Kristian Nairn trots down a staircase, on his way to the stage, and waves excitedly to a full house of loyal patrons at ExchangeLA in Los Angeles. He is easily the tallest person in the room standing at 6’10”. The venue looks a lot different too. Royal banners and emblem crests adorn the walls, flocks of light blonde Danaerys Targaryens look alikes roam with dragons, knights raise their swords in hurrah, Joffries bellow tyrannical screams and Lord Baelish and Prince Oberyn look-alikes scour out the single ladies. It’s a ratchet, sex fueled medieval times rave-soiree, straight out of Tyrion Lannister’s thizzed out fantasies.
Nairn, popularly known as Hodor from HBO’s 'Game Of Thrones' TV series, has been conquering venues across the United States with his second‘Rave Of Thrones’ DJ tour, since its debut in Australia this summer. LA is an important stop for him, after all this is where Hollywood meets EDM. It’s the best of both worlds; one helps out the other, and in turn has helped the Northern Irishman build out his DJ career, something that he has been involved with for two decades.
Just before he hit the decks, a raging theatrical war is staged. Swords and axes are drawn, armor and shields clank. Hudson Mohawke’s “Chimes” resonates through Funktion Ones and visuals from “The Song Of Ice and Fire” hypnotize the audience. Nairn's set is an eclectic mix of deep progressive house, each record smoothly mixed into the next, along with some bassline driven sensibilities and a little help from some sexy dancers from Lord Baelish's court; he gets the dancefloor moving to a comfortable pace all night.
If he keeps at it long enough, 'Rave Of Thrones' has all the potential to become a spectacular attraction, particularly for markets like Las Vegas. Nairn is a true renaissance man who combines his interests in theater and film with music and he showcases it with tenacity.
I caught up with him before his show to give us the dish on his DJ life.
You just had your birthday recently. What did you do?
I was really lucky to spend it with family. The DJ'ing has been so busy I literally hadn't been back home for more than two months so was great to have some down time and catch up with my dogs too!
How did DJing become a prevalent part of your life?
Music has been an integral part of my life since before I can remember, and that, at the time was just the next evolution. I got the chance to fill in for an absentee DJ one fateful night, as the club owners knew I had the technical ability and had a massive music collection… And really I never looked back. It didn't take very long at all to get bitten by the bug. These days if I get caught up in a project and don't maybe end up DJing for a couple of weeks, I start to get MAJORLY twitchy. It’s been a part of me for that long.
Hodor’s character in GOT has to focus on a physical body language type of acting rather than dialogue, which is pretty hard when you think about it. But you portray it well. Do you think working dance floors to get people moving and observing their reactions to music has helped you in your acting?
That is a GREAT question, and you have completely hit the nail on head. I've always been told by others, and prided myself on being empathic and emotionally observant. It is a HUGE help in DJing and in the show. I had hearing issues when I was a child, so I learn to sign a bit, and indeed before DJing kicked off, I had studied a bit to be a sign language interpreter and counselor... both jobs that you need to be watchful and aware of emotional shifts and how they show in body language. I guess I've been setting myself up for these jobs all along in some way!!
What kind of records did you grow up listening to? Anything specific you like right now? Any specific type of sounds you really like to play around with when producing?
I grew up with the 80's synth sound… And that’s still something I like to listen to actually. I love a good old emotional synth break. I loved, and still do love Giorgio Moroder stuff, and the whole crazy broken up Italodisco sound. I practically always start with the rhythm section when I'm producing... Bass and Drums, to me, are the biggest influencers of how people dance to a track, so I like to build the track from there.
Since you’ve been in the scene for so long, from the acid house rave days to present modern EDM type of stuff. What was it like when you started DJing at Kremlin Nighclub in Belfast to now when the scene has changed so much?
When I first started, trance was still very big on the scene… Actually I think it had just passed its crescendo. Everyone I knew was still only playing house as a warm up to a trance set, and that was even how I began. But one day I just challenged myself to find the highs that trance brought in a different, more subversive way, through house. It was kind of a revelation for me.
You have a muti-faceted career as an artist, exploring different mediums. How do you strike a balance? How important is it for artists nowadays to stretch themselves beyond one form of art?
I think stretching yourself in ANY walk of life is pretty much the only way. I don't worry so much about balance, and just take every opportunity that I feel like I want to embrace. I've learnt recently that to make things like this work… TRULY work… In most cases, you have to give up a large part if not all of your life to it. And that’s ok… because I'm doing what I love to do.
In terms of your productions, they’re generally wavering towards deep progressive house kind of stuff. What’s next for you in regard to that?
To date the productions have been pretty eclectic, and that’s because I genuinely like a wide selection of house types. But yes, I'm definitely leaning towards a progressive sound, but perhaps with a chunkier, classicist bass line. One of the best aspects of being in the show is the amount of people’s doors that it gives me to knock on! Can't wait to share what I have been working on.
Peep some of the photos below from the party.
Photos courtesy of wearenightowls