Play it again, Ram: meet the man behind Westworlds old-timey rock covers

Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi says his saloon-bar versions of Radiohead and Rolling Stones songs remind viewers of HBOs sci-fi drama that things are not what they seem …

Unless youve spent the past three weeks living in the actual wild west, you will have heard of if not already become addicted to Westworld, HBOs sci-fi mystery about a theme park populated by sentient robot cowboys. One of the most talked-about elements of the show is its soundtrack, which features old-timey western renditions of rock hits. So far, weve been treated to Radiohead and Soundgarden performed on a saloon-bar player piano, and an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones Paint It Black, which provided the dramatic soundtrack to a climactic, and gory, gun battle in the shows opening episode.

The man responsible for ageing these contemporary classics is Ramin Djawadi, a German-Iranian composer whose credits include Iron Man and Game of Thrones. I wish it was my idea, but I have to give credit to Jonathan Nolan, my showrunner, Djawadi explains. He came up with the idea of planting these contemporary songs within the show. The audience has responded very well to it; everyones talking about it.

The audience has responded very well … Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
The choice of these tunes isnt mere crowd-pleasing theres a deeper intention here. In Westworlds titular theme park, a painstakingly recreated wild west town where human visitors can befriend, have sex with and even kill their droid hosts without guilt or repercussion (at least, thats the idea), the use of these modern songs acts as a jarring presence. Its a great way of reminding the audience that: Wait, this is a theme park, youre not really back in time, Djawani explains. It just reminds you that something is not right here. Its all fake. The fact that these songs are performed on a player piano, an automated device that is in essence a robot itself, adds to this metaphor of creepy artificiality.

Whats more, in a show that seems to encourage wild speculation about every detail, from the flies that land on the robot-park workers faces to the repeated use of white and black, some are suggesting that Westworlds musical cues are clues, perhaps indicating where and when the show is set. Are these songs old bar-room classics in a distant future? Or is something else going on? Like those playing poker in Westworlds saloon, Djawani is keeping his cards close to his chest. Were in the middle of the season, so I dont want to give anything away. What I can say is that these songs are hooky hits that if we are talking about the future are still being played 100 years from now, because they are so great. Theres no arguing with that.

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