coffee shop, leaving the man to deal with the police, but not before he throws on the black hood that becomes his trademark. Mr. Robot is born.

But, like any work of art, this isn’t really the beginning but a culmination of years and years of labor, and this is no truer than for the man who helped create the harried, panicky atmosphere of this, and countless other Mr. Robot moments, Mac Quayle. Quayle has been the principal composer for each and every episode of Mr. Robot, and was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on the show, but like pretty much every other musician, his beginnings were modest.

“My first musical endeavor was at the age of six when my parents put me in the church choir,” Quayle said during a recent phone interview with PopMatters. From there Quayle moved on to piano lessons, high school band and orchestra and eventually rock bands before setting his sights on the big city, where he saw opportunity everywhere.

“I ended up in New York City and found myself in the music industry working as a producer, dance remixer and musician,” said Quayle of his early professional years. “Then in the early 2000s when the music industry was showing its first sign of decline, I decided it was time to leave NYC and I moved to Los Angeles with this sort of vague idea of getting into scoring.”

Armed with his new goal in mind Quayle began work as an additional composer for CBS’s Cold Case in 2006 where he worked on over 80 episodes. Through this, he eventually met composer Cliff Martinez who helped bring Mr. Quayle into the world of movie composition, working with him on films like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Drive (2011), Spring Breakers (2012) and The Normal Heart (2014). Soon the duo split, with Martinez heading to television to work with Steven Soderbergh on Cinemax’s The Knick and Quayle taking a job on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, a move that eventually led to Mr. Robot, where he has found his most success to date.

Mr. Robot, like no other show on television in 2015, grabbed the headlines and attention of viewers for many reasons, but one above all was its distinctly cinematic take on television drama. No more is this on display than in season one’s most iconic moment [SPOILER’S AHEAD] in which Elliot finally learns the truth about Mr. Robot, his father, and his own madness. It all begins as he and Darlene sit on a bench in Coney Island and celebrate their impending E Corp hack. All is well in their little world, that is, until the bottom drops out.