Kiki Confidential – Isthmus | Madison, Wisconsin

Kiki Schueler has been running Kiki’s House of Righteous Music out of her east-side basement for some 19 years. Marc Eisen throws some questions her way as she gears up for her 400th concert on July 21. See related story

What did your parents listen to when you were a kid? My dad loved The Sons Of The Pioneers. My mom liked show tunes.

Did you play an instrument? I played saxophone in my high school band and took years of piano lessons. But I didn’t have talent and I didn’t practice.

But you have a guitar…. Jon Dee Graham bought it because he felt my house needed a guitar. I took lessons for six months and practiced 15 minutes a day — and I was still terrible, so I gave up.

What have you learned as a promoter? To keep trying. It took 15 years before Joe Pug agreed to play the basement.

Who has inspired you? Cathy Dethmers. I idolized her. I only dreamed about opening a music club but she went and did it with her own money. I didn’t really know her in the O’Cayz days, but we got to be friends after she opened the High Noon. I was there three or four nights some weeks. I loved her shows.

How do you pitch KHoRM to musicians? As an intimate listening room. You’re going to love it! Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

What have you learned cooking for your bands? Nobody wants to eat a big pile of cheese before they go on stage, except the people who do. I know who that is!

You’re washing dishes. What music do you cue up? Usually whatever record somebody left me. Right now, it’s Erik Koskinen’s new one, Down Street/ Love Avenue. I can’t get it off the turntable.

Famous or semi-famous people who’ve shown up for a show? Paul Cebar came to see Will Kimbrough. That’s when I knew I had made it as a venue.

Anybody else? Duke Erikson and Freedy Johnston showed up for Jon Dee.

Name a knock-out KHoRM show: Andre Williams and The Goldstars. He was old school rhythm and blues and the only artist I’ve had who changed his outfit for the encore.

How was COVID? Weird. I enjoyed having time to read books and watch movies, and I didn’t miss people at all. I never doubted I would start hosting again.

How come? I’m not one to worry, which some people, like my sister, find very annoying. But not worrying also explains how I can regularly have a bunch of people I don’t know in my house.

Have you figured out how much money you’re paid out of pocket to support the concerts? NOOOOO! I don’t want to know.

This Q&A was condensed and edited from several interviews and email exchanges.

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