Drug Church’s Nick Cogan on his alt-rock conversion from Les Paul to Jazzmaster, and the three secrets to his sound

Nick Cogan
(Image credit: Owen Lehman)

Nick Cogan, one of two guitarists in US post-hardcore band Drug Church, has a pithy description of their new album Hygiene, a potent mix of melodic earworms and combustible riffs. “It’s catchy music through the lens of chainsaw guitars!” he says.

In his youth, Nick’s interest in the guitar was sparked by hearing Billie Joe Armstrong’s chunky, angular playing on Green Day’s breakout record Dookie, and its influence still looms large on his playing. 

In true punk rock style, Hygiene – the fourth album from the New York State quartet – clocks in at a lean 26 minutes, with only a minority of its tracks crashing up to the three minute mark. “My least favourite thing is listening to a song that I like, and being like, ‘That was great!’ but then there’s still a minute and a half left. So, no filler. There’s no need,” explains Nick.

He also writes guitar parts long before lyrics are even considered (most of which vocalist Patrick Kindlon lays down under pressure in the studio), imbuing a vital, no-nonsense energy to the Drug Church sound. His mantra is simple: “I try not to overthink it”.

When it comes to guitars, Nick loves Fender Jazzmasters, and has vintage ones for home and studio use, and two new Custom Shop models for enduring the wear and tear of touring. 

“I was a Les Paul guy growing up for years and years,” he explains. “Then, like anyone else involved in alternative music, I found out about Television, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and all that cool stuff – so the look of Jazzmasters was initially what got me.” 

Beyond appearances, Nick approves of their simple configuration with singular volume and tone controls and, as a rule, he avoids messing about with the rhythm circuit. 

Favouring solid-state guitar amps, Nick has long depended on the Roland Jazz Chorus, and he runs two for live shows: one with the chorus on and the other without.

“It’s The Smiths and The Cure amp – and the Metallica clean tone,” he explains. “They’re so bright and loud that they take to overdrive pedals better than any amp I’ve ever encountered.” 

Into these, he runs an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer that he’s owned for about 15 years, and an old Pro Co RAT distortion pedal, which he normally has cranked. “Anyone can recreate my sound very easily if they have those three things,” he says.

  • Hygiene is out now via Pure Noise Records.

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.