How Drain’s Cody Chavez made one of this year’s finest hardcore albums using an arsenal of Jackson Dinkys – and an LTD that got run over by a car

Cody Chavez
(Image credit: Gavin Reese Mortensen)

Back before Cody Chavez was expertly quaking through the micro-dives and cement-cracking hardcore riffage of his Drain outfit’s new Living Proof album, he was a teenage guitarist devouring Metallica tabs in Salinas, California. While he’s now squiggling out squeals galore on his arsenal of Jackson Dinkys, he was much more Hetfield than Hammett in his youth, going so far as to eschew lead aesthetics entirely.

“I would always make excuses like, ‘Oh, rhythm playing is better; Hetfield, all he does is riffs; I don’t need solos,’” Chavez says. “But as I got older [I realized] if I’m going to be a guitarist, I have to actually work the fretboard. I’m glad I made that decision when I was younger. Now that’s my favorite thing to do – to play leads.”

On 2020’s California Cursed, Chavez subtly peppered lead accents into Drain’s riffs-first approach while using a fixed-bridge Soloist. You can credit the max-velocity runs and note-warping on Living Proof’s Weight of the World solo – Chavez’s biggest lead yet – to the buttery neck and bend-it-’til-you-break-it floating system of the Dinky. “This time I had the Floyd, [so] I have a lot of whammy bar tricks, a lot of mini-solos and little runs,” Chavez says of the added flair.

Perhaps even more impressively, Chavez managed to mangle out the brute-force rhythms of the record’s Watch You Burn while using an LTD model that vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro accidentally backed over on their way to the studio. 

The guitar had been propped up against a rental car as the pair were packing things into the trunk, Chavez experiencing a gut-wrenching shock when they saw the instrument wedged beneath the vehicle a moment later. Miraculously, the LTD escaped with minimal body damage (Chavez confirms: “The pots were a little smashed, but the volume was still [functional].”)

While Living Proof thrives on tremolo-intensive thrash-mosh and chunked-up grooves, it also sports some serious sonic wild cards. Intermission is a mid-album breather built around programmed trap rhythms (Chavez has been beatmaking since high school) and guest bars from rapper Shakewell; later, Ciaramitaro abandons neck-bulging hardcore howls for a melodic croon during Drain’s faithful take of California punk vets Descendents’ romantic Good Good Things.

Though Drain contemplated going dummy on the cover with their usual mania, the band ultimately chose to play it straight. Chavez adds, “We could’ve thrashed it up or thrown a breakdown in there, but I think it’s cool we paid complete homage to the Descendents by doing it in the way they did it… or at least we tried to!”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.