‘Westworld’ Composer Talks ‘Epic’ Take on Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’
Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi’s timeless renditions of modern rock songs were a fan favorite staple of the series’ first season, with the composer reimagining tracks by Radiohead, Soundgarden and the Rolling Stones for the futuristic theme park’s automaton saloon piano.
In the latest trailer for the series’ second season, Djawadi similarly transforms Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” as a lilting piano ballad before swelling it with waves of orchestration as the Season 2 action crescendos.
Following the new trailer’s unveiling, Rolling Stone spoke to the composer, who also works on HBO’s Game of Thrones, about remaking the Nirvana classic.
“It’s an epic song that deserves an epic treatment,” Djawadi says of his rendition. “I knew I had to do something completely different, so I stay away from the guitars and all that, because I thought, ‘That’s Nirvana,’ so I thought, ‘What is our Westworld version of that?’ And so I had to find my way of making it epic. To play these notes and these melodies with the harmonies of the chorus and everything, to just put that on a big orchestral setting, was pretty remarkable.”
Djawadi said that, like his previous piano-based covers, Westworld‘s co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy approached him about giving the In Utero standout the “Westworld treatment.”
Djawadi cited “Heart-Shaped Box” as evidence of Cobain’s “brilliant” talent as a songwriter and composer. “Even without lyrics and just the melody and how recognizable the piece is, it’s actually quite incredible how it holds up in an orchestral setting like this,” the composer says. “The core and the feeling of it, it’s all there.”
As for why Nolan opted for “Heart-Shaped Box” and if the song has any additional significance on Season 2, Djawadi admitted he didn’t probe the co-creator for answers. “There might be a deeper meaning for [Nolan], I sometimes don’t even ask,” he says. “I’m always just excited because when he picks these songs, then I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is right up my alley.'”
With the second season of Westworld scheduled to premiere on HBO on April 22nd, the composer remained tight-lipped about what fans could expect in the return to the futuristic theme park.
“What’s always hard, especially talking about Westworld this early in the game, obviously I’m not allowed to talk about anything,” Djawadi said. “I’ve seen a chunk of Season 2 now, I can say that it’s going to be epic. It’s a great season. The trailer shows some great stuff, and I just think people can be excited about what’s about to come in this new season.”
Additional reporting by Kory Grow