Art Blakey’s “Moanin’” features prominently in the last two seasons, in two different formats. What about that album resonates with you?
Percussion has always been really attractive to me as a sonic element. When it came time in Season 1 to introduce Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers, I asked [the composer] Jeff Russo, I said: “I don’t want music, I just want a beat. That’s their signature.” And it continued from there. In Season 2, we had a drum line, we brought in a marching band to record; Season 3, there was a lot of New Orleans-style music that was very rhythmic. Jazz is such a rhythmic form of music, so in figuring out what to set this season’s opening 24-minute montage to — which in “Raising Arizona” is “Ode to Joy” for banjo and whistling — I went to “Caravan” as a piece of music that you can hear for 24 minutes and not be tired of it. We can reinvent in different ways, and some of it is just percussion.
With “Moanin’,” in the third season I used a song version in the first hour. This season, when we knew we were doing the jazz club and they asked me what piece of music I wanted to use, it occurred to me to use that same thing but to do it from an instrumental point of view. Again, it’s a kind of rhyme with the previous year, but there’s something about that music — it’s kind of the perfect piece.
Are you definitely done with “Fargo”?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve been saying I’m done for three years and I haven’t been, so it feels obnoxious to say it again. The show has always been about the American experience, and there’s still a lot to say about it. That said, I don’t have a timeline and I don’t even really have an idea. But I find myself compelled to come back to this style of storytelling: to tell a crime story, which is also a kind of character study and philosophical document exploration of our American experience. It’s not something I feel like I ever would have been allowed to do without the Coen Brothers’ model in the beginning, and now I can’t think of why I would do it in any other format. The tone of voice is also unique: It’s that Kafka setup to a tragic punchline, with a happy ending. That feels like a magic trick, if you can do it right.
Do you have much interaction with the Coens about the series, or feedback from them?
I do not. I have not spoken to them in a while. In the first two or three years I would make my way to New York and have a breakfast or a quick conversation from time to time. It’s never creative. It’s never about the show, other than they say, “You’re still making that thing?”
If they have something to volunteer, I’d love to hear it. But at the same time, their tacit neglect is — I still get a warm feeling from it. Because they’ve allowed me to do this. This grand experiment in storytelling that has been so fulfilling and enriching for me.