When HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiered on April 17, 2011, leading off with Ramin Djawadi’s rousing main-title music, the composer never imagined this would happen:
“The next day (executive producers) David (Benioff) and Dan (D.B. Weiss) sent me a YouTube link with the first cover, which was this rock version, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ I never even thought about turning this into a rock song,” says Djawadi, 42, who has scored all six seasons of the ferociously popular, brutally violent and staggeringly complex fantasy series based on the novels of George R.R. Martin.
“Then literally two hours later, they sent another (cover). I still can’t believe it – how creative people have been around the world doing their own spin on it. Whenever you think, Oh, this is it, I don’t think anybody can come out with something else, then all of a sudden somebody does. There was one with a bunch of cats meowing the theme.”
Nearly six years later, Djawadi’s music has spawned 4 million covers of some kind or another on YouTube, and something perhaps even more impressive: an arena spectacle called the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience” that features a 360-degree stage with a series of massive, moving LED screens and is being carted across North America in 15 semi trucks.
The show will be performed at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center by an 80-piece orchestra (led by Djawadi), a choir and soloists at 8 p.m. next Thursday.
Can’t picture it in your head? We recently got Djawadi – whose numerous other composing credits include scoring Seasons 1, 3 and 4 of Fox’s “Prison Break” and HBO’s “Westworld” – to explain, and to answer a few other burning questions about his job.
Q. Alright, explain this thing for us, if you would.
Well, I wanted a hybrid of what’s been done before (in concerts where live musicians play TV or film scores). ... We always knew we had to summarize the six seasons, so we created montages to really show some of the character arcs; there will be moments when it’s music only; there’s moments when we play music to footage from the show. Then there’s also moments when we’ve created digital content; for example, when we play pieces that have something to do with The Wall, these screens can come down and ... put a snowstorm on the screens so it looks like the orchestra is actually sitting in a snowstorm. That was always the idea: to create this immersive experience. You’ll really feel like you are at The Wall, and you see the orchestra playing at The Wall, and then we show footage from The Wall and show the Wildlings. ... I think it’s also a great bridge to a young audience. We mention the word rock ‘n’ roll a lot because even though there is an orchestra, we play effects and have distortion and it’s just very contemporary.
Q. Let’s talk about that main-title music. What was your process for coming up with it?
When we were discussing it, (the producers) said, “Why don’t we go over to the effects house and show you the visuals?” – which, of course, are the iconic visuals of the cities popping up in all the locations. They weren’t completely finished, but it was close enough for me to understand what they were going for. And the key, they said to me, was “Make it a journey. There’s a lot of characters traveling, so it should convey a journey.” When I got back in the car, I already started hearing that melody, that “BUMM bumm da da DUNN dunn.” The arrangement took a little longer, but the initial idea came pretty quickly. I was so inspired by seeing the visuals.
Q. You have a favorite cover of it?
There’s a couple of really good ones. There’s a really cool Western one. The original rock one I still like, because it was the first one. It was really well done. It was a person actually playing all the instruments – the guitar, the drums, the bass. ... There’s one I’ve seen where it’s literally (floppy disk) drives playing the theme. I don’t even know how that one was done.
Q. Is one of the greatest benefits of your job being among the first to know how a season of “Game of Thrones” is going to play out?
Sure. When I get the episodes, I watch them by myself first, before I meet with the guys. The visual effects are not done – that all happens parallel to me – but my jaw still drops every time something major happens. ... I get asked all the time, “So, what happens next?” For example, people already are asking me, “Ramin, what’s gonna happen in Season 7?” I’m actually really good at keeping secrets, but in this case, I honestly don’t even know anything yet. I haven’t seen anything. I can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen.
‘Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience’
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9.
Where: Spectrum Center (formerly Time Warner Cable Arena), 333 E. Trade St.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.