Tom Kha Soup: A Seattle Delicacy
Thoughts of the delicious Thai soup consisting of coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, and an assortment of other mouth-watering ingredients may immediately flood your head, but to many in the Seattle music scene ‘Tom Kha Soup’ brings something completely different, yet equally exquisite to mind.
Tom Kha Soup, the DJ duo made up of Peter Merritt and Sasha Dorit-Kendall, have cemented themselves as a Seattle staple over the past 3 years. Combining impeccable music taste with a desire to curate the highest caliber of underground events, they have built an amazing community centered around the best underground bass music from around the world backed by a rock solid foundation in the local scene.
With their 3 year anniversary rapidly approaching, I had the privilege of interviewing the Tom Kha duo.
EE: When did TKS officially originate?
TKS: Tom Kha Soup started as a placeholder name for Peter and my [Sasha] DJ sets when we were playing house parties and small shows in Olympia. We met at The Evergreen State College and started out with trackpad sets played in virtual dj on a chair or small table in the corner at some college parties, sometimes interspersed with bands or rappers or anyone trying to make music in Olympia. Eventually, we moved our way up to playing actual sets at small clubs in Olympia. The first official Tom Kha Soup set happened at a now-defunct venue in Olympia, WA named ‘The Royal Lounge’, back in early 2014. Mas Sol Collective, a local promoter, booked us to play a B2B set for the first time in support of LA beat-scene producer Great Dane.
EE: Why did you guys decide to create Tom Kha Music?
TKS: We were working with a couple of our friends who were organizing shows and festivals in the Olympia area– the Mas Sol festival, and our friend Rolando (Boozie Collinz). We started helping to bring artists through the area who we really wanted to see. Some of the first were Great Dane, G Jones, Gladkill, and Bleep Bloop. Eventually we decided that it was time to move up to Seattle and start producing events on our own. Our first Tom Kha curated event was at The Monkey Loft in March of 2014, featuring Perkulat0r and Profresher. We had been really passionate about the sounds of underground bass music for years, and felt like there was a hole to be filled in the local scene. At first, it really began as a desire to start seeing more of the artists we loved and respected play in our area, as well as develop a community around the sounds we were passionate about.
EE: Has your mission changed at all over the past 3 years?
TKS: Our main mission is still the same: bring dope music to Seattle. As we’ve grown deeper in the community and strengthened connections with folks in the scene, however, it’s become extremely important to us to provide a space for that community to thrive, and specifically a safe space where people feel comfortable and welcomed. We care deeply about these sounds, and it’s equally important to us to introduce those sounds to new listeners as it is to ensure that the folks that have been supporting those sounds for years feel valued as well.
EE: What are some challenges you guys have faced?
TKS: From the beginning we’ve been building something that is hard to pin down in a name stylistically, veers away from pretty much every aspect of electronic music that is commercially viable, and we’ve been doing the whole thing as a couple kids who didn’t grow up here. Luckily, Seattle is a city that thrives on music, and underground sensibilities, and going against the grain when it comes to art, culture and music. And for all the hype about the “Seattle freeze,” people here are incredibly open minded and receptive to new sounds and the community has been extraordinarily welcoming to us.
People like to joke about Seattle being “the biggest small town in America” or the “smallest big city in America”, but these jokes have some basis in reality. We’re treated like a big city by agents that are booking tours for artists, but our scene simply is not as strong or big as the scenes in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, etc. We’re treated like a big city by agents that are booking tours for artists, but our scene simply is not as strong or big as the scenes in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, etc. We’re getting charged big-city prices for artists in a small city market, not to mention that we’re competing for dates with cities with far more established markets, like the ones listed above. It’s also crucial to understand that on any given night, we’re competing against major clubs and production companies that have resources that far exceed ours. We have to convince attendees that our show with a smaller headliner than the show at the big club for the same price is worth it, which can be difficult at times. That being said, we know that a huge strength we have going for us is that the vibe at our events is top-notch, and that people that are more interested in an intimate experience will thoroughly enjoy themselves at a Tom Kha show.
EE: What have been some of the best highlights over the past 3 years?
TKS: Getting to play at What The Festival, getting to play support for some of our absolute favorite musicians in the world: Machinedrum, Ivy Lab, Shades, Om Unit. Also getting to bring some incredible talent through Seattle. The feeling of watching one of our headliners, or openers, or friends absolutely bring their A game to an event we’ve put together and really feel like we’ve created something special, if only for an evening. And the maybe even better part of this whole thing is to be able to match up incredible international talent with an absolutely unparalleled wealth of local talent. We have so many astonishingly dope DJs and producers in Seattle, and it lets us build these nights that have the floor going so proper from start to finish. So extra shouts to our dedicated locals, and of course our immense support from our residents: Pressha, Kozmo, Nofux Gibbons, Kloak, and everyone else who has supported us throughout the years.
EE: Any disasters?
TKS: I [Sasha] almost made Plastician miss his flight to LA the day after our show. There was an I-5 shutdown and even though I left 45 minutes early, I dropped him off AS his plane was scheduled to leave. And he had a checked bag. But thanks to his airport ninja skills, and a literal miracle, he made it on the flight. (Sorry Chris!)
EE: What was it like playing the Groove Cube at WTF?! last year?
TKS: That was a really incredible experience. We’ve been to What The Festival every year since the inaugural, so it’s safe to say it was a really big deal to us to be invited to play. Sharing the sounds we love to a crowd of easily a thousand people in a big glowing cube in the middle of the woods with all our best friends going nuts in the front row? Yeah, [we’re] pretty much down to do that whenever. Getting to start off the night at that stage and having it go from empty and chilly calm air to a packed sea of people surrounded by these giant vibrant color shifting blocks, and getting to expose that many people to the sounds we’re so passionate about; the whole thing was a dream come true. Thank you so much to Darrin for putting us on, and the whole WTF crew, and [Matt] Pressha for keeping us in mind and making the introduction happen.
EE: What does the future hold for TKS?
TKS: Really dope shows. New types of events. New locations. Better sound systems. And an increasing focus on community, on safety, and on building an electronic music culture that brings the focus back to the music, the vibes, the friendships and connections, the inclusivity, and the curation. The commodification, overhype, and cookie cutter EDM culture is cool and all, but we’d rather just do us
EE: Describe the 3 year anniversary party using your best analogy.
Peter– Tom Kha 3-Year Anniversary Party Ft. Sam Binga and Chimpo is to underground bass music events as breezing down Mercer St. at 5 PM on that #rare light traffic day is to driving in Seattle.
Sasha– This party will be like the feeling you get when you come up with the perfect analogy to describe your 3-year anniversary party at Kremwerk on 3/24 with Sam Binga and Chimpo. Tip your bartender.
As Tom Kha Soup head into their 4th year, I have no doubt they will continue to be a driving force in the Seattle music scene. The Tom Kha 3-Year Anniversary Party Ft. Sam Binga and Chimpo is happening Friday, March 24th at Kremwerk in downtown Seattle. Tickets are available here,