Le Verre BouteilleOpened in 1996 and Licensed to Play by SOCAN from day one, bar and club Le Verre Bouteille, which can comfortably host about 80 people, has established itself as an institution for local music creators. For two decades, songwriters have headed to 2112 Mount-Royal East, assuraed that they’ll find a friendly place they can call home.

Originally opened in 1942 as Buffet de Lorimier, a restaurant, by Nathalie and Sylvie Rouleau’s grandfather, the sisters gave new life to the Plateau Mont-Royal establishment by re-christening it 20 years ago. Well-established musicians, like Daniel Boucher, Éric Goulet, Luc de Larochelière, Michel Rivard, Mountain Daisies, Damien Robitaille, Marc Déry and Vincent Vallières all saw in Verre Bouteille’s mission a kind of laboratory where one can explore, and try new songs, before an audience, while provoking unique and stimulating encounters.

“It’s all about understanding the artist’s reality,” said Nathalie Rouleau during the launch of the 20th anniversary program on Oct. 12, 2016. She was referring to the main reason that led Verre Bouteille to become licensed by SOCAN from its very beginnings. “We wanted to contribute. We never thought that the adventure would last so long, though!”

The owner’s best memories? “Monday nights with Luc de Larochelière in 2001,” she says, without skipping a beat. “He invited so many Québec artists, the likes of Roch Voisine, Laurence Jalbert and even the late, great Claude Léveillée. That was a huge hit. There’s also the Abbey Road nights that happen once or twice a year where The Ringos (Éric Goulet) and their friends play the entire Beatles classic album.”

“By being Licensed to Play by SOCAN, we wanted everything to be on the up-and-up. We want all the parts of the songwriting machine to work seamlessly.” – René Flageole, Verre Bouteille programmer.

René Flageole, himself a musician, started as a waiter before rapidly becoming Verre Bouteille’s programmer. “We’re 100% on the artists’ side,” he says, explaining the venue’s allegiance to SOCAN. “Yes, we manage a venue, but I’m very sensitive to the artists’ reality, so being a musician myself, I’m a bit between a rock and a hard place. We wanted to be Licensed to Play by SOCAN so that everything was on the up-and-up. We want all the parts of the songwriting machine to work seamlessly.”

The licence fees paid to SOCAN ensure a fairer split of copyrights, especially since covers are a common occurrence at Verre Bouteille. Arianne Ouellet and her colleague Carl Prévost, of duo Mountain Daisies, were also at the launch of the anniversary program. “In our context, we do a lot of covers,” says Ouellet. “Artists often feel like singing stuff other than their own material. They treat themselves by singing these covers, so it makes total sense that the rights holders [to the cover songs] are paid accordingly.”

Does she have a standout memory at Verre Bouteille? “We hosted a night dedicated to Michel Rivard (see main image), a regular at our Open Country nights,” says Ouellet. “He had a blast playing what he called his teachers’ music – Dylan, Neil Young, etc. – and followed up by playing country versions of his own songs. As a finale, we played our very own version of “Un trou dans les nuages” (“A Hole in the Clouds”). That version has stuck, since we now play it in the Sept Jours en mai show.”

“The stage is perfect; not too big, not too small,” says Carl Prévost. “To me, Verre Bouteille isn’t a bar, it’s a small venue. We’re on stage and in the crowd at the same time. People buy fewer records, so it’s important to us to play in venue that’s licensed by SOCAN, like Verre Bouteille is.”

Le Verre BouteilleWhen asked what Verre Bouteille means to him, Daniel Boucher doesn’t hesitate: “I can’t tell you everything (laughs). I’ve been coming here for 20 years. I played many shows here before Dix mille matins came out in 1999. We jammed with a lot of people, it quickly became the ‘Chanson Française’ spot in Montréal. It’s a place where you can try out songs. And with SOCAN, Verre Bouteille leads the way. There are more and more establishments that are Licensed to Play by SOCAN, but there are still too few, especially with the direction the music business is taking. If it’s no longer worth buying a record, we need to find alternatives. The world is evolving, technology is giving us access to everything, but it’s just as bad as it is good. While we wait to sit down with the Videotrons (Internet service providers) of the world, we still need to put food on the table.”

And drinks; Verre Bouteille has an enviable selection of Québec-brewed beers, the ideal companions to the newly-announced anniversary program, chock-full of surprises and exclusives. Pascale Picard will kick off the celebrations on Oct. 24 and 25, 2016, and mainstays such as Yann Perreau, Damien Robitaille, Daniel Boucher, Antoine Gratton, Jordan Officer and Marie-Pierre Arthur will also be featured. For the full program, visit verrebouteille.com.


Kevin Churko wears many musical hats, and has worn them to hit-making effect. The multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer/songwriter first broke through via his work in the hard rock genre, with major acts Ozzy Osbourne and Disturbed – the kind of stuff that’s won him four JUNO Awards and two Grammy nominations, so far. Churko’s best known as a producer and engineer for talents as diverse as Five Finger Death Punch and Shania Twain.

Truth is, his first love was writing songs with brother Cory. Saskatchewan-born Kevin left school after Grade Nine to tour Canada in the family band Churko, which mostly played country music. It was also the situation in which he became interested in the recording process, becoming the band’s equipment guy, which eventually lead to his emergence as a top-flight producer.

“At this point in my career, the songwriting thing is somewhat of a full circle,” says Churko. “I’m doing a number of country music projects, including Canadian act [and SOCAN member] Cory Marquardt, who’s just signed a worldwide recording deal with our parent company, Advanced Alternative Media.

“I feel songwriters fall into two main camps: those who write from passion and those who are commercial writers. If you’re writing from passion, you write whatever you want. I rarely write something close to my own heart. I’m writing for the people I’m working with. I write with other voices in mind. Be it male or female, aggressive or passive, my job is to write something that makes them feel passionate. It’s a situation where I’m really there to serve them, and that dictates the writing.

“With Cory, the songs are very personal to him. Pretty much every song, Cory starts and then [my son] Kane and I come in and work to capitalize on what he has, trying to make every section as good as it can possibly be. Almost all the songs on the album are co-writes by the three of us.

“I’m a very goal-oriented producer and writer. We’re currently working with a rapper and the responsibilities are very distinct. He comes up with the verses and we contribute the choruses, and make sure it’s hooky.”

Churko made his mark producing and engineering, and allows that his involvement with songwriting for major acts was a gradual, almost organic process.

“I’m not one to push myself into a situation,” he explains. “When a project comes to me, if the songs are solid as they are, and they don’t need anything from me, I wouldn’t get in the way. I respect those songs but I’m ready to help in any capacity I can. At the end of the day, the projects where I contributed to the writing were the most successful ones I’ve had.

“I tailor a song to the client. Be it metal, rock, country, or what, a good song is a good song.”

Kevin Churko“I tailor a song to the client. Be it metal, rock, country, or what, a good song is a good song. I’ll just say, ‘This song could use a better chorus. Let’s see what we can do.’ So I do this and that and see if they like it. Sometime I do more, sometimes I do less. It’s all in the service of getting the song at its best.”

And, he might add, at its most successful. Churko co-wrote all but one of the songs for, and produced, the Disturbed album Immortalized, which debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 album chart in 2015, and scaled the peaks of four other Billboard charts: U.S. Top Hard Rock Albums, U.S. Top Rock Albums, U.S. Top Alternative Albums, and Canadian Albums. The same year, he also produced and co-wrote the Got Your Six album for Five Finger Death Punch, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and sold 114,000 physical copies within the first week of its release.

In the two-year period from December 2013 to January 2016, Churko co-wrote (and co-published, via his company Gumpofwump) no less than six songs that reached No. 1 on the Mediabase Active Rock charts in the U.S.: “Battle Born,” “Wrong Side of Heaven,” and “Wash It All Away” by Five Finger Death Punch; “The Vengeful One” and “The Light” by Disturbed; and “Face Everything and Rise” by Papa Roach. He recently moved his Las Vegas studio, The Hideout, to new digs, decorating them with his multiple SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards.

Churko’s burgeoning reputation as a maker of bespoke tunes has taken him to the stage where acts come to him for a specific type of song, and he’s only too happy to oblige.

“Artists will come in and say, ‘I need a song like one of your bands, so-and-so. Will you help me write that song?’” he says. “My son Kane and I work in collaboration lots of the time, and when we get one of those, we can start working it out ahead of time. It’s almost ‘skeletoned’ when the artist comes in for the fleshing out.

“Kane is a songster in his own right. He’s already co-written on some of the hits we’ve had, and has his own band, Modern Science – so he’s well along the songwriting road. I don’t show him the ropes, any more than he brings fresh stuff to me. He wrote a couple of hits off the last Papa Roach album by himself. I work with Kane not because he’s family, but because he’s the best I could find. He brings a new generation’s ideas and often he guides me along.”

In 2013 Kevin and Kane were jointly JUNO-nominated as Producer of the Year, for their work on In This Moment’s “Blood” and “Adrenalize,” and won the Recording Engineer of the Year honours for In This Moment’s “Blood” and Five Finger Death Punch’s “Coming Down.”

“Early in my career I was hired to write dance songs,” says Churko the elder. “It was a very educational experience, and it was interesting to put myself outside my comfort zone, away from my interests. I scoped out the genre and got down to writing songs that were good when stripped to the core. That project was where I proved to myself I could do this songwriting thing.”

While Vancouver-based film, television and video game composer Adam Lastiwka is heavily influenced by contemporary electronic music, his compositions inevitably include a wide range of acoustic and electric instruments as well.

As for the appeal of digital sources, he says, “It’s utilizing technology in a way to create new, exciting sounds that people have never heard before, and a way of approaching music that’s not totally conventional… But I really enjoy and appreciate world music, and on my projects I’ve always made it a point to play as many instruments as I can. I have a room in my house with, probably, 40 different instruments from around the world. I play them to get ideas.”

Some of those instruments are rare, or even unique: Among them, a lutekulele (a lute/ukulele hybrid), various Togaman GuitarViols (boasting a range that takes in everything from Cello to Viol), and a ten-string South American charango made from the body of an armadillo that still has – naturally – the fur and ears on it.

 “You sit down, look at a project and, if you’re really listening to everything, it tells you what to do.”

“Stringed instruments come easily to me,” he says, citing the similarities between instruments from different cultures. “I don’t think I’ve come close to mastering any of them, but I can pick one up and think, ‘What are we working on today? Can something be inspired or derived from this?’”

The more sources he can draw on, the better he’s able to serve his clients and create a unique product with signature sounds and textures.

Like many a screen composer, Lastiwka didn’t start there.

Adam Lastiwka“I got into music pretty late,” he says. “It wasn’t until I was about 16.” Immediately, however, he made up for lost time; signing a three-record deal with an indie label, completing his debut record at age 17, and releasing it the next year.

For many people, being a solo artist, or being in a band, is what lights a fire under them to go after a career in music, but for Lastiwka the spark was scoring and soundtracks. “So instead of… trying to be a rock star, I started focusing on making music for licensing projects.” Consequently, Lastiwka’s first album was intended as a showcase for his compositions.

Roughly 10 years ago, after releasing three records, Lastiwka moved from his hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta to Vancouver. “I thought I could be a film composer just like that,” he says, laughing. But it wasn’t quite as seamless a transition as he envisioned, and Lastiwka soon found himself working “practical jobs” – and more or less quitting film composition for a time.

“It was the cusp of home recording,” Lastiwka says. “You had digital studio technology, but it was the first time you could record on your computer utilizing affordable technology. So what was great was, while I was simultaneously failing as a film and TV composer, I was working for music stores, setting up their digital recording departments, and got to see what was new, how to use it and what was coming down the pipe.”

Roughly a year after moving to B.C., after struggling and almost giving up, a track from Lastiwka’s first record was tapped for use in Ridley Scott’s movie Body of Lies. “At the time I was barely making rent, but that gave me a glimmer of hope that I could do this for a living,” says Lastiwka, “and that sustained me for a long time.”

He soon landed a gig assisting film composer Shawn Pierce (The Dead Zone, Recreating Eden) and, for several years, honed his chops and made numerous contacts in the industry. Since then, Lastiwka has contributed music to more than 500 episodes of TV series, multiple documentaries, as well as feature films and video games, including Batman Arkham City, various Discovery channel and CBC documentaries, reality shows, and features such as the aforementioned Body of Lies and Foreverland.

One of his most recent projects is providing music for Travelers, a sci-fi offering from Netflix and Showcase, on which he worked with Stargate producer/creator, Brad Wright. “What’s really exciting about Travelers is, because it’s this time travel concept, it allowed me to bring in and use all these unconventional instruments,” says Lastiwka.

Initially, he says, Travelers allowed him to draw from a very wide-open palette, sonically; but as the show progressed, he “weaned it down.”

Scoring for film versus television presents different challenges, says Lastiwka. “You sit down, look at a project and, if you’re really listening to everything, it tells you what to do,” he says. “With TV, it can span years, so you get closer to refining exactly what’s needed. It’s a very instinctive thing; first episodes are always a nightmare, but by the time you reach the end everything is very well established.”

Every production requires a different approach. “In the process, you’re watching and taking things apart technically and you develop an instinct and approach, but you need to play to the audience,” says Lastiwka. “When I’m working with a director or producer, I want to find a way to communicate with them, to find out how they communicate their emotional ideas, and how [best] to capture that.”