Artists Michel F Côté

A ubiquitous musician and composer, Michel F Côté was born in Montréal, the year the submarine USS Nautilus made history by travelling under the North Pole’s ice cap. His concerts and recordings have received praise locally and abroad. Since 1990, he has appeared on more than 60 albums. He is associated with the Ambiances Magnétiques label, on top of being the co-founder of the label &records. He his now running a brand new label, Sono Sordo. A drummer and percussionist with an idiosyncratic, almost anaphylactic style, Michel F Côté plays like no one else. He is a multi-instrumentalist blazing his own trail and using whatever he needs. We can find him backing up these acts: Mecha Fixes Clocks, Klaxon Gueule, Pink Saliva, Jane and The Magic Bananas, Quatuor Minéraliste, and Tiari Kese — a duo with himself. He composes a great deal for theatre and dance projects (Robert Lepage, Wajdi Mouawad, Brigitte Haentjens, Marie Brassard, Martin Faucher, Sylvain Émard, José Navas, Louise Bédard, Benoît Lachambre and Ginette Laurin, among others). Indeed, he has over a hundred projects under his belt, making him a very prolific composer/designer. He has partnered up with Catherine Tardif as co-artistic directors for the dance company Et Marianne et Simon (6,3 évanouissements, 2014, Mobilier mental, 2016). He is also dreaming up schemes with choreographer Catherine Lavoie-Marcus (Schizes sur le sundae, 2013). Together, they collaborate on the art magazine esse.


Michel F Côté

Montréal (Québec), 1958

Residence: Montréal (Québec)

  • Composer
  • Performer (percussion)

Associated groups

On the web

Michel F Côté
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM), Bernard Falaise, Geneviève Liboiron, Michel F Côté, Scott Thomson, Danielle Palardy Roger, Craig Pedersen, Cléo Palacio-Quintin, Isabelle Duthoit, Jean Derome, Joane Hétu [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), April 29, 2018]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM), under the direction of Jean Derome, plays Résistances [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), March 16, 2017]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM) plays Résistances under the direction of Jean Derome, Joane Hétu and Scott Thomson [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), March 16, 2017]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM): 1e rangée: Jean Derome, Ida Toninato, Joshua Zubot, Jean René, , Danielle Palardy Roger. 2e rangée: Scott Thomson, Alexandre St-Onge, Michel F Côté, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Nicolas Caloia, Craig Pedersen, direction: Joane Hétu [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), February 6, 2016]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM): 1e rangée: Jean Derome, Ida Toninato, Joshua Zubot, , Joane Hétu. 2e rangée: Scott Thomson, Alexandre St-Onge, Michel F Côté, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Nicolas Caloia, Craig Pedersen, direction: Danielle Palardy Roger [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), February 6, 2016]
  • Jean Derome donne des explications au public durant un atelier avec Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM). Présent sur la photo: Ida Toninato, Joshua Zubot, Jean René, , à l’arrière: Michel F Côté, Isaiah Ceccarelli [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), February 6, 2016]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM) (left to right: Alexandre St-Onge; Guido Del Fabbro; Joane Hétu; Michel F Côté; Martin Tétreault; Danielle Palardy Roger; Jean Derome; Émilie Girard-Charest; ) (and Lévy Bourbonnais at the console) in concert in Montréal [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), September 27, 2012]
  • Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM) (left to right: Joane Hétu; ; Jean Derome; ; Émilie Girard-Charest; Michel F Côté; Alexandre St-Onge; Guido Del Fabbro; Martin Tétreault; Danielle Palardy Roger)  [Photo: Céline Côté, Montréal (Québec), September 27, 2012]

Main releases

&records / ET 05 / 2008


Wired on Words / WOWCD 009 / 2005
Various artists
CEC-PeP / CEC 95CD / 1995


Various artists
OHM / Avatar / AVTR 050 / 2009
  • Not in catalogue
OHM / Avatar / AVTR 009 / 1998
  • Not in catalogue

In the press

Suoni per il Popolo: Outside Music Incoming

Mike Chamberlain, Hour, June 3, 2010

Casa del Popolo is once again ground zero for unique Suoni Per Il Popolo music festival.

Drummer and composer Michel F Côté is the custodian of the & label, a small imprint-cum-art project that is launching new CDs by the group Mecha Fixes Clocks and alto violinist Jean René to kick off the 10th Suoni Per Il Popolo festival on June 6. Côté agrees that the story of outside music in Montréal can fairly be divided into the era before Mauro Pezzente and Kiva Stimac opened the Casa del Popolo in 2000 and the era since then. “Before that, there was no real venue for improv music or for all sorts of avant garde,” Côté explains, “and when the Casa started, it was real good news. You could just hang out, and it was always fantastic music. Nobody else in Montréal is doing what they do.”

With its eclectic booking policy, the Casa, and later La Sala Rossa, have nurtured audiences knowledgeable about all kinds of outside music, from free jazz and electronic music to avant rock, folk, spoken word, cabaret and multimedia performances. Every year in June, Pezzente and Stimac give themselves a gift by booking a special series of concerts. They might regard the Suoni as their own reward, but as has been the case since the Casa opened its doors, it is the Montréal audience who benefits. As usual, this year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo festival is very strong on free jazz, including the first-ever Canadian performance by the legendary Globe Unity Orchestra, an ensemble founded by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1965. Concerts of musicians within the orchestra — the quartets of Evan Parker and Henrik Walsdorff and the Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio — will bookend the GUO’s June 20 date at Sala Rossa. And in addition to performing, Suoni regular Ken Vandermark will present an open rehearsal/workshop with the other members of the Vandermark 5 on June 16, and pianist Matthew Shipp will give a workshop on the processes of improvisation on June 15. Other performances in this series include Vandermark’s Frame Quartet, the trio of Kidd Jordan, William Parker and Hamid Drake, and Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren’s quartet. There’s an impressive electronic series that includes appearances by the likes of Didi Bruckmayr, Radian, Christof Kurzmann and Emeralds, and the avant rock scene is represented by Xeno and Oaklander, Oneida, Hair Police, Carlos Giffoni and the shamanistic collective No Neck Blues Band. It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

Doing more with less, Pezzente and Stimac are an example that all music presenters could emulate.

It’s a very exciting lineup that reflects the ethos of being smart, inventive, adventurous and community friendly.

L’Envers and Gordon Allen

Adam Kinner, The Gazette, January 30, 2009

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ’70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye. This is the newest music venue in the Mile-End and everything from the large photos on the wall—by the very talented Marie-Ève Dompierre — to the warehouse-style windows, the turn-of-the-century wooden support beams, and the homemade feel of the space suggests that this is a space run by artists for artists and audiences alike.

The mastermind behind the scenes is Gordon Allen. An incredible trumpet player and improviser, a talented organizer, a quick-witted schmoozer, an hilarious MC and a big-hearted friend of at least half of the musicians in Montréal, Allen is just what Montréal needs to get its improvised music scene off and running. He’ll emerge from the dense crowd, clad in a porkpie hat and cuffed shirt, beaming at how well the evening is going, how well the musicians are playing, and how many great people have showed up.

Along with three other like-minded musicians, he’s responsible for this new hotspot. Together they’ve worked to create a space committed to presenting music, dance, and performance — “anything that involves improvisation” — that would otherwise have trouble being shown. Their mandate is to offer the excellent musicians of Montréal a comfortable place to play, and to build an audience that comes curious, listens carefully, and leaves satisfied.

But Allen is a far busier man than his carefree, joyous demeanor might suggest. He has been organizing the improvised music community since he arrived in Montréal from Guelph in 2005. The monthly series at Casa Del Popolo “Improvising Montréal” came under his control in 2006; and Mardi Spaghetti, a weekly series he curates along with three other improvisers at Cagibi, is going to celebrate its first anniversary in March.

On Saturday, January 17th, L’Envers opened its new year of programming with a celebration of Art’s Birthday. (It took a couple of weeks for the members of their mailing list to realize that they weren’t talking about a guy named Arthur, but rather celebrating the birth of Art, which Robert Filliou famously starting celebrating in 1963. Check this out.) CKUT was there with their live broadcasting gear. Six bands were slated to play. There was a birthday cake competition and West-Coast artist Glenn Lewis re-enacted the birth of Art.

I arrived just as Gordon took the stage with his trio Pink Saliva, with drummer Michel F Côté and bassist Alexandre St-Onge. Their layered, richly textured mix of acoustic improvisation and electronics sent a hush over the hundred or more gathered. Many took a seat on the floor and listened to the flow of expressive sounds, ranging from beautiful trumpet melody to the harsh but effective noise-electronics of Côté and St-Onge.

Even the loud students next to me stopped talking and I saw their facial expressions change to concentrated curiosity as they craned their necks to see how those three musicians were making such otherworldly sounds.

“When audiences are more attentive,” Gordon had told me earlier in the week, “the musicians have to scrutinize their own work more. Consequently we’re pushed harder to create, and the music advances. I’ve seen that here, and it’s an incredible thing to be a part of. Worth all the work we’ve put into it.”

Walking into L’Envers is like entering a scene from the ‘70s East Village. If Patti Smith were on the old couch in the corner talking to the motley assortment of Montréal improvisers, artists, gallerists and dancers typical of a L’Envers audience I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Concert Review

Isnor B Gordon, Left Hip Magazine, December 12, 2008

Fred Frith played in Montréal recently along with some very talented local free improv players. I was fortunate enough to catch the show…

Legendary avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith dropped by Montréal’s Cabaret Juste Pour Rire the other night for a duo show with drummer Danielle Palardy Roger, and an opening set by two incredible percussionists - Michel F Côté and Isaiah Ceccarelli.

Côté and Ceccarelli started things off with nothing but drums. Côté was behind a standard kit extended with lots of toys and two mics rigged up two a pair of Pignose amps. Ceccarelli just had a bass drum lying on a chair along with, again, lots of toys. The pieces were all very brief which was really nice, and despite the fact that drums alone might seem limited, each piece was very different from those that came before – sound loud and frenetic, others quiet, one actually managed to elicit quite a bit of laughter from the audience, which I’m hoping was a good thing. Côté used the mics as drum sticks to great effect - creating all kinds of unusual sounds of tension and release, friction, surprisingly dynamic feedback that almost made one think of the expressiveness of the Theremin, and there were moments of all out, distorted, banging-on-a-drum fun. The feedbacking drums were paired up really well with Ceccarelli’s bowed playing. A great set.

Fred Frith and Danielle Palardy Roger were up second and once they began playing, they did not stop until their set was finished — a really long and well laid-out musical journey with lots of highlights and unexpected twists and turns. Fred pulled out every trick in the prepared guitar book - from the old twanging drum stick between the strings to an array of effects and looping pedals and beyond. But with his mastery of music and his instrument it never felt like he was depending on the gimmicks, more using them to great effect to build up a complex, multilayered soundscape and every-evolving composition. He was well matched up with Danielle Palardy Roger, who also had all of the extended techniques and managed to make great music with them. They both seemed to be following their own paths the whole way not interacting too much like some free improv players do, creating a sort of back and forth conversation type of sound, but their individual paths meshed perfectly well together, so maybe they were both just following the music more than their own instrumental egos. Adding an extra oomph to the coolness of the show was when first Fred Frith let loose a barrage of percussive and wailing tribal vocals, followed a little later on by vocal sounds along similar lines from Danielle Palardy Roger. Took it to another level beyond the often staid confines of stylized free improv into something more about music in a broader and more sophisticated sense.

An awesome concert, and I think it was part of a recording project so it may see the light of day on CD in the not too distant future…

An awesome concert…

More texts

Downtown Music Gallery, AllMusic


  • Bernard Falaise [Photo: Patrick La Roque]

    The new record label &records, managed by Fabrizio Gilardino and Michel F Côté, announces two music events to be held in Montréal. Firstly, on February 10, 2005 at Casa del Popolo, a concert will feature musics by the Bernard Falai…

    Thursday, February 3, 2005 / In concert
  • Michel F Côté

    Don’t miss this excellent quartet of improvisers at Casa del Popolo (Montréal) January 30, 2003. With musicians Martin Tétreault (turntables), i8u (electronics), Michel F Côté (drums, electronics) and Magali Babin (guitar pick-up and small…

    Tuesday, January 14, 2003 / In concert
  • Michel F Côté

    During the “Mois Multi” events, musician Michel F Côté and choregrapher Catherine Tardif presents “Soi-même/Priser à deux,” a minimalist duo that delicately blurs the frontier between music and body. The evening also proposes a sonic instal…

    Tuesday, January 29, 2002 / In concert

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