new york comic con 2014

A Night With Game of Thrones’ Hodor, Rave DJ

Photo: Erez Avizzar/New York Magazine

Jon Snow and Joffrey are on a date. A direwolf dances with a White Walker. A three-eyed crow with large plumage that prevents anyone from getting too close boogies on the sidelines all by herself. And there are so many men dressed up as would-be kings, it’s hard to tell them all apart — some raising up glow-stick swords, others with fake “torches,” some with chalices — and they’re all chanting, “Ho-dor! Ho-dor! Ho-dor!”

Where else could this be but Rave of Thrones? Some 1,200 fans migrated over from New York Comic-Con to B.B. King’s in Times Square last Friday night, where Kristian Nairn, the actor who plays beloved gentle giant Hodor, plans to help them get their Game of Thrones groove on. Other than the fact that the stage setup includes projections of ice and fire against direwolves and dragons, the main connection to the HBO show is the DJ himself, and how many attendees manage to dance in maester’s chains and fur cloaks. One such fan, however, was Podrick Payne — or rather, Nairn’s castmate Daniel Portman, who came to dance and drink in disguise. “Sunglasses and a wolf hat,” he chuckles. “And I grow the facial hair out when I’m not shooting, so I’m dressed up as a wolf.”

Backstage, one of his backup DJs introduces himself. “I’m Zedd Stark,” he laughs. “Well, usually my DJ name is Horizon Wireless, but you can call me Harrison.” Someone else tries to attach an all-access pass to Nairn’s wrist, but it won’t fit — the wristband is too small for him, and he resists the fitting. “What is that? I don’t need that!” “You’re such a prima donna,” his manager laughs.

Nairn then walks out on stage following a taped recording of Old Nan’s speech about the White Walkers from season one, mixed with ominous music. “It’s Old Nan’s story to Bran, which was my first scene, actually,”  Nairn says. Since the late actress was the first cast member he met on set, he thought it would be a “nice little tribute to her, to use her as my intro to the show.” Other than that, he doesn’t play anything else from the show, not even the oft-reworked theme song. “I’ve tried to do a reworking of that, because it’s such a good track, such a beautiful piece of music, but if I can’t do it justice, I don’t think it’s worth doing,” he says. “And there’s no real way for me to play other Game of Thrones music. I mean, I’m not going to play classical! That’s just weird!”

Instead, Nairn spins big room house and EDM, which is fine by some of the fans there, who just want to dance. (One of the Children of the Forest, wearing glittery green leaves, spirals and spins around, laughing.) Others, who aren’t as into the house music as they are into the HBO show, linger on the sidelines and watch, including a woman dressed as Joffrey on her second date with Jon Snow (otherwise known as Maggie and Matthew from Brooklyn). “I’m Joffrey in drag!” Maggie laughs. “I would have been Arya, but I don’t have the right hair. We made these costumes from scratch. I got my crown at Burger King.”

Periodically the crowd erupts in spontaneous chants of “Ho-dor!” along with the thumping bass music, and Nairn fist pumps along with them. (“That makes me happy,” he grins.) Most of the time, though, his hands are kept busy because he’s remixing live on two decks. “I still DJ very old school,” he explains. “I use USBs for storage, but everything else is done manually. I’m not going to say I don’t believe in technology because that’s silly. Being a DJ is technology. I just don’t like it when it’s like DJs are just checking their emails onstage. That’s not my thing.” Also not his thing — repeating songs from previous sets. “I literally change my set every week. You’ll hear about one song, one track that might be the same, but that would be about it, if you’re lucky. It evolves every day.”

If Game of Thrones were to do another modern music compilation in honor of the show, Nairn has a few thoughts of what they could do next. “To be honest, the rap version was a really good idea, but it would probably work better as metal. Fifty, 60 percent of our audience listens to that,” he said. “And Game of Thrones is so dark, gray, and brutal, it’s perfect for death metal. Something grinding, like Obituary and Cradle of Filth. My inner depressed 17-year-old would love it.” And then there’s the house music he loves, which could be tailored to each house in Westeros. “How about ‘All By Myself’ for the Starks?” he suggests. And then he warbles, “All by myself …” as if to prove it’s better that he be behind the decks than behind the mike.

Earlier at NYCC, Nairn and Portman tried to make the rounds and meet a few folks while in town. Nairn, a big Thor fan with tattoos to prove it, said it was hard to resist buying everything in sight: “I would buy all that shit!” Portman, meanwhile was psyched that they got to meet Seth Meyers and Breckin Meyer from Robot Chicken. “I’ve been a big fan for years!” He shares a photo that they took together, where Nairn towers over everyone. But he’s no longer wearing the wreath that a fan presented with him at the panel earlier that day, though. “I wore it for most of the day, though!” he laughs. “What more can you ask? If someone went to the bother of making  a fucking wreath, you have to wear the crown, for God’s sake.”

Bubbles float over the crowd, as the group in front of Nairn packs closer to the front, and Portman — still in disguise — gets up on the stage with a friend and bops along. A woman with a stuffed dragon attached to her shoulder is should-to-shoulder with a man fist-pumping a gold hand, in honor of Jamie Lannister. “I like your sword!” is now a pickup line. Nairn, bathed in green light, raises his bottle of water as a toast to the crowd, and as he brings the two-hour set to an end, he says, “I’ve just got to say it one time. Hodor!”

A Night With Game of Thrones’ Hodor, Rave DJ