The Hideout, Nevada

After working with Ozzy Osbourne and Britney Spears, producer Kevin Churko acquired a studio in Vegas. Steve Sutherland on how he brought cutting-edge sound to Sin City

We've had guys calling literally from gaol. They’re getting out the next day and they’re booking their time because, let’s face it, they’ve had plenty of time to write their lyrics…’ We’re listening in to Kevin Churko who, apart from chewing the fat about The Hideout recording studio in Las Vegas, which he just happens to own, also has a bit of a personal history behind him.

He was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan into a musical family with whom he toured throughout his native Canada. Along the road, it gradually became clear that Kevin’s first love lay with the recording process rather than performing.

The Hideout’s owner Kevin Churko

'When I was ten, I was already doing sound-on-sound recording using two ghetto blasters and a tape deck', he said later. 'Then I convinced my brother Cory to split the cost of a Tascam 244 four-track cassette recorder, and we traded that for an eight-track Fostex reel-to-reel. I gained a lot of experience from my home recordings, but the recordings Cory and I later did in expensive studios always left me disappointed and feeling I could do better. I became such a pain in the ass for the studio guys that they would just say, “You do it, then”.'

Mountain Highs
Eventually Kevin and Cory found themselves recording at Vancouver's Little Mountain Studios, which Kevin described as an 'absolute thrill'. He then settled into a job at Torchwood Studios in Regina ('recording every-and-any band, from a polka band to heavy rock') while his brother nabbed himself a gig playing violin with Shania Twain’s outfit.

Britney Spears singing her single ‘Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know’ on stage in Argentina

One thing led to another and in 1999, when Twain's husband, the legendary producer Robert 'Mutt' Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard and Muse among others) was on the lookout for an engineer, Cory recommended Kevin and the next thing you know he’s over in Switzerland working with the maestro on an impressive bunch of tracks that troubled the top of the charts. This saw him get a credit on Britney Spears' incredible album Oops… I Did It Again for the song 'Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know'.

Dark Materials
After four years of learning at the feet of the master, Churko was seduced by offers coming his way from LA and took up working as a studio hired hand while establishing his own recording facility at home. Business was good and when he looked to expand in 2005, the property prices in the area drove him east to Las Vegas where he opened his first Hideout studio.

Meanwhile, things took another turn in the right direction when he was asked to test out Ozzy Osbourne’s home studio, The Bunker. Ozzy’s producer at the time, Mark Hudson, then asked him to engineer Osbourne’s covers album, Under Cover, which led to him being hired by Ozzy to engineer his tenth LP, Black Rain. Churko next returned to work on Ozzy’s follow-up album, Scream, for which he co-wrote the majority of the material.

Scream by Ozzy Osbourne, pictured here in 2010, the year the album was released. Kevin Churko co-wrote most of the material

While neither Black Rain nor Scream could honestly claim much of a position in the hard rock pantheon (one critic labelled Black Rain ‘embarrassing’), Kevin's close association with the Prince Of Darkness was more than enough to elevate his reputation and, sure enough, the headbangers came a-calling, and among their number was an upcoming local Vegas band called Five Finger Death Punch.

Kevin produced their second album, 2009's War Is The Answer, the follow-up, American Capitalist, the dual 2013 releases The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell (Volumes 1 and 2), and 2015’s Got Your Six. These were all done and dusted at Kevin’s Hideout studio, which today can be found at 14 Sunset Way in the Henderson region of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Five Finger Death Punch lead singer Ivan Moody at the Rock am Ring festival in 2017

Originally called Odds On Records & Studios before briefly trading as Audio Mix House, it announced itself as ‘a $7 million multi-faceted recording facility that combines vintage flair with state-of-the-art technology’. Alicia Keys and Air Supply were the artists Odds On had boasted about using Studio A, which housed a 96-input SSL Duality console, the largest mixing console in North America. The facility was managed by Bobby Ferrari who’d been a session bass player and had set up a neighbouring studio, which was purchased by The Killers.