Composite image of Ramin Djawadi (left), composer, and Trygge Toven (right) music supervisor for Prime Video's 'Fallout.' Djawadi is a white man with short, dark hair and hazel eyes. Toven is a white man with short, blond hair and a light beard.
(courtesy of Prime Video)

‘Fallout’s Musical Masterminds Told Us How They Got It Pitch Perfect

In the games, and in Prime Video’s new series, music is a huge part of Fallout, and no one knows that better than composer Ramin Djawadi (Westworld, Game of Thrones) and music supervisor Trygge Toven (Westworld, Loki).

Recommended Videos

From a beautiful score to classic 1940s-’50s needle drops, they found the perfect balance to capture the sound of the Wasteland. Recently, I had the chance to geek out with them a little bit about their process for creating the sonic landscape of the new Fallout show while paying homage to the games it’s adapting.

Djawadi had heard of the games before working on this series, but has yet to play any of them. Toven, however, started playing some of the Fallout titles when he heard about this adaptation. “I was kind of a gamer growing up,” Toven says. “But I hadn’t played the Fallout games. When I heard they were gonna make the show, and it was a team I’d worked with, I started playing Fallout 1 and Fallout 3. So I had a little bit of context, because I knew that music was a big part of it as well.”

That it is. The Fallout games themselves have an iconic theme and scores. And, of course, there are the radio stations that come about in Fallout 3 and 4, giving us all those awesome, Atomic Age songs of the ’40s and ’50s.

Atomic Age influences

Kyle MacLachlan as Hank MacLean in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' He is a white man with short dark hair parted on the side wearing a blue and yellow vault suit and standing at a podium with the Vault 33 logo on it. Behind him is a projected image of a sunny farm.
(JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

Djawadi and Toven were conscious of the different sounds that would be required for each of the worlds in the series and worked to make them distinct, but also similar enough that they could all connect in the end.

“Obviously, in the games, the radio stations all had one kind of vibe, but it didn’t really speak to the Brotherhood of Steel characters up in the Wasteland,” Toven explains. “Obviously, the vault-dwellers, that’s more ironic. Like, they think they’re in this perfect world and they’re listening to this music that’s like, ‘everything’s gonna be okay.’ And obviously it’s not.”

“I think that’s why that music works,” he continues. “That post-war mentality of, like, they’re singing about heartbreak, but it’s connected to the end of the world at the same time. I think that’s why it works in the game, and it works really well in the show.”

Going deeper, not wider

Ella Purnell as Lucy, Michael Emerson as Wilzig, and Dale Dickey as Ma June in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' They are standing together outside Ma June's Sundries and all looking at the same thing off-camera.
(JoJo Whilden/Prime Video)

Rather than seek additional, anachronistic inspiration in other time periods, Toven and Djawadi dug more deeply into the 1940s and ’50s, going beyond the suburban, post-war popaganda that a vault-dweller would love. After all, not everyone in the Wasteland is gonna think “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” is a bop.

Toven found inspiration in Johnny Cash. “I think the Johnny Cash ‘outlaw country’ worked really well for the Wasteland and the Brotherhood of Steel,” he said. “It’s a little more gritty and a little more real, but it’s still from that era. So it’s speaking to a different part of reality, but then it didn’t feel completely outside. That was really fun to stay within that era and find something that could speak to those characters better. So that was the concept there.”

Connecting to the source material

There’s a lot of music from the original games woven into the show, which was a new experience for Djawadi. “For me, this was an unusual project because there were so many songs, you know?” he explained. “Normally, I’m used to projects that have a lot more score, but this one was definitely different.”

Djawadi explained the efforts he and Toven made to stay connected to the game while creating something new for this iteration of the Fallout universe. The show makes use of the iconic Fallout theme from the games, and in the episode where we’re introduced to one of the Wasteland’s radio stations (via awesome Fred Armisen cameo!), the fiddle music that we hear playing is an actual recording used for Fallout 4′s “Radio Freedom.”

Fred Armisen as Carl in a scene from Prime Video's 'Fallout.' He is wearing black-rimmed glasses, a reddish bow tie, and a knit sweater over a buttondown. He's pointing a finger up calling someone's attention to something.
(Prime Video)

It was Toven and Djawadi’s job, then, to expand on what fans already expected from the games. “The radio stations are such a big part of the feeling of the show,” Toven acknowledges. “Going in, there was a lot of discussion of treating that well, and having that as a very good starting point. Ramin and I worked together before on Westworld, where it was much more collaborative in the way that he was actually making versions of the songs we were picking, which was crazy. And this [show] was more of a hand-off between the two of us.”

Making thematic and stylistic choices

“Trygge did a good job of having all the songs available when I started writing the score,” Djawadi explains. Having all the songs they were going to use in the series early allowed Djawadi to compose around them, providing “transitions setting up the songs or coming out of the songs” in the correct key and the correct stylistic tone.

When Toven first started working on Fallout, executive producer Jonathan Nolan told him that “the score was kind of playing up the drama, and the songs were playing up the irony of the situation they were in.” With that as the guiding principle, Djawadi and Toven ping-ponged songs and original compositions back and forth until a new balance was found.

I asked Djawadi about creating themes for the new characters introduced in this iteration of Fallout, and he seemed to enjoy that the characters being so different from one another gave him more room to create:

“We knew the overall tone and the mood for the show, but you have these new characters that couldn’t be any more different from one another. It was actually a great starting point. Lucy being the naive character that she starts out to be, so musically that needed to be more ‘innocence.’ Then we have The Ghoul, who’s really more that gritty, gunslinger type person. We came up with the idea for that yodel, which was super fun—that homage to the classic spaghetti Westerns. And then Maximus, we really kind of went off the suit and the Brotherhood. That whole militaristic vibe. So that really kind of gave me a starting point thematically and sonically for where to search.”

Ramin Djawadi

On opening themes

I then had to bring up my biggest issue: theme music. As Toven brought up, “Ramin’s written some of the most famous ones”—sweeping, iconic pieces of music that not only set the tone for their respective shows, but that fans come to love as singular pieces of music. Yet, Fallout opens every episode with a single title card, but no opening credits sequence (that’s saved for the end), and no original theme music.

(Prime Video)

So I asked, flat out: Why is there no opening theme for Fallout? Don’t they know they have the guy who wrote the themes to Game of Thrones and Westworld? How could they not have you bring your theme-composing awesomeness to this show?

And on a less aggressively fan-girly note: How do you decide if a show gets a theme or not?

Djawadi laughed at my being affronted on his behalf, then explained the situation with Fallout:

“That was always just how it was, just a title card. Many times nowadays, the main title gets skipped altogether. People unfortunately have the skip button, and so they just skip through it. Why that was decided here? I honestly don’t know actually what the reason was. I thought what was really cool was that the title card looks different every single time. But there was not enough time to have a theme, obviously, it’s only a couple of seconds.”

Ramin Djawadi

Now that there’s a second season of Fallout coming, I told Djawadi and Toven that they need to talk to the Powers That Be about letting him work his theme music magic moving forward. They probably won’t do that, and the show will likely still open with the same title card next season, but at least I’ve formally lodged my complaint.

You can watch all eight episodes of Fallout season one on Prime Video now.


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
related content
Read Article Will We See Maeve Again on ‘The Boys’?
Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve in 'The Boys'
Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve in 'The Boys'
Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve in 'The Boys'
Read Article What’s Going On With That Unexpected Return in ‘The Boys’ Season 4?
Antony Starr as Homelander in a season 4 promo for 'The Boys'
Antony Starr as Homelander in a season 4 promo for 'The Boys'
Antony Starr as Homelander in a season 4 promo for 'The Boys'
Read Article ‘Adventure Time’ Is Returning With Several Spinoffs and a Movie!
Jake and Finn from Adventure Time 'Together Again' Episode
Jake and Finn from Adventure Time 'Together Again' Episode
Jake and Finn from Adventure Time 'Together Again' Episode
Read Article Blood, Guts, and … Chickens? ‘The Boys’ Season 4 Promises a Wild Ride
sister sage and firecracker talking in the boys season 4
sister sage and firecracker talking in the boys season 4
sister sage and firecracker talking in the boys season 4
Read Article Fans Think ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Writers Did Anthony and Kate Dirty
Bridgerton. (L to R) Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Bridgerton. (L to R) Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Bridgerton. (L to R) Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Related Content
Read Article Will We See Maeve Again on ‘The Boys’?
Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve in 'The Boys'
Read Article What’s Going On With That Unexpected Return in ‘The Boys’ Season 4?
Antony Starr as Homelander in a season 4 promo for 'The Boys'
Read Article ‘Adventure Time’ Is Returning With Several Spinoffs and a Movie!
Jake and Finn from Adventure Time 'Together Again' Episode
Read Article Blood, Guts, and … Chickens? ‘The Boys’ Season 4 Promises a Wild Ride
sister sage and firecracker talking in the boys season 4
Read Article Fans Think ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Writers Did Anthony and Kate Dirty
Bridgerton. (L to R) Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 307 of Bridgerton.
Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.