Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) with Bhi Bhiman
If you’re a pop musician of South Asian descent, not many like you have yet reached the toppermost of the poppermost. Some really famous ones include M.I.A., Norah Jones and Tony Kanal from No Doubt. Soundgarden lead guitarist Kim Thayil, whose folks came from India, was among the first. As a kid, acclaimed new singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman, whose family emigrated from Sri Lanka, looked to Thayil as something of a role model. Which was wise, because Thayil is one of the brightest, coolest rock musicians one could hope to meet.
Now Bhiman and Thayil aren’t just mutual fans, they’re also friends. We put them together at KEXP’s studios in Seattle for a Talkhouse Music Podcast, and sure, they talked about being self-described “outsiders in rock & roll,” but they talked about a lot of other interesting things, too: their musical backstories, ruminations on the nature of pleasure and pain, the role of baseball in assimilation, their first guitars, the Chi-Lites, Nirvana’s nickname for Thayil, dealing with fans and, perhaps most important of all, the meaning of the word “epistemological.”