Kristian Nairn plays the iconic gentle giant Hodor in HBO’s blockbuster Game Of Thrones, but he has another career as a club DJ/producer. The Belfast, Northern Ireland native, recently a guest at Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne, will bring his two parallel worlds together come August with the Australian Rave Of Thrones tour.
As it happens, this will be the first occasion Nairn has DJed under the GOT banner anywhere. “I have been DJing sort of on the back of it, and then some people will put ‘Kristian Nairn, AKA Hodor’ [on the bill], but it’s definitely the first time I’ve gone so far as to do that branding, Game Of Thrones – I haven’t done anything that specific,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to it, though. It’s going to be really interesting.” The events are being promoted as fancy dress – with GOT decor.
Since the concept has been announced, the news has gone viral, with even Vanity Fair‘s website picking up on it. “The inquiries we’ve had are incredible,” Nairn responds. “I’m going to be doing a lot of frequent flyer miles over this year!” Nairn is disinclined to DJ in character – or dress as Hodor – as that would be “a bit silly”. Nor will he be spinning GOT music – or at least obviously so. But expect surprises.
Nairn is no opportunistic ‘celebrity’ DJ. He’s been gigging for years – and long before serendipitously securing his breakthrough acting role as Hodor in his 30s. Indeed, Nairn, openly gay, has pursued an unorthodox career trajectory. “I’m quite an unorthodox person – I always will be,” he quips. “I refuse to conform.”
Nairn, who studied music and drama at uni, started out in the music biz. “I wanted to be a guitar player,” he says. “[But] that changed somehow. Then I became a drag artist – you didn’t know that, did you?” From there, he took up DJing. Today Nairn’s SoundCloud, stashed with DJ mixes, tunes and edits (including one of Madison Avenue‘s Don’t Call Me Baby), reveal an affinity with deep house.
While Nairn was clubbing during the Chicago house era, his desire to DJ emerged later. “I got turned onto house music around the time of Robin S, Show Me Love – I mean, the first time it came out, I think it was ’92,” he recalls. “I remember when [the UK house label] Hed Kandi released their first CDs called Disco Kandi many, many years ago – that really changed my whole take on it.
“I really love Hed Kandi as a label. It was interesting to me that a label can sum up what I liked about music so much – that whole sort of piano vocal house.” Nairn has also been in bands, strumming guitar in the subversively camp Daddy’s Little Princess. “It was almost like punk-meets-disco,” he enthuses. They toured with Scissor Sisters, which was “incredible”. “I still would cite those as some of the best nights in my life.”
Listen: Madison Avenue – Don’t Call Me Baby – Kristian Nairn Mix
Nairn’s work as a performance artiste meant that he had an agent, who encouraged him to consider acting. “He always thought I had ‘the X factor’ – he used to use that word, not because of the show, but [because] he always thought there was some sort of star quality there – and he would put me up for the odd audition. Once upon a time, I got an audition for a movie called Hot Fuzz, which had Simon Pegg in it – I didn’t get the part, but it was the same casting director who cast for Game Of Thrones. She brought me back in to audition for the part of Hodor – and the rest is history.” Fortunately, Nairn is big on fantasy.
Until lately, Nairn was resident DJ at Belfast’s Kremlin – according to its Twitter account, “Ireland’s biggest gay nightclub”. But his schedule made it difficult to sustain. “I had to give it up after nearly 20 years,” he says. “I’m still very sad about it…it is very strange to be away from that, but I’m sure I’ll still be back for the odd night here and there.”
Nairn rues that authorities have curbed Belfast’s nightlife. “I don’t wanna sound like a Debbie Downer here, but the local council here is very religious and they’ve really clamped down on late night drinking and partying recently – and it sucks, to be honest!”
He is keen to produce music – though, again, it’s a matter of finding time. He often creates on laptop in transit or hotel rooms. He’s formed a studio partnership with London DJ/producer Steve Smart, a prolific remixer. They’ve just recast the “old school track” Nightmare by Brainbug – the ’90s symphonic trance vehicle of Italy’s Alberto Bertapelle.
“That’s gonna be our first project together – and there’s definitely more stuff coming – so I’m pretty excited about that,” Nairn says. He’s likely to drop the tune at Rave Of Thrones. “I think the reason why we chose that was because it has all the strings and stuff and it’s got a really dark sound to it. I thought, Yeah, that kinda reminds me of a Game Of Thrones sort of vibe.”
Listen: Kristian Nairn – Saviour Of The Universe
Nairn won’t abandon DJing for acting jobs. “I don’t see why I should just wanna be an actor or just wanna be a DJ – I love both careers. I’m definitely gonna push as hard as I can to keep them both going.”
Curiously, he isn’t the only GOT cast member with a music sideline. Finn Jones, who portrays the nominally romantic ‘Knight of Flowers’ Ser Loras Tyrell, has DJed, too. “Finn’s a very good friend of mine. He’s really just starting to DJ, but he’s a music lover and I can see him starting to be very good. He has I think one of the most important things, and overlooked things, that you need as a DJ – you need great taste in music. It’s not all about technical ability. And Finn does have great taste in music. So I can see things going well for him.”
Nevertheless, Nairn is unaware of Jacob “Grey Worm” Anderson‘s airing alt-soul as Raleigh Ritchie. “The cast is vast – there’s literally hundreds of us. I might not have necessarily met him at any stage. Our storyline is so isolated in the show – we’re always on our own, it’s always just our group – so, really, if we’re not together in the show, the chances of us meeting are quite slim.”
Ironically, many an EDM super-DJ is a GOT fan, Hodor, loyal servant to Winterfell’s disabled Bran Stark, among the most popular characters. And Nairn enjoys the subcultural activity that the series has engendered. “It’s like a little cult – I mean, not even a little cult any more. It’s a huge cult. It definitely surprises me. I know the quality of the show, and I know how much work the production team put into putting it together so, in a way, I’m not surprised.
“But, to hear that pretty much every DJ I look up to seems to be a fan of what we do on the show is absolutely crazy – and to hear things like Barack Obama watched the show early and stuff, and he had to get it on box set before everybody else, that’s absolutely nuts! What is that about, right? It’s brilliant.”
Like Hodor, Nairn the DJ is content to, if not journey into the wilderness, then hit those cities most avoid. Rave Of Thrones will be taking in Darwin, of all places. “I didn’t even know where Darwin was, so I’m like a DJ pioneer now as well? That’s awesome.”
‘Rave Of Thrones’ is touring major mainland capital cities this August. Details below.
Rave Of Thrones
Tickets on sale now!
Thursday, 28th August 2014
The Hi-Fi, Sydney
Tickets: Via The Hi-Fi
Friday, 29th August 2014
Secret Warehouse, Brisbane
Tickets: Via Moshtix
Saturday, 30th August 2014
Tickets: Via Villa
Thursday, 4th September 2014
Prince Bandroom, Melbourne
Tickets: Via Prince Bandroom
Friday, 5th September 2014
Tickets: Via Discovery
Sunday, 7th September 2014
Tickets: Via Zhivago