RAVE OF THRONES
DJ Hodor Lives On: The Secret Musical Life of ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Kristian Nairn
He may have left us in Sunday night’s thrilling episode of GoT, but the spirit of Hold the Door—rather, Hodor—will continue to fill nightclubs across the world.
This week, the Game of Thrones faithful are rightfully crying “Hold the door!” up and down the Internet in honor of House Stark hero Hodor, whose tragically noble destiny was revealed in Sunday’s stunner “The Door.”
Fans new to the cult of Irish actor Kristian Nairn have another phrase to learn: “Aranat oqo”—the ancient Dothraki term for “drop the beat.”
After five-plus seasons of delivering the same one-word line a myriad of different ways on Game of Thrones—he truly is their Groot—Nairn uttered “Hodor” one final time in Episode 5’s surprising farewell to the gentle giant. Bran Stark’s loyal manservant gave his life to protect his young master in a brilliant stroke of long-game storytelling scripted by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss that finally answered the question: Where did Hodor get his name, and why is it the only word he can manage to say?
It was a cannily hidden twist that finally gave fans an answer, and one that also defied the known laws of space and time and opened up a world of metaphysical rule-bending to boot. At the end of the episode, his younger mind warged by a time-traveling Bran, Hodor—né Wylis, a once-sharp and articulate stable boy—inadvertently endured his own brutal future-death at the hands of wights. Meera’s “Hold the door!” became “Hodor,” the only phrase he’d be able to say for the rest of his fated life.
Fans got misty. They flooded the interwebs with memes devoted to the noble Hodor. Critics lavished praise on the GoT fan favorite and overnight martyr, commending the show for delivering a unicorn of a television twist in our oversaturated age of spoilers: An actual surprise. Slate published an article written entirely in Hodorspeak that managed to be simultaneously poignant and borderline insufferable, depending on your level of GoT investment.
But “The Door” and Hodor’s heroic revelation also sparked renewed appreciation for Nairn, the out and proud Northern Irish musician with face tattoos (five stars above his brow) who made his acting debut in 2011 in GoT’s first season. We know how steadfastly Hodor held that door; now revel in how hard he spins in his other celebrated career… as Westeros’s most famous house DJ.
Nairn’s musical life is already well known to fans; they yell “Aranat oqo” at his shows and have been discovering his EDM stylings ever since he breathed life into Hodor in Season 1. Prior to donning Hodor’s tunic, Nairn played guitar with Belfast electropop outfit AJ Suzuki and Daddy’s Little Princess and performed alongside the likes of Scissor Sisters, Mylo, Calvin Harris, and Alphabeat. And long before acting took up his schedule he enjoyed a longtime residency at Kremlin, Ireland’s self-described “biggest gay nightclub,” where he got his start spinning and performed under the nom de drag DJ Revlonn.
The bearded 7-foot musician has been DJing for decades based out of Belfast, where GoT is filmed, and regularly posts new music and mixes on his Soundcloud, which boasts 21.9K followers. So much does the erstwhile Hodor love DJing, he once described it in adorably loving terms: “As I was standing looking over the crowd, it dawned on me that it feels like I’m shooting emotional laser beams out into the crowd. When they respond, it’s the most amazing feeling, and conversely, when a crowd doesn’t get it, it can be like ‘WHY DONT YOU GET WHAT I’M GETTING?!’”
It was the music that led to acting years ago when his agent spurred him beyond theater toward film and TV. “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,” he told Music Feeds. Originally, “I wanted to be a guitar player,” he also revealed. “[But] that changed somehow. Then I became a drag artist—you didn’t know that, did you?”
He got the GoT gig, but Nairn nearly balked at his big break—until his mother, an avid fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice novels, convinced him to take the role of Hodor.
“When I first read the part I wasn’t exactly dancing with joy. I really didn’t get it at first—I’m a 7-foot-tall gay man who’s spent my entire life fighting stereotypes,” he told the New York Daily News. “People sincerely believe that when you’re 7 feet tall and look like me, you’re stupid. And at first I felt that by playing this character I was going to be putting myself in the kind of box I had been fighting to get out of.”
Two years ago, Nairn became GoT’s first openly gay cast member when he discussed his sexuality in an interview with WinterIsComing.net, not so much “coming out” as confirming what, according to him, was always more or less public. “In this day and age, it’s important to stand up and be counted,” said Nairn, who came out to his supportive mother at the age of 12. “I have and always will stand my ground.”
After kickstarting his screen career, the self-described comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy superfan Nairn, 40, also turned in a performance on the BBC/Amazon series Ripper Street and contributed vocal work to the World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor video game, and already has other film projects lined up in addition to his EDM output. Last year he debuted his first single “Up/Beacon” via Radikal Records, a synthy, uptempo number featuring Leanne Robinson. “It’s been a long time coming, and I think ‘Up’ and the material yet to come is a really good reflection of how I feel about house music,” he said.
Nairn is currently set to perform across the UK and the Philippines through October, once again headlining the international run of Rave of Thrones. The house-meets-Westeros themed DJ tour first merged his two universes in 2014, when Rave of Thrones filled in the free time Nairn had during Hodor’s season away from the show. Since then his DJ appearances, sometimes thrown in tandem with official GoT events, have attracted a combination of cosplaying GoT fans and house/EDM lovers.
Last week, Nairn debuted the third episode of his monthly 7Sessions mix show, in which he frequently teases selections from his Rave of Thrones set. Occasionally he works in enthusiastic if brief observations in which, of course, he says much more than “Hodor,” and encourages listeners to leave comments (“As long as they’re good, I don’t want to hear any shit ones…”).
But for the most part, even Nairn’s mixes focus solely on the matter at hand: Music. Nairn, like Hodor, is a DJ who knows the value of expressing precious few words.
“Let the music take center stage,” he declared on a recent episode, “and leave the mic well alone.”