“Mr. Robot” Score Takes On New Life During Composer Mac Quayle’s Roxy Performance
Mac Quayle performing at the Roxy, December 5, 2017. Photo courtesy Jorge Meza
By: Marjorie Galas
Los Angeles concert venue The Roxy is no stranger to diverse fans. From the reggae enthusiasts on hand for Bob Marley’s “Live at the Roxy” recordings to the punks that gathered for the California debut of The Ramones, every walk of life has passed through the venue’s double doors. Cosplayers, however, may have been a new one for the bouncers when “Mr. Robot” fans stormed the Roxy December 5th, 2017. Dressed as their favorite characters and donning f-society “The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie” masks, fans arrived in droves to hear a performance by the show’s composer, Mac Quayle.
The electronic score Quayle crafted for the show’s first season perfectly illuminated lead Elliot Alderson’s (Rami Malek) highly intelligent, socially inadequate and mentally unbalanced state. It also resulted in the composer’s first Emmy nomination and win. Now three seasons in, Quayle has continued to explore the character’s combustible mental state and its aftermath through his intricate, synthesized stylings. While the latest season has seen the addition of acoustic instruments such as a cello, time and budget prohibit Quayle from exploring his notions of adding a full string ensemble. As with the past seasons, he replicates these sounds electronically. Throughout the course of exploring these highly textured, layered scores for “Mr. Robot”, Quayle began imagining they might also have a rich life on stage.
“It is not a typical film music concert,” said Quayle of the “Mr. Robot” score performance, his third to date. “There is a lot of base frequency. It is better presented really loud, in a venue that is conducive for a rock or EDM performance.”
As Quayle crafted his vision for the live set, he knew it needed to be more than just loud and dynamic – it had to be visually compelling, too. Forgoing standing before the crowd accompanied only by his laptop, Quayle recruited a few musicians that would give the selections a special flair in the performance arena. His assistant Rendra Zawani served as an accompaniment on keyboards, handling a number of the synth sounds each song required. Ariel Mann took the more “guitar-like” sounds and performed them on an electric guitar, as well as adding some additional embellishments to a few of the performed arrangements. Dave Allen played percussion throughout the concert. While 99% of the score is electronic, Allen was able to provide a dynamic edge using a combination of a drum pad as well as a few drum heads and auxiliary percussion. Quayle felt this “added a sonic, musical and aesthetically fun quality” to the total score. A multi-media component, with lighting adeptly unified to the performance and a video presentation created by Quayle’s wife provided an additional level of stimulation for the stage show.
As Quayle and his band set up behind the cloak of a red velvet curtain, the attendees, including “Mr. Robot” show creator Sam Esmail, anxiously waited. Esmail and several “Mr. Robot” crew members were on hand to celebrate their recent wrap of season three’s final episode and the achievements of the composer who’s score helps guide the viewers through the complex story lines.
“This is really so exciting,” beamed Esmail. “I’m so proud of him.”
Esmail noted Quayle has been a key collaborator since the inception of the show, swiftly adapting the score right along with the character and story line developments. Our conversation is cut short as the crowd noticeably builds, forming a literal sea of bodies congregate in front of us. The curtain lifts and the lights go dark as purple spots flood the stage. Quayle hits several notes on his keyboard and a burst of sonic energy fills the room. The lighting fixtures in the rafters buzz along with the beat as the room literally vibrates with the energy of the music. Bodies sway. Heads nod to the rhythm. The music takes on a life of its own as people dance and wildly through their arms in the air. During a brief moment of silence between songs, a man yells out “I love you!”
“I love you too,” replies Quayle.
Once the set concludes, the crowd refuses to disperse. Demands for “One more song!” can be heard rising through the room. Quayle and his band return to the stage, where they play two more songs and conclude the set by leading the audience in a chant of “Mind awake, body asleep.” Once off the stage, Quayle shares a congratulatory hug with Esmail before greeting fans. Considering the show a success, he feels with each performance and venue, the live “Mr. Robot” concert experience is fitting his intention of a live rock/EDM performance.
“It was gratifying,” said Quayle. “Each time I do it, I find it is something that is working. People are dancing and having a great time. It is very rewarding to see music have a life outside of the show.”