‘For The Heads: An Oral History Of EXAT, Detroits Legendary 90s Experimental And Ambient Techno Night At Zoots Coffeehouse
Detroit's underground dance halls in the 90s had beautiful floors, but one of the decade's most influential and long-running events was small, heavy on the inside, and not designed for dancing.
EXAT - Experimental and Ambient Techno - takes place every Monday night at the legendary Zoot's Café. Founded by Dan Solomon in late 1992, and sold three years later to two of his employees, Aaron Anderson and Scott Michalsky, the Zoo's shows have hosted everyone from His Living Name to Windy and Carl, Sleater-Kinney and mountain goats. . . From around 1994 - no one remembers the exact date - until the venue closed in the early autumn of 1997, EXAT's last night was September 29th, which thickened Zoot's musical vessel enormously.
EXAT's promoter was Adriel Thornton, already a seasoned organiser, who brought together neighboring venues for such legendary events as Kevin Saunderson's Journey Through Treasure (State Theatre, 6 September 1992); He also ran Space 19, a shop that sells his work, as well as a website called Under Zoot, which often features great graphics. The two regular DJs of the event, Carlos Suvront and Clark Warner, continued to do a great job on the console. EXAT also hosted sets from local (Karl Craig, Richie Hawtin) and international (Autechre) electronic music royalty. It was the place where leaders gathered after the holiday weekend, often to strategize.
Either EXAT drew listeners or the background music crowd was social: "Sometimes it was both," says Thornton. It was much more, as he and several local residents and patrons can attest.
By law, it was the only coffee shop downtown.
PATRIK RUSSELL [DJ]: Zoot was great. It was just a small coffee shop near the campus of Wayne State University.
CLARK WARNER [EXAT resident DJ]: If you've seen The Search for the Sugar Man [documentary], it looks like the house where Rodriguez lives. A classic Detroit home was Woodbridge, home of Wayne State University's campus.
Aaron Anderson [Zoot contributor, 1993-1995 and co-owner, 1995-1998] : For years I thought of it as a kind of hippie legacy. I remember there was a cafe in Birmingham called the San Francisco Cafe. But there were not many in the city.
Adriel Thornton [EXAT Promoter]: I went to Wayne State then. It was the only legal coffee shop—I can't think of another—at least in the center of the city.
PLEASE NOTE. I went to a coffee shop to read a book or meet someone. It wasn't the only bar, but at the same time it was a place where cool people hung out, because who wants to spend $3 on a coffee?
Thornton: I remember trying to explain to someone at the time what a coffee shop was: "It's not just coffee." I used to go there to read the magazines - I used to go to the bookstore and then I would sit there and look at the wallpaper .
Colin Dorino [Zoot contributor; To Detroit Is It , October 2019]: Zoot opened as a coffee shop, but I don't recall it serving coffee. He didn't have a liquor license but he drank a lot of beer and sometimes something else.
SEAN HORTON [DJ]: The owner was everybody's friend. There were many university students. Its capacity was about 50 people.
Anderson: I think I saw a sign for [capacity] 71. I know that we have prepared more than a hundred and a half performances.
Dorino: Property wasn't worth anything and people with money didn't often come into the area.
CARLOS SOUFRONT [EXAT resident]: It was a house. You would reach the gate. Then he goes upstairs to order coffee. And on the right, in front of the house, the platform was four or five inches from the main floor. The wooden floor was old and hard.
Sara Vidosh [Normal EXAT]: Lots of furniture - mismatched tables and chairs, bookshelves. Butterflies are everywhere.
ROB THEAKSTON [Exat Normal]: Another advantage of coffee shops was that they automatically became places for all ages.
Anderson: I think the city needed an alternative, more informal and slightly quirky place for all ages.
Fidus: There was a lot of music.
Thornton: There were poetry readings, performances, all kinds of things happened.
Anderson: There was jazz on Sundays, maybe a rock band, some acoustic stuff when I started, definitely not a DJ.
"Twenty-five dollars a night."
Fiddush: It was great that Aaron was so open about everything. [Cas] That passage time was like the Wild West.
Anderson: I just got back from a trip across the country. It was like, "I want to work here." And I waited long enough before hiring him. It was still weekly lunch and such.
SAM FOTIAS [Promoters]: A lot of different groups of people hung out there: rockers, artists, students.
Fiduush: I don't think there's much difference between independent kids and techno kids. Many independent kids in groups ended up at dance parties anyway.
Anderson: I grew up in Detroit. It's just a part of that techno scene. I used to go to school dances and they would play the Model 500. [1981 Cybotron debut] I had "Clear" on a 12" screen as a kid. I knew this stuff.
I also went to school with Sam Fotias. We both went to Cass together. He was a scientist at first, moving from Detroit techno to the rave scene. One day we caught up, he said: "I do these parties. Come on down and check them out. This is new. I'll take you to the door." Growing up with techno, I knew the rave scene and I knew the people there.
Dan Solomon ran the cafe for three or four years after starting it, then decided he wanted to do something else. I think at that time he wanted to try to get a degree in architecture.
Thornton: Dan's roots are more in the punk scene. He has his dog.
Anderson: I started working at the end of 1993. I worked there for about a year and a half, and then Dan showed it to his staff - so me and Scott Michalski went and got it - it was '95. For $10,000 and monthly payments and assuming all the debt, Scott took over. for that Our parents gave us money.
Thornton: I remember sitting down with Clark Warner. I said, "Hey, how about good night?" Being a fan of the dance floor, I was really surrounded. like clark I can play with the name, "Studio" or something like that. In fact, he was hearing those sounds. There was a TV in what we call the "library" in the second room on the way to the bathroom, so we played it like a movie there too, just for show. The point was to cool down.
Smooth front: Clark Warner and I are registered residents.
Anderson: I think he was very serious from the beginning. He had his inner crowd. Back then, Detroit's party scene was vibrant. The madness was at its peak in the Midwest.
Thornton: I was a well-known rave dealer in the city by then, so it made sense: we all loved ambient music at the time. It was all about Zoot. They are really in charge of everything underground.
Anderson: It was $25 for one night. Basically, anyone with a good or interesting idea can book a room for $25 a night.
" EXAT was for heads."
SOFFRON: Adriel was an idea guy. He has no equipment. So I brought the gear. I always carried a turntable and mixer, as well as a CD player. You can't adjust the pitch, but it's surround sound, so it didn't do a very sharp mix to match the beat or anything.
ROBERT GORELL [Ormal EXAT]: Carlos was the sweetest person, but also the scariest for me, because his knowledge was completely encyclopedic even at that time. Every time I went there, I heard a lot of music that I had never heard before. This was also the beginning when Clark ran operations for M_nus. EXAT was for the heads.
DEREK PLUSLIKO [DJ]: Whenever Clarke played, he was always remembered. It seems to have ongoing issues. It wasn't just the wing; he was playing classic old rock that was very mellow.
Thiaxon: They will play the role of the Biosphere and higher intelligence agency. But then they came back and played with Derrick May and Ten Second Dynasty, another rock band from Detroit. And then Clark adds something like the Beatles "flight" from Magical Mystery Tour .
Thornton: There could be ten of us, we really relax and listen, and someone sits down, looks at what the record is, and talks to Carlos about it for ten minutes.
Russell: Sometimes you can see the kids here after the weekend. There they will hang on the stairs.
Horton: It was the first time I felt like you could exchange musical ideas, that you could be. You're not in a noisy club or an environment where you can't talk.
Fidus: I remember once I was in a back room with Derek Plaicco.
Blaslajko: I remember being in the bathroom with Sara Vidoch several times. It was always: "What the hell, let's go for a walk".
Anderson: There's some great zoo footage that women have uploaded to YouTube. Julie worked at a local coffee shop and was an obsessive videographer. I went in and scored, like wandering around EXACTLY all night. He was a movie buff, he hung out in cafes and, if there was something interesting, he brought a camera and took pictures.
Matthew Houghton [DJ]: As for the cafe, we spent the night in a cafe in Windsor and in Detroit there was Zoot. There was also one in Toronto - it seemed like a place where that music would be acceptable, but it was a Monday or Tuesday night, after the weekend everyone wanted to get together, not for a crazy night, but for fun. together together I think people do that on Facebook now.
THIKSTON: From 1994 to 2004, it was all these little pockets of different club nights - the Mad Hatter and the Zoot - that were just as important as the big clubs like the Motor in keeping the whole story of Detroit going. The engine had its place, but it wasn't necessarily the place to be innovative.
Soft Front: EXAT became the place for everyone who was in town, they played out of town that weekend, whoever was still in town, we called and said, "Hey, if you want to play in front of a seated audience, they can. ."
DAVE WALKER [Posted by MW-Raves May 14, 1996]: Why pay big bucks to see DJ Trance or something at an ice rink 30 miles north of town when you can have these guys like Stacey Pullen, Claude Young and Carl Craig. See, Mike? Huckabee and others playing Zoot's, The Shelter or Galligan's for $2-5 a week?
Blaslikov: Kenny Larkin once played a live concert there.
Thornton: Another highlight for me was coming to play Autechre after playing another promo party over the weekend. From what I understand, they actually stayed because they wanted to come play at EXAT.
Blaslikov: I remember talking a little with Otehr that night. I asked him a silly question, "Do you have any advice for aspiring producers?" And they told me: "Yes, buy the equipment, study for a month, and if you think you have learned everything else, go study for another few months ." And then, when you think you've learned everything, you go again in two months - and then buy another piece of equipment. It scared me to stop for a few years.
"Very important and exciting meeting."
Brendan Rowan [author; Orbita , April 1995]: On March 5, 1995, I was arrested in a large police raid involving hundreds of children and various drugs. my crime I try to have fun. . . . A week before the event, the Detroit News published a story by freelance writer Irvin Jackson detailing drug abuse and a promiscuous underage party at the 1315 Broadway concert, a block from the 1515 Broadway concert. . TV2's Amy Jacobsen reported that a few days after his arrest he threw an underground "rave party". This report, with the dark and harsh camera angle below, was shot at the Zoot Cafe during regular hours.
Fotias: We met with the promoters in Detroit every Monday. That would be me, Dean [Major], Adriel; The rich will come from time to time; Our friend Jason Vetrano, who celebrated, is our other friend Alan Bogle. Because there was no e-mail, no Facebook, no message boards, people would get together and say, "I have these meetings," or "What are we going to do about this police situation?" - face to face.
Fidus: I'll never forget: Richie Houghton came to EXAT on Monday for an important meeting with all the promoters. He was about to sit down and said, "You should be here, Sara." I tried not to light up the ground as I ran there.
Thornton: After the raid, Channel Two - I'm not sure if they hit me or Zoot. But anyway, we knew they were coming. And I think we can have a "theater date" without the quotes. I remember Richie there. There died [Phocius], all the instigators of the city; There were quite a few DJs. I clearly remember that we agreed not to discuss our scene with them. I will probably be the speaker. When we saw the last part, they tried to stand out, like they were crazy. It was very stupid. "Okay, that's a huge creative change."
"But it's only sustainable for so long."
Thornton: Zoot was another one where you have to figure out what it is. And it absorbed this niche audience: graphene, some punk kids, hip-hop kids. But it is only bearable for now.
Anderson: I was a terrible business owner. Did you know that we are business owners for 23 years? At least we learned everything to prepare drinks, organize and promote events. But his other side was not so good. I was pretty wild in my thirties. He didn't really care as an employer.
Thornton: I remember talking to Aaron one day about how they were concerned that they kept finding burnt spoons in the bathroom.
Anderson: EXAT was active until the end.
Fidus: I can't believe I've had these friends for almost 30 years. These guys are EXACT people I would go to.
Blaslikov: That's how I approached all these people. These people are still members of my family.
Anchor: May 2000
Russell: Carlos Suvron's Three Hour Collection [in DEMF 2000; on Souffront's YouTube page] – He played the Underground Stage and it rained all morning. The fluorescent lights were on all the time. Carlos played wider than he really was, from the front to the back. His EXAT material from Zoot, B-12, is very early British material. It was getting weirder and weirder, and the last forty-five minutes were full: Kraftwerk, Liasions Dangereuses, Boards of Canada - it was really intense. This was definitely my favorite weekend getaway.
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