Kristian Nairn's first foray into music was at 3 years old, when, in his words, "my mother threw me at a piano and said, 'You better learn how to play.'" When he was old enough, the native Irishman graduated to guitar and eventually to DJ decks, touring alongside notables such as the Scissor Sisters and Calvin Harris.
But when Nairn landed his first acting role outside of reality television as the gentle giant Hodor on HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, few outside of his homeland knew he was a seasoned musician. Most had never even heard him say more than one word.
That began to change a few years ago, however, when Nairn embarked on a tour to Australia dubbed the Rave of Thrones. It was something of a ploy by Nairn's publicist/friend -- one he admittedly thought was "terrible" -- but it worked. The booking calls, and more importantly the reviews, started rolling in.
"People thought I was just like a Paris Hilton or a just another stupid celebrity reality TV DJ," Nairn says.
"I was slowly able to prove myself," he says. "Although I'd been a DJ for 16 years, I was still fairly new on a world basis."
Nairn brings the Rave of Thrones to the Bomb Factory in Dallas on Saturday, Aug. 13, marking the first time the actor has played in the area. And locals are expected to give him a Texas-sized welcome; with a 4,300-person capacity, Bomb Factory will be Nairn's largest club performance to date, he says.
The event, for which dressing up is highly encouraged, promises to be a visual feast and a merging of Games of Thrones and dance music cultures.
Before Hodor holds down the decks, we caught up with Nairn to talk about his approaches to acting versus DJing, and which he plans to pursue next.
How hard was it to play a TV role with a script comprised of exactly one word? It depended on the scene, Nairn says.
When playing Hodor, Nairn found some scenes more difficult to articulate than others. Hodor laying by a fire in the background, for instance, was simple. Other times, however, he had to rely on body language and vocal inflection to convey complex emotions.
His secret: Truly embodying the character and trying not to overthink it.
"Acting, as we always say, is reacting ... people want to see reality, as a diff person albeit, but they don't want to see you act," Nairn says. "It was definitely a challenge both physically and mentally."
When it comes to music, Nairn finds it more difficult to follow his instincts.
Nairn's attitude toward creating music couldn't be more different than his approach to acting. Despite his years as a DJ, Nairn believes he's still fledgling as a producer and searching for his signature sound. This is, in part, because of his broad musical tastes.
Nairn lauds Spanish house for its piano, Latin house for its tropical, tribal rhythms, American EDM for its chugging bass lines, and Germanic house for its techno edge. But fusing all those elements together can be difficult.
"It's like having a Wendy's quadruple-stack burger and having a bowl of ice cream with it," he says. "You might love both of them, but you're probably not going to enjoy them in the same sandwich."
As a curator of beats, though, Nairn is more than capable. He recently started a monthly podcast called 7 Sessions, in which he showcases some of the latest and greatest people and songs in house music.
Contrary to popular belief, Nairn does not use samples of Game of Thrones in his set.
Fans have probably seen the videos of Rave of Thrones: A White Walker crosses the stage while ambient sounds from Game of Thrones play in the background. But that's the extent of the TV show's cameo, Nairn says. Because too much "Hodor" would just be tacky.
Nairn doesn't believe he'll ever be separated from his role as Hodor. And that's OK.
The actor can't say enough about how grateful he is to have landed the iconic GoT part, but he would like to be known for other things. Right now, Nairn has a movie and Netflix series in the works, though he can't elaborate on either. He's also part of a new iPhone ad campaign, so expect to see his face pop up in your pocket sometime in the near future.
Ultimately, Nairn acknowledges he'll never escape his role as Hodor (and not just because of people who yell "Hodor!" at him).
"I've been the first person to portray this legendary literary character who's been in print for years," he says. "I love Hodor; I'm proud to be the person who played him first."
"Any parting words for the people of Dallas?" we asked him.
Kristian Nairn and the Rave of Thrones comes to the Bomb Factory in Dallas on Saturday, Aug. 13. Tickets are currently on sale via Ticketfly, and cost $34.50-$79.50.