Inside Westworld's Rock Covers (And What Chris Cornell Thought of That Soundgarden Sync)

Remie Geoffroi


The "Black Hole Sun" cover "reveals a duality that has always existed in the song,” Cornell tells Billboard.

Westworld watchers were gifted another stripped-down rock classic during last Sunday night’s episode, as The Cure’s “A Forest” became the latest iconic tune to receive a “saloon” version on the HBO show. The piano reworkings have become a staple of Ramin Djawadi’s score, which has so far featured The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” — all handpicked by showrunner Jonathan Nolan.

"He would come to me and say, 'Hey, I like this Soundgarden song and we would like to license it. Can you make a piano version of this?’” Djawadi tells Billboard. "Having a player piano in the saloon seemed to be a great tool to play contemporary songs.”


The cost for each song varies, but a $55,000 synch is little concern for a show with a reported $100 million first season price tag. "It’s a huge production,” says Djawadi, "so I’m glad to see that we’re given the budget to license these kinds of songs.”

Even the musicians are fans of Djawadi’s arrangements. "I loved Ramin Djawadi’s interpretation of 'Black Hole Sun,’” says Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. "It perfectly fits the mood of the scene, and reveals a duality that has always existed in the song.”

More saloon covers are coming, although everyone on the Westworld team is mum about the song selections. "It will be interesting to see what else he has in store this season,” says Cornell.

Click here to watch Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood discuss the future of the show and her musical act Rebel and a Basketcase with Billboard.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of BIllboard.