Emmys: ‘Master of None’ Music Supervisor on His Proudest Moment

Ethan Alter

As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting runs June 12 to June 26 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.

This year, Outstanding Music Supervision makes its long-awaited debut as an Emmy category. In honor of the milestone, Yahoo TV asked music supervisors for some of our favorite series to answer the same set of questions about their work this season — and to name a past show they believe would have been recognized had this category existed sooner.

We continue with DJ Zach Cowie, music supervisor on Netflix’s Master of None.

1. What song/placement are you proudest of this season?

By far “Amarsi un po’” by Lucio Battisti, which is the namesake and closing tune to our hour-long 9th episode in Season 2. I love this song, and it’s one of the first things I sent Aziz [Ansari, the show’s co-creator and star] when he told me he was thinking of shooting the new season in Italy. By pure coincidence its title, which translates loosely to “to love a bit,” was the perfect encapsulation of the romantic struggles between Dev and Francesca which run through the entire season. My heart burst when I was passed a new revision of the script in which it was re-titled “Amarsi un po’” and Aziz had written in the song to close the episode.

2. What was the most challenging scene/moment for you this season creatively?

We were having a very tough time cracking the Storm King sculpture garden scenes in episode 9. There was a totally different idea for that montage in the script, but it was very clear to me when I was passed the dailies that we were off the mark on this one. There are a lot of occasions when you can fit a scene to a song if you have it planned in advance, but this was quite the opposite. The insane fall colors and overall vastness of the landscape had to be the star here, and I went through many ideas before we cracked it with this John Fahey tune [“Sunflower River Blues”]. Top fact: a big inspiration to me for going that solo guitar route was Ry Cooder’s perfect soundtrack to the sprawling landscapes of Wim Wenders’ [1984 film] Paris, Texas.

3. Was there a song swap that worked out even better than your original idea?

We’ve gotten SO LUCKY in tracking down most of the things we think of (thanks to my co-supervisor Kerri Drootin!). Some of the trickiest tunes to navigate this season were the Italo disco tracks in the second episode, but we were pulling out of a massive pool of favorites from that sound and had loads of options. Thankfully, no hearts were broken when ideas came back un-clearable!

4. What’s the song that isn’t the theme song of the show that you think would make the perfect theme song for the show?

TOUGH QUESTION! We very specifically chose to make all our episode opening songs different in knowing that most folks would be binging the show and hearing the same song 10 times in a weekend might drive them nuts. If I had to pick, I guess it would be a tie between Arthur Russell’s “A Little Lost,” and Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin’s “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus,” both of which we use in the “Mornings” episode of Season 1. Those two tracks were early eureka! moments between Alan [Yang, the show’s co-creator], Aziz, and I while trying to determine the “sound” for this show. We continue to reference both frequently.

5. Name a past show that you think would have been recognized for its music supervision had the Emmy category existed.

Freaks and Geeks for this scene alone — it DESTROYED me the first time I saw it. Haven’t seen it since [Garry] Shandling passed, but I re-watched while pasting this link… aaaaaannd now I’m crying while trying to finish a damn interview. Jeez.

6. If you haven’t already mentioned it above… what’s the song you never thought you’d get the rights to this season but you did (and how did you do it)?
Ha! Funny you mention that because clearing “Amarsi un po’” was INTENSE, and it’s why Kerri is THE secret weapon on the show. Battisti was a MASSIVE star in Italy, but his music has never been granted license outside of his home country. We were hitting walls and it was down to the wire. We had an alternate lined up which we LIKED but didn’t LOVE (as goes the story with all alternates!), but through Kerri’s skillful navigation and tireless persistence, we got a green light just DAYS before we had to mix. The result is the first-ever license of Lucio’s music outside of Italy, and it’s by far my proudest moment on this show.

Read more from Yahoo TV:
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